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  • liversedge

    Really wish Barry well, he chased a dream and didn’t quite make it this time. I bet this isn’t the last of it though. 8 years of work can’t come to nothing.

  • Aaron McNany

    Such is the nature of start-ups. It’s great that they were able to continue for so long, and hopefully someone can pick-up where they dropped off.

    Anyways, I’m glad he’s been straightforward and transparent throughout the process, and I trust no-one has ill-feelings toward them.

    • ebbe

      You’re right. Being straightforward and transparent will probably help greatly with keeping his backers “on his side” (or at least nog against his side).

      For people who’ve worked with crowdsourcing intimately it’s well known that contributors often develop a sense of “entitlement”: They feel part of the project, sometimes even ownership, the project becomes their “baby” as well. This can of course be a very positive thing if things run well, but a bad thing if things don’t turn out as expected. Several cases I’ve seen of the creator (the “actual owner” of the project) coming up with talk that is viewed as excuses or lies quickly spiral out of control, precisely because of the contributors’ sense of entitlement: Contributors feel cheated by something they considered their own. Once that happens, it’s almost impossible to fix. Looks like Barry – knowingly or unknowingly – did the smart thing here.

  • Alex

    This article seems to be missing a whole section on the actual beginning of Brim Brothers. Long before they had their Kickstarter project they were developing the product. When they created their Kickstarter/Indiegogo campaigns they really over-stated how prepared they were. This is what I think after the fact makes them seem less than honest. Knowing the issues they faced, did they fully believe they were ready to manufacture? I don’t think so.

    • James Huang

      I addressed that in the article. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone who wasn’t involved early on to say just how prepared they really were. But the impression I got in speaking with Barry was that they genuinely *thought* they were as prepared as they let on, and that ultimately may have contributed to their downfall.

      • Jim

        Having been a design engineer a test engineer and a production engineer in different phases of my working life, I can attest to the fact that they wouldn’t be the first and certainly won’t be the last design engineers to have missed the how part of the equation.

  • Robert Merkel

    It seems that building a reliable accurate power meter is really really hard.

    This one always seemed particularly challenging given all the extra degrees of movement involved.

    • Dirk Demol

      Far too hard. Too costly too.

      I always record my rides in my Polar Pro Trainer 2 software by my perceived effort. As good a measurement as you can find.

  • david__g

    One of the first comments I read about this project was someone questioning the flex of different shoes and how that would affect things. And this was some random dude on the internet who had spotted a potential flaw before they even did. How this wasn’t the biggest, triple underlined problem on their list, I don’t know. They say they thought they’d identified it and fixed it…but it came back?

    Anyway, I don’t think these are fly by night chancers – they seem like engineers who in the heat of battle to make a moderately complex product, lost their way.

    I hope they find success elsewhere.

    • David Simons

      That was my first thought, having bought many pairs of cycling shoes over the years I envisaged sole flexibility being a potential issue. It’s a shame, but as Brim Brothers themselves say, there is an immeasurable gap between design and production.

  • mrp33p3rs

    wonder if there’ll be something similar written about Limits power meter in the future… or if the founders will have run off to the Caribbean with his 500k of crowd funding

    • david__g

      See, Limits really do seem kinda sketchy and dodgy. Brim Brothers seem legit, if overwhelmed.

      • GVA

        A little unfair on the guys at Limits, who have actually started to ship final units to backers (a couple of guys at my club already using) and whose units were a fraction of Brim Brothers’.

  • cthenn

    Feel sorry for those who are SOL having given these guys money, and lost it. Actually no I don’t, Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites prove the axiom “A fool and his money are soon parted”.

    • Hamish Moffatt

      Harsh. Backers should have realised they were taking a risk and not be too angry. But that doesn’t make them fools.

      • cthenn

        Just get tired of everyone asking for a handout. Good ideas will almost always become a reality somehow, with or without having to beg for money. I’m not taking a shot at this particular product, but anyone who gives away money for an “idea” is asking for trouble. Most of the time who cares, it’s a few bucks, the idea didn’t become reality, move on. I personally would never give money without getting something in return, but I’m just smart like that…

        The biggest thing which I dislike about crowdfunding is that REAL, legitimate companies are using this platform for launching new products, when they already are successful and manufacturing other products. To me, that’s ridiculous. It’s like no one has to be accountable anymore… just ask for handouts instead of taking a risk with the income already generated.

