Fall Update | A note to our backers
Before going into details, I’d like to thank you all for coming on this journey with us to pioneer a new product category for deterrent locking technology. With the end of fall quickly approaching, I am eager to share that we have finally received updates from our manufacturers. And more importantly, although we have not been particularly fast, I hope that by sharing more details about our business plan and process, this will help exemplify how purposeful and thorough we have been. Particularly in developing and executing our strategy to design, manufacture, and distribute the SkunkLock globally. We are well on our way to shipping the SkunkLock, and we've positioned ourselves so that we will grow into a defensible, profitable, and sustainable company.
In this update, I will address critical details including how close are we to shipping? Why does it take so long? What is the vision and why does it matter? What to expect from us in the coming weeks? And, how are we going to reward the patience and continued support of our backers?
How close are we to shipping?
The bad news: We were not able to take into account China’s National Day in many of the estimates we received from our manufacturers. Depending on the component, our partners shut down for the first 1-2 weeks of October. Our manufacturers did not communicate this to us when we first received estimates. Though, we were still within the Fall 2017 estimate until receiving the updated completion estimates this week.
As of today, two of our component manufacturers have communicated to us that they are significantly delayed, with an estimated completion date of December 30th. This week, we made attempts to reach out to alternative manufacturers that can produce more quickly. Unfortunately, in our initial assessment, it is clear that switching manufacturers at this time will be more cost prohibitive and will not substantially reduce the production time.
The good news: The majority of our manufacturing components are approaching completion, and we have already begun sampling and Quality Assurance processes. The most complex of the product elements, the cylindrical locking mechanism is complete, works excellently, and is ready for assembly. This component is our most significant production uncertainty, so the completion is a critical element in our ability to provide more accurate estimates for assembly completion. Other parts are also well within our required tolerances and expectations for quality, ensuring we will be able to assemble seamlessly once all components arrive at our assembly line in January.
Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee an “at my doorstep” date as some of you have requested due to variability in shipping and customs procedures in several countries. Currently, one consistent challenge is our ongoing effort to secure air freight to ship our product. As of now, we have only been able to secure shipping options via ocean freight. If we are unable to ensure air freight in the coming weeks, we will be forced to ship via sea. Although sea freight does have some measurable benefits, it is far more time consuming, requiring up to 35 days to reach some countries.
Why does it take so long?
We know many of you are frustrated that our production process has taken a substantial amount of time by standards of a typical customer-seller relationship, we get it. We have built something that will empower cyclists around the world, and it's our responsibility to give the upper hand back to cyclists. We sympathize, and we’re frustrated too. We understand it's our obligation to pave the way for the first lock that “Fights Back,” globally. And, to do so in a way that will ensure we can continue to create and distribute the SkunkLock and similarly innovative products in the future.
The primary reason for our lengthy shipment time, and probably most apparent, is that we are shipping a different (and vastly superior) product than the one we had initially launched last year in our campaign. Before mass producing the V1, we addressed our backers, and the response to our proposal to ship the V2 at no additional cost (although this would inevitably delay shipment), was overwhelmingly positive. The V2 includes a fully custom crossbar with newly patented "MM" theft resistance technology, a pick and drill resistant disc cylinder mechanism, and a heftier crossbar and shackle to provide additional structural integrity. And as you may expect, this necessitated additional work to convert our fully customized crossbar and new prototype to Design for Manufacturability. We believe the decision to ship the V2 was a win for our backers and all future customers and allows us to create a product we are genuinely proud to ship. Our original update can be found here.
Secondly, the popularity of the SkunkLock V2 far exceeded anything we could have predicted, primarily due to interest from retailers and distributors. Because of the enormous demand, we had to take into account the requirements and expectations of our retail partners, in addition to our focus on shipping to backers. To ensure our production was efficient and benefited from economies of scale, we had to partner with new, larger and more established manufacturers capable of scaling to our production needs and meet the quality-assurance standards demanded by our selected retail partners. Also, many of our retail partners require we do not change our product in a significant way for some time, so we have to ensure what we’re shipping to backers and retailers meets our standards for quality and effectiveness for at least 12 months.
Thirdly, we strategically organized our manufacturing to minimize the ease of replication by unauthorized third-parties, i.e. “knockoffs” that would lack our standard of quality, damage our brand, and jeopardize the global acceptance of deterrent lock technology.
