Andrew Deagon was inspired to create NeckFX after he dreamed up the idea while recovering from knee surgery (Because you know…pain meds). NeckFX is a custom attachment for guitars that light up LEDs as the guitar is played. While I don’t play the guitar (or have any musical ability what so ever) an LED powered guitar seems pretty cool to me. They built a few prototypes like the one shown in the video and even sold them to bands and musicians. They launched a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising enough money to ramp up production and really scale up their maker business.
But it didn’t work out that way.
Unfortunately the campaign was unsuccessful and a short time later he pulled the plug on the product. OK, to be fair NeckFX is technically on hiatus and may see new life. But all the founders have moved on to other projects. I thought a postmortem interview would shed some light on the less pleasant side of hardware startups: What happens when an idea fails? Is there anything others can learn from what happened? I caught up with Andrew and asked him to share his thoughts on the situation and to learn what he’s done since.
Why do you believe your Kickstarter campaign was unsuccessful?
Small market size and poor promoting prior to launching the Kickstarter. It also really helps to be featured on Kickstarter’s Facebook or the Kickstarter page in general, but that’s just lottery.
If you were to do your Kickstarter campaign over again what would you do differently?
I’ve noticed that successful kickstarters are those that have gained traction before launching. Hyping your Kickstarter before the Kickstarter actually launches is what creates these “couple hour success” of thousands of dollars.
How important is customer development with regards to a product like NeckFX? Do customers need to be educated on the benefits?
We had an idea at the end of our campaign — and a little too late — to cold call any artist coming through the San Francisco area. We had artists like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Imagine Dragons perform with NeckFX. The fans went nuts over it and I’d never seen so many cameras out. Also, we had shout-outs from CYHSY which dramatically improved our “coolness” factor and exposure. Additionally, we went to trade shows to walk around with the product. I think if we did this long before the campaign itself to get a following, we could have been successful.
You decided to put NeckFX on hiatus. Could you elaborate on your reasons why?
NeckFX is a really niche market. in order to manufacture something like it on such a small scale would drive the price point extremely high. The team of three were part-time dedicated to the project and thus we didn’t quite have the resources to bring NeckFX to the attention of a larger market.
You worked at Quirky as an intern. Are these kinds of services the new way for inventors/makers to launch products?
I think the idea of crowdsourcing is amazing and a new frontier in internet connectivity. But I also believe that companies like Quirky are fundamentally flawed at the moment. Quirky will not birth amazing game changing ideas for one reason: No one would want to put their truly amazing game changing idea on the internet for anyone to grab and run with. So while Quirky will continue and move forward, it will still just be bogged down with kitschy household gadgets that combine two things into one or add another layer of complexity in the hopes of simplifying a task. I loved working at Quirky. The people there are some of the brightest, most talented I know. But its hard to think that anything super amazing is going to result from that model. When IP and other means of protection are better figured out and thrown into the mix, then yes, a model like Quirky will be extremely deadly for creating new, amazing products.
Stephen is a rocket scientist who joined the dark side when he got his MBA in an effort to help startups. For more info on starting your own hardware startup, check out Stephen Murphey’s blog.