        Perhaps calling someone a “fool” was harsh, but hopefully backers learned a valuable lesson.

        • HamishM

          Perhaps it’s a problem with how it’s pitched. If the crowdfunding is being used properly then you really are backing in, or investing in, an idea, with the risk that might come to nothing. It shouldn’t be seen as buying a product, although that’s the way it’s often being misused. Now it’s a big jumble, as people who thought they were buying a new power meter risk free have just found out.

          • Dave

            It would be interesting to see what would happen if the ‘backing an idea, not buying a product’ line was put to the test in court.

            If it was challenged in Australia, I would not be surprised if a court ended up finding that labelling the button ‘back’ rather than ‘buy’ is not enough to get Kickstarter out of their obligations under the Australian Consumer Law.

            • HamishM

              The terms and conditions ( https://www.kickstarter.com/section4?ref=faq-basics_creatorproblems ) are pretty clear that you’re backing a project, which if successful must issue you the reward you are promised, but there’s a chance the project may not be able to be finished. It does not talk about a purchase or any guarantees.

              And Kickstarter is just the middle man and since both them and BRIM are outside of Australia, you don’t have much chance of going after them under the ACL anyway.

              • Dave

                Things might be different wherever you are, but in Australia there are laws against unfair contract terms to protect consumers. As I said, it would be interesting to see how things would go if Kickstarter’s terms and conditions were examined closely in a court – I bet they would be scrambling to settle before it got to that stage.

                The same goes for Kickstarter’s claim to be “just the middle man.” A court in Australia wouldn’t simply accept that assertion, they would look at what actually happens (that you place an order using Kickstarter’s website, you pay money to Kickstarter, you fill in shipping details using another page on Kickstarter’s website) to determine whether Kickstarter is a retailer or not. The fact that the delivery of the goods purchased using this process might come from another company is a relative triviality.

                As for “both them and BRIMS are outside of Australia” – there are ways to deal with that if they don’t cooperate and return the funds. An Australian court could order VISA (which does do quite a lot of business in Australia) to intercept funds moving from Australia to Kickstarter.

        • Dave

          Kickstarter relies on always having a good number of high profile projects from established companies to keep the hype up.

          If it works out well (see below) the companies will fork over a larger cut than they would by using conventional finance, but for that money they get a pretty damn good publicity strategy for their product launch.

          It doesn’t always go well for established companies using Kickstarter as their product launch publicity. Knog’s backers/customers are currently getting the ‘proper’ crowdfunding experience with their Oi bell project going very badly and the company causing massive damage to their own reputation with their poor communication.

    • Dirk Demol

      I don’t feel for you at all.

      • cthenn

        I wouldn’t expect you to.

        • Dirk Demol

          I wouldn’t expect me to.

  • George Darroch

    What a sad story. Product development is hard.

    I think it’s also unfortunate for them that they came to market just at the time when powermeter prices are dropping rapidly and the number of competitors has increased. That probably increased the pressure on them to take shortcuts and get their product out before it was ready.

    I feel for everyone who put money or effort into this.

    • david__g

      Yeah, when you can get a Quarq or Power2Max for $700, it’s a hard market to crack.

  • Andrew Hagen

    Having had experience of taking an idea via Kickstarter to a complex consumer electronics product that sits on a shelf in a bike shop, I feel I am fairly well qualified to comment on this post.

    Please don’t hate on Barry – he has lost so much more than any backer and not just his personal money but his livelihood (and from reading the comments online, potentially his credibility). If anyone thinks that someone would spend eight years of his life trying to achieve a goal with a view to mislead his customers is really not thinking it through. That would be like saying that you trained for months for a charity event where you asked all your friends to support the charity if you finish the event and on the day could not finish due to mechanical, nutrition, hydration or crashing out and then for someone to say to you after “you didn’t really want to finish, did you?”. Of course you wanted to finish it but as in many things in life but particularly in complex hardware manufacturing, there are so many external factors that directly affect the outcome.

