Moving On

Hi all, I just sent an email to my few customers stating that I’ll be moving on from developing Polystack hardware and software. The few sales I’ve made don’t warrant continuing working on it.

I’d like to thank my customers for giving me a chance. Thanks also to all of those who listened when I got excited about the idea, those who contribute to the RC quadcopter community and those who personally contributed to Polystack.

Now, in the spirit of openness (to go along with the software and hardware), I’d like to talk a little bit about what I learned so that those of you with other crazy ideas can avoid the mistakes I made and understand why taking the risk is worth it.

The biggest thing I’ve learned is that modularity is expensive! I didn’t internalize it until the reviews of the Polystack came in and they all commented it was too expensive. What made it expensive? The connectors on the board added a base cost of ~$2-5 to every single board which was then multiplied by at least three. A $15 bill of materials baseline alone makes it impossible to compete with a $30 retail flight controller. Before adding any other components, the retail cost for the full package is $37 minimum. The whole premise is expensive.

I didn’t realize this though until after. I just thought that having great, easy to setup IO would be amazing and it is. It’s just not amazing enough (it turns out) to justify the added expense. The current trend of all-in-ones provides easy setup without the added cost of modularity.

Despite having this failure, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I learned a ton and engineering is fun. Just make sure that if you want to make business out of it, you are genuinely onto something as early as possible. I could have seen the signs that Polystack was too expensive as I talked with people about tentative pricing but I ignored them because I love engineering. Business could wait. The few sales on launch day quickly told me I had missed the mark.

I was disappointed. I had spent eight months of my life working more than full-time to design, prototype, tweak, test, program, contract manufacture, package, label, photograph and sell all of the Polystack boards. But, I still love engineering and believe Polystack is well engineered. It’s just solving a problem few people have. (whoops) Despite weak sales, I learned a ton about electronics design and programming microcontrollers. I feel closer to the CPU and computer engineering than I ever did writing server software at Google. I can now work on complete products from hardware to software.

In the end not all is lost, thanks to MacroFab my production batch wasn’t so large as to bankrupt me when it didn’t sell. With my newfound hardware skills I looked for jobs and began working for Adafruit Industries at the start of September. I’m working on bringing MicroPython to more hardware. I love that it’s all open source work you can find on GitHub. I’m also really excited to have a diverse set of extremely talented co-workers to complement my engineering skills after spending so much time working on my own.

Even though the production batch was small, there is still plenty left. I’d hate to see it go to waste is I’m selling the remaining stuff at a large discount. Note though, that it will no longer be supported and once its gone its gone. You can still drop me a line at [email protected] if you have any questions or comments.