The way we did this was by engaging multiple unrelated manufacturers, each producing a separate component of the SkunkLock, utterly unaware of the final product. Although this strategy is undoubtedly a slower process, we believe it will allow us to sustain the quality of each component at scale, make it extremely difficult to create low-quality replicas, and ultimately be critical to the long-term success of our company.
More information on the crowdfunding process can be found here on IndieGoGo.
What is the vision and why does it matter?
The reason we believe it’s important to give you insight into our overall strategy and vision is rooted in the mission of IndieGoGo and crowdfunding. Crowdfunding was conceived to empower entrepreneurs to create new innovative products and companies by allowing them to prove the demand for their products and raise the necessary capital to start building. A crowdfunding backer is not a customer, you are our investors, and fellow revolutionaries. As such, you deserve to know not only how we plan to build our product and company, but also why we do what we do.
Putting a dent in bicycle, motorcycle, scooter, and moped theft globally is an incredibly complicated task. We learned from experience that to stop a thief with an angle grinder, you need more than just a big and robust lock. It needed to do something; it needed to “Fight Back.” This radical idea comes with a vast array of challenges that no other lock company (or any company, for that matter) has had to overcome before. Some of these challenges include gaining import/export and legal compliance, ensuring the product is 100% safe and tested in a variety of conditions, and that it is possible to produce in an economically sustainable way at scale.
We also have to address the most important issue of all, thieves are not static, they adapt, they learn, practice, and improve their skills over time. And so do the tools that they are using, at alarming rates. Thus, at the core of our vision locking technology, too, needs to adapt and improve continually. So although we’ve designed the SkunkLock to what we consider “perfection,” it would be naïve (although not uncommon in the industry) to believe that we can foresee every possible tool, strategy, or motivation of thieves going forward. We believe in the approach that we should expect that our locks will have at least some vulnerabilities, or new more powerful tools will emerge, in the future.
We believe a using a SkunkLock should be considered more of an insurance policy, this is why we commit to consistently innovating and producing an even better version every 18-24 months. We believe that steadily adapting is the only practical strategy to curb theft on a global scale sustainably.
Our second big realization and driver of our vision is that theft is not solely an innovation issue, it’s an educational one. Through our initial market research during the product design phase, we realized that a significant amount of bike thefts are a result of riders simply not correctly locking their bike. A lock is only as good as how smartly you use it. So we have also committed not only to produce products we believe will deter theft but also to help educate our backers and future customers how to best use locks on their bikes to prevent theft.
There are 1.5 million bicycles stolen every year in the United States alone, with less than 3% recovered. Approximately 1/5 commuter cyclists that experience a gut-wrenching theft never ride again, that’s ~330,000 cyclists every year that have to get back in their cars further contributing to traffic congestion and air pollution. We hope we can make an impact and bring a product to the market that can actually stop thieves in their tracks, and educate people of the best ways to protect their property, and empower current and future cyclists.
What to expect from us in the coming weeks?
Although the demand for our product and our pending retail contracts exceed anything we could have imagined, our first “batch” is limited to only 1500 units. We are purposefully capping production initially to just 1500 units to ensure our manufacturing and distribution process is flawless and we'll begin scaling our manufacturing within 30 days of initial shipment. You will be one of the first and only 1500 people, in the world, to receive the first of its kind deterrent lock.
Approximately two weeks before we ship units to backers, we will be sending out a comprehensive survey that will ask you to confirm or update your shipping address. We will also provide an updated estimate on shipping time to your country/region direct from our fulfillment partner, and for those that no longer need a locking solution, an option to receive a refund.
How are we going to reward your patience and believing in our mission?
1) Though we may end up limited to ocean freight for shipping because of the chemical nature of our product, we’re upgrading shipping for our backers to minimize any avoidable delays. Unfortunately, we still cannot guarantee shipping dates as each country has different import regulations, and shipping time will vary depending on proximity to our central shipping facility.
2) We are providing 10% discounts codes (single use) for all backers on future products purchased through our website, including swag, accessories, and additional SkunkLocks. More information will be sent to our backers via email.
3) We are providing an option to opt-in to our “Ambassadors” program, which will give an opportunity to receive discounts on future products, give structured feedback on your SkunkLock for gift cards, and be the first to receive future products in exchange for your feedback.
4) By popular request, we are extending our IndieGoGo pricing until we begin sending out our backer surveys just prior to shipment.
Thank you for the ongoing support,
CEO | SkunkLock, Inc.