    Everyone backing a project through Kickstarter knows there is risk and knows there is no guarantee for getting the product or getting a refund. Generally we pledge for two reasons, firstly that we want to have the product the creators have envisioned and secondly to help them get there. Often the creators are trying to make something they have never made before and thus, there are inherent risks with the lack of experience.

    They say ‘hardware is hard’ for a good reason and for every product that makes the shelves, there are many that do not. Finance, experience, market fit, distribution pricing, exchange rates, international taxes & compliance, staffing and intellectual property patents are all things that need to be considered while you are trying to get a product from idea to production. On the product side there is design, prototyping, tooling, testing, re-tooling, more prototyping for each different component, quality control, component testing, supplier side quality, spending time at the factory, finding new factories, packaging design & testing, international compliance approvals, instruction manual design, website design (ecommerce & marketing), hardware for the team, work space, servers & backups are just some of the other considerations that factor into making hardware. I’m sure there were many, many issues along the way that we have not heard about that they toiled through and solved just to be crunched at the 11th hour. It must be devastating for Barry and the team.

    Personally, I really feel for Barry (and his team) as he has poured a big chunk of his life into making this a reality. He (like me) would have sacrificed so much time away from his family, missed (or in my case cancelled) holidays, early mornings and late nights all because he believed he could bring this project to life for himself, his family, his staff and ultimately, his customers. I think he deserves an accolade for doing all this in an effort to bring the world a new product that inspires its customers. I would think that Barry would be a great asset to another company in the space as he would have a wealth of experience and with this situation under his belt can go on to do bigger and better things.

    I have backed a number of Kickstarter projects with some that have delivered and projects that have failed. While it is disappointing when I don’t get the product, the loss for me is just the amount I pledged but the loss for the creators is so much more and I always try and think about that when I get news like this. At the end of the day, Kickstarter has brought us many great products and will continue to do that.

    To Barry, I feel for you and hope you land on your feet somewhere awesome using this experience to bring the world something even better.

    Andrew Hagen
    CEO, Cycliq

  • Daniel

    I wonder how much the choice of production company has played in the downfall of getting the product on the shelves. Seems confidence in the idea was strong until it came to production and then the consistency in the end product was not there.

  • Danger

    I find humorous that this article is supported by Quarq (yes, I know all James Huang articles are)

    • James Huang

      Ha, I noticed the irony of that ad placement, too.

      Truth be told, I’m guessing Quarq’s commercial arrangement is section-wide (as in, all tech articles, tech features, or whatever), not author-specific, but that’s a question for our ad guys.

  • Andy B

    Seems like a difficult way to make a powermeter, haven’t read the article too closely but I imagine to accurately measure power you need a constant environment i.e stiffness from part to part (like a crank set/crank arm)
    would different types of shoes effected readings? I also question how having any kind of weight of pressure on top of your foot would be over a long ride
    my feet are bad enough on long rides without anything more on them

    • GVA

      Exactly what I thought. Too many variables to measure and manage and constraints are too tight (price, accuracy, weight, simplicity etc.)

  • Paul Jakma

    I knew Barry vaguely from DIT many years ago, when I attended his classes – and he was my year head too, IIRC. When I heard about the Zone DPMX (as it came to be called) I thought it was a great concept – even before I knew Barry was a leading member of Brim Brothers. I’ve exchanged emails with him over the years, to give him my encouragement and to talk tech on the nitty gritty of powermeters and the difficulties of getting signal from solid-state accelerometers (I’ve done some basic twiddling on that myself; it’s really hard) – so far as he could go into those details anyway. I backed the project as soon as I could.

    I’m absolutely gutted for Barry. As Andrew Hagen described, I’m sure he’ll have put his soul and more into this project for many years. I know Brim Brothers has overcome formidable obstacles technically, and no doubt elsewhere (e.g., they solved the problem the KeithHack blog said was nearly impossibly difficult). To fall short at the last will be devastating. Hopefully the technology they’ve developed (which is likely state of the art in at least some respects) will live in on one form or another. Hopefully Barry and the rest at Brim Brothers will recover from this, and be better for it, in some way.

