Successful Kickstarter Lessons for Hardware Startups
The WiFi Nomiku Kickstarter project blasted through its $200,000 goal in less than a day.
First launched on Kickstarter in 2012, the Nomiku immersion circulator made sous vide, a low temperature cooking technique previously reserved for top chefs, accessible to everyone. Despite its success, the creators considered the first Nomiku a minimally viable product.
Building off the experiences and success in bringing a complex and brand new kitchen gadget to market, Nomiku’s creator Lisa Q. Fetterman and her team has re-launched on Kickstarter to create the dream product they always wanted to make…and that people seem to want; the new app-enabled WiFi Nomiku blasted through its $200,000 goal in less than a day.
I spoke with Nomiku’s Chief Design Officer Wipop Bam Suppipat about their second generation product, why app integration is important and the unique challenges they faced as a hardware startup. Turns out that manufacturing in China isn’t necessarily the best option, and that some regulations can and should be challenged.
Why did you want to redesign Nomiku?
The first Nomiku was a super compact yet powerful sous vide machine with friendly design for the home, in contrast to other models on the market. At its core though, the first Nomiku is a minimum viable product. It just has to perform its function as an immersion circulator and that’s it.
The redesign of the Nomiku is the dream machine we’ve always wanted, something I envisioned from the start 2 years ago …. But we didn’t have the design or manufacturing experience to pull off such an ambitious project at the time. So the new Nomiku is the result of what we’ve learned over the past 2 years, working with this specific product and category.
Why WiFi app integration into a kitchen appliance?
We want to connect people. The main idea is for people to be able to make and edit recipes on the fly, show off their creations and have the exact time and temperature measurements for particular sous vide dishes they want to try.
If a user wants to eat a beautiful dish they saw on Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook, the app lets the users dial into the Nomiku the exact time and temperature required. It also functions as a food science hub for new cooks so they are not worried with venturing into the world of low temp cooking, which can be dangerous if not done properly.
How can people discover new recipes?
The recipes live on our server which can be viewed on the iOS and Android app, and on our website. New recipes can be added through the app, or another cook can improve upon your recipe by making their own edits on top of the core time and temperature. Same dish, different cook.
Can you talk about the manufacturing process as a startup? Why is the new Nomiku made in the USA?
This is the most important part to get right for hardware startups. All aspects of manufacturing, from early parts sourcing to delivery, should be well reviewed before committing to tooling and purchasing. Legal protection and all certification pathways must be fully researched well beforehand.
The unexpected big challenge with the first Nomiku was the manufacturing system in China and the lack of process review and quality control. In order to succeed, Nomiku hired two extra quality control personnel, one in China and one in the US to inspect and control product quality at all times. We also had to engineer our own manufacturing line and enforce that processes be followed exactly. Many factories in China are used to cheap, high volume, low quality kitchenwares where they can be discarded if broken, which is not the case with Nomiku.
We had a unique challenge where steam was escaping into our control section so our plasma physicist / CTO Abe Fetterman engineered a magnetic drive system to seal off the bottom completely to prevent the steam from entering. He was able to finish the calculation and design the magnetic drive within a few days, thus we were able to have a new prototype within a week’s time. The factory and engineers involved were shocked at how fast we can problem solve, far faster than any hardware companies or high profile manufacturing they have ever seen.
The decision to manufacture in the USA was to get away from the hierarchy and bureaucracy of Chinese manufacturing system that caused us pain and delays. It’s about being small and flexible no matter the company size; we learn from our mistakes, make changes and move on quickly. Large-scale manufacturing won’t work here, but there may be some hope for small and medium runs.
What advice do you have for new hardware startups?
Prototype well, and prototype often. Make lots of mistakes, but fix them immediately. Research certification requirements and comply, but don’t bend over backwards for unreasonable rules. If you’re in the right, contest the rules. Lastly, raise a lot of money because hardware is hard and expensive. Crowdfunding has been our saving grace because people can really get behind our passion, and we’re grateful for the support.