2015 Update January 11 2015

It would be quite the understatement to say that it's been awhile since my last Main Page update, so please excuse the brevity/Wall of Text that is to follow. I wanted to summarize the last few cycles and the obstacles before getting to where we're at now. I'll try to answer a lot of the questions I've received as well and include them below.

First off I'll come right out and say how naive and overconfident I was. Hardware startups are notoriously difficult for even multi-million ventures, but I had a dream and thought everything else would fall into place with a little capital. It being my first venture I severely underestimated the cost of bringing a physical product to market and I made a series of mistakes that cost both a lot of money and time.

The salary for the engineer I hired to hammer out the technical issues for a consumer version ended up being well over half the "bring home" capital of the Kickstarter and that was just for a series of proposals and designs. I couldn't continue bleeding funds at that rate and decided to do as much in-house development as I could.

At the time I had a day job as well in hotel management that, while not very lucrative, was the main source of continued research and development. I had also started a couple of side businesses for extra revenue streams, from a small e-Publishing company to freelance consulting. Time was a premium though, and having steady freelance jobs that didn't require long hours chained to a desk I decided to leave my day job so I'd have more time to dedicate to the project.

I was working online with a small group of designers to collaborate on the project and after a lot of online discussions I travelled overseas to work with them in person. A friend in the airline industry was able to get me significant airfare discounts which helped justify the move in my mind. After a couple of months it was clear it wasn't working but we parted ways admirably and I went to Thailand where the US Dollar could go a lot further. Far from being a "vacation", it was a way to stretch my income as far as possible. Rent in relatively safe accommodation was very cheap and if I stuck to eating from food carts I could get by on a few bucks a day and put remaining income towards further development while I tested electrical designs and programs.

Client work began to evaporate though and without the steady income of first world dollars I was forced to return to the States while I still could. Long story short, I ended up living in San Francisco Airport for awhile, crashing with friends occasionally while trying to get back into steady work. Despite almost a decade of management experience the only jobs I could find involved slinging coffee and hauling boxes. I would literally spend the night moving pallets and stocking shelves at a Big Box chain retail store, then head over to the chain coffee shop to serve overpriced lattes, before getting some sleep in the early evening and doing it all over again.

It was a humbling experience for sure. The job market in San Francisco had changed a lot since the last time I was looking in 2004 and the rent and cost of living had skyrocketed. I had been kind of living in a bubble at my old hotel job, with the steady pay and near free rent I had there blinding me to the changes in the city until I entered it again from the bottom.

All this time was spent working my way from meager paycheck to paycheck, with little free time or money to spend on the project- it had completely stagnated in terms of physical progress.

I didn't give up though, and continually developed it on paper while applying for desks jobs. Eventually I found a couple of hotel jobs again, and though I was still working two jobs it wasn't as physically demanding and the pay was better. I had more time to work on moving forward again and began outfitting a lab so I could get back into hardware mode.

But progress was still slow until late last year when an Angel Investor stepped in to help get me to the finish line. It was a fraction of the original Kickstarter funds raised but the technical landscape has also changed in the last few years. Desktop and small scale manufacturing has gotten much cheaper to set up.

I built a 3D printer from scratch and started cranking out physical prototypes while finally getting to actually experiment with different materials and designs. Later I joined TechShop, a facility that gave me access to multi-million dollar tools for more refined prototyping.

To maximize the time available for product development that wasn't "wasted" at the day jobs and sleeping, I was drinking 8-12 cups of coffee, vaping nicotine while supplementing with overseas "workout" energy pills and a blackmarket RX wakefulness medication usually prescribed to narcoleptics and military helicopter pilots, with the occasional drink to settle the physical jitters for fine detail work like soldering.

Unsurprisingly, it caught up to me in late September and I was put in the ER with excruciating chest pains and difficulty breathing. I eventually recovered and was released with a nearly $30K bill. Thankfully, I had just gotten health insurance which covered most of it.

I've since cut down on the diet pills and barely drink, though I've found my stride with the RX and caffeine and will keep them up for a bit as production continues.

I describe all this, not to garner any undeserved sympathy, but to help illustrate how serious I am about releasing this product. More than that, I'm haunted daily by the obligation I have to every one of my backers and investors.

Every day it's a stab in the gut. I'm ashamed by how long it's taken and the mistakes I've made, and humbled by the support I continue to receive. All I can say is I'm doing my best, and am constantly working to raise the bar on what my best can be.

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Which brings us to The Present...or maybe The Future? On New Year's Eve we released a short promo teaser on the Power Laces Facebook Page for our consumer model. We're still working on the casing design of the main body, which will be a texturized vacuum formed ABS shell with a ruggedized soft-feel coating.

I realized early on in development that trying to integrate all the components comfortably into the shoe itself was doable but difficult for an independent outfit. I devised a few ways to accomplish it but it didn't seem practical for us to build in mass. And out of all the things I learned these last few years, being realistic about what I could do in the short term with the resources I had was the most valuable.

An external device though is more feasible to produce and was inline with the feedback I've received many times- that people would like to use it with their own shoes. There's also the benefit of not being "locked in" to one particular style or size.

Once development started in that direction it began accelerating. I still kept updates on my personal feeds and in message responses vague though, as we all know big name players are entering the wearables space. With the R&D budget they have available, the one element I have to my advantage is the "universal" concept which allows a lot more flexibility.

I've hired some consultants to help polish the product and we are working to launch within the next couple of months. Backers take priority and we will manufacture and ship those out of pocket. But to accelerate that process and stay viable we will also be opening up very limited public orders, in small enough batches so that we can produce and ship the inventory without facing long backorders and delays.

I still believe that our niche in the market will be assisting the disabled community, and that coexistence with entries from other companies is possible. Back to the Future was a great movie, and the Power Laces in the film was a fun gimmick, but once I started seriously developing this I've always believed that my invention can genuinely help people and am building it with that in mind.

Thank you for reading and your continued support. 

Blake Bevin

Founder
Power Laces, LLC