    • Paul Jakma

      Oh, and I still think this could have been a great product, if they had had the resources to solve the production issues.

      The stiffness issue I’m sure they’d have figured with a bit more engineering time, with stiffener plates, and/or enhanced sensor plate, and/or a shoe compatibility list – the R&D engineering would probably have been cheap compared to the production engineering. I’ve had a brief insight into how difficult it is to bring innovative cycling electronics into production elsewhere. That was with a well-known, established manufacturer, with extensive in-house production engineering experience. Even for them, I suspect there was a non-trivial financial risk in the production engineering of the new product I had a brief insight into. So, a much bigger obstacle for a small startup.

      I hope something still comes of this, somehow, at some stage. Someone will get a highly portable, in-or-on-shoe based powermeter working sufficiently reliable to be useful for training at some stage – I’m sure.

  • Patrick Murphy

    I honestly don’t feel sorry for him at all, I just hope he hasn’t put his family in jeopardy through this venture. I’m a power meter user, you can barely see it, why he thought there was something wrong with the multiple designs already on the market I’ll never know.

    Everyone knows PMs can be temperamental, if the likes of SRM, Garmin, Quark, Stages can’t nail it 100% then why did he think differently? He admitted he didn’t have the knowledge required to start with.

    I wish him no harm, I’m not an investor but this was too big a risk.

    • Papuass

      “If the likes of SRM, Garmin, Quark, Stages can’t nail it 100% then why did he think differently.”
      That kind of thinking will never lead to new discoveries. In many cases thinking differently will lead to failure, but in some of them there will be new discoveries.

      I have to say it for myself too: too often we say “It will not work” without trying to see how something can be done differently.

      • Patrick Murphy

        I agree with you 100%, it’s not that I believe people shouldn’t chase their dreams and think big but this (hindsight is great) just seemed to be too big of a step. Surely with any device like a powermeter you want to put it out of harms way, again I go back to my first comment, he said he “didn’t like the look” of the existing products and yet this was the worst looking of anything. I hope his work doesn’t go to waste but nor do I feel we should be overly sympathetic.

    • GVA

      Don’t worry, I am Irish and Ireland is a socialist country with universal healthcare, free travel and a livable state pension!

    • James Huang

      Yes, as always, hindsight is 20/20. Was this too big a task to take on? Apparently so, but that’s not the point.

      The appeal of the Brim Brothers concept was that it was a power meter that would travel with your shoes with no additional hardware swaps required when switching bikes. That’s not a big deal for people who have one road bike, but it’s a bigger convenience for those who have more than one.

      • Patrick Murphy

        I have a Stages PM, it takes approximately 4 minutes to swap between bikes. Others I know with Rotor PM’s never moan about the portability either. The whole swapping process just becomes part of getting ready to ride, having a power meter attached to the bike means you rarely give it a thought, having something firmly on display and likely more at risk to the elements was imo the wrong way to go.

      • GVA

        I can see the appeal but the idea is really doomed from the outset given the variables and constraints. In any case, in 2008 SRM would cost €3,500 and that was prohibitive…now you can very accurate ones like Stages/4iiii for €400-500 and pedals from Garmin/PowerTap etc. for a bit more.

    • mittNYC

      Nice Patrick – stick the knife in. Twist a little.

      I get that this is the internet, but Jesus this comment is zero value add.

      The guy took a risk that combined his skills and his passion, and it didn’t work out – fair play for trying though. 99% of the population take the safe route and spend big chunks of their time wondering “what if”. He doesn’t have to wonder, and I’m sure he’s well aware of what that cost him.

      • Patrick Murphy

        Maybe I sound a bit harsh, I think what I’m getting at is that I’m concerned with the risk he took, was it warranted? Were the reasons correct? I don’t think they were so I think sympathy is the wrong emotion being directed here. I don’t know, something just doesn’t sit right with this crowdfunding businesss to me, maybe it makes people take risks they wouldn’t ordinarily do, I don’t see that as a good thing.

