One of the problems that many crowdfunded hardware startups encounter is manufacturing and scaling. That’s because for many startups, it’s their first time working with manufacturers, not to mention working with manufacturers half a world away in China.
And if vastly different time zones and frequent visits to China weren’t tough enough for n00b entrepreneurs, the deadly Coronavirus epidemic is now currently tearing through China. This is creating even more problems for manufacturers as the country implements strict measures to combat the disease’s spread.
The Coronavirus now appears to be impacting projects backed on Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms. This came to our attention today when ChopBox, the high-tech cutting board, sent out the following update:
As per the previous update, we confirmed that the first batch of 500 units were to be finished by February 10th, but because of the coronavirus, most factories have been shut down until around February 15th as a precaution only. We have contacted the factory and they cannot confirm the exact day or time they will be allowed to reopen, but we have the rough schedule. It should be around February 20-25th. As soon as they are open again, we will use express shipping for the super fast shipping pledge backers and get your ChopBox to you right away.
It should be noted that ChopBox was already experiencing production issues, and had delayed is shipping once from December to Mid-January. So while there’s never a “good” time for an outbreak, this definitely bad timing for ChopBox.
Over on the BRÜ Kickstarter page, there was an exchange with a backer concerned that the virus might get into the device being made there:
And over on the BEERMKR campaign page, backers are asking questions about how the Coronavirus will impact their device’s shipment:
We reached out to both BRÜ and BEERMKR to see how the virus is impacting their production.
UPDATE: BEERMKR Co-Founder, Aaron Walls emailed us the following statement:
We’re waiting on an update from the factory now. Prior to the virus being so expansive, we were planning on a week delayed start, twice the time to produce parts, and not have our engineers return to China in the month of February, which would also slow things down. Now that the virus is a pandemic and the Chinese government shutting down transportation and large scale preventing the movement of people, there is a possibility that there won’t be any workers present in Shenzhen to begin work at all. I’m hoping to get some sort of a response from our factory by the end of the week, so I can follow up with more details then.
Whether or not people have to wait to brew their own beer, make a single cup of tea, or weigh their vegetables as they chop them is the very least of the problems caused by the Coronavirus.
But it is emblematic of our increasingly connected world and another reason those creating Kickstarter hardware campaigns need to make sure they raise enough money to weather unexpected crises, and be as transparent with backers as possible.