        • TomG

          Agree with James – shoe based power was/is enough of a game-changer to pursue. Multiple bikes and international travel/rental bike issues are dealt with at a stroke. Lots of power meters are quick to swap but quick /= instant, and there is a lot to be said for not mucking about with splines and bearing preload at a safety-critical junction on your bike before every ride.

          I appreciate that absolute cost is a hard limiter, but it baffles me the way apparently serious cyclists are dithering about the purchase of unavailable and unproven power meter technology when several devices of proven pedigree are on the market and the benefits of training with power are readily demonstrable with a few months of hard effort.

          SRM may be looking increasingly anachronistic with their pricing but Uli Schoberer should be credited with a phenomenal development – a simple, reliable, precise and accurate measurement device that developed in to the most effective practical sports physiology tool of the modern era. The design is entirely aimed at producing repeatable, measurable deflection to applied torque.

          The truly impressive operators in my mind have been Power2Max, who brought a clearly SRM-inspired device to market with the minimum of fanfare and took only a single product generation to iron out the kinks and deliver a product that competes with any out there (save for the impossibility of user calibration).

          Contrast this with people like Stages, who off the back of a large marketing contract with Sky have delivered a large number of power meters which are fundamentally incapable of delivering quality data due to their single-sided nature. Added to which they seem to have had a huge number of battery and water related issues such that the units I am acquainted with (albeit only n=5) spend more time off the bike than on.

          Why has the market lost sight of fundamental data quality issues to engage in endless navel-gazing Kickstarter-pledging nonsense? Why are people prepared to pay £400 for a device of variable accuracy and reliability so that they can engage in a free year of product development when they could pay £800 for a relatively unsexy product that will just work? Are people more attracted to the idea of a power meter than the harsh reality?

  • GVA

    Good article James, it is sad and I wish the Brim Brothers well but I can’t help but feel uneasy about the crowdfunding and how quickly things turned and how it failed.

    The issues such as pedaling style, flex in the shoe, position of the shoe etc. are not new issues at all…has it really taken 8 years to identify the issues?

    What I don’t like is the sob story at the end…a business that goes on for 8 years without a commercial product is not one which can be considered to be on the right path and the founders should be all too clear about the situation…raising nearly €400,000 without delivering a product is not nice.

    Let’s not shed a tear for Barry and his future…he is 64 and lives in Ireland and he will be fine…retirement age is 66, a minimum state pension of €12,000 p.a. tax free plus universal healthcare, free travel and supplements for dependents is not far away and in the meantime job seekers allowance of close to €10,000 p.a. tax free is there.

  • thevictoriousgecko

    It sounds like the Brim product worked from the prototype stage, but production was too complicated and could not be simplified as it scaled. Perhaps it would be best to transfer the intellectual property needed to create the Brim product to either the backers or to the public domain, allow others to move forward.
    Either way, it’s refreshing to read an honest interview with the creators of a failed project, and see where the process broke.

  • 2wheelsandme

    Wow sorry to hear 8 years of hard work down the tubes…I hate to be be overly critical here, but I was in the market for a power meter myself, and only momentarily glanced at this as a possibility (I do run speedplay on 2 bikes and don’t want to switch to look pedals, so they almost made sense) I dismissed the idea of Brim Bros due to the bulky pods that need to be attached to the shoes, seemed cheesy… I will be buying two Power Tap hubs this spring.

  • Karl

    Reminds me of another PM being developed a few years ago that I was waiting to see the fate of. Just had a quick google and they haven’t disappeared entirely yet.. Measured about as far from the shoe as you can get.

    http://www.laser-spoke.com

    So we have shoes, pedals, pedal – crank interface, cranks, chainset, BB spindle, chain, rear hub, spokes. Any others? (Oh almost forget the instrumented disc brakes, although that’s not motive power…)

  • John Murphy

    Design engineers need to understand manufacturability. It’s a fundamental part of their skill set.

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