FINNISH START-UP Eve wowed us back in 2017 with the first "crowd designed" laptop - the Eve V.
The Surface clone garnered rave reviews for offering something completely new to the market, co-designed by everyone who crowdfunded it and had expertise to offer. But soon, things started to go wrong for the company, with much of the funds it had raised frozen and back orders piling up.
It would have been a sad end to a refreshingly new business model, but after weathering the storm, Eve is back with not one, but four new projects. We caught up with the mastermind behind Eve, Konstantinos Karatsevidis.
We start with the elephant in the room. The past.
"It's true that we have had challenges in the past. We've learned a ton during this time.
"Originally, our vision was to focus on what we love doing the most - developing and designing products with our community while outsourcing sales and manufacturing to partners around the world.
"It's a common model - we do the R&D, the branding, the design, and our partner would manufacture the product in return for a licence fee."
So what went wrong?
Konstantinos explains: "One of our partners started having issues with the supply chain caused by not placing orders in time and high defect rate, later with funds being frozen by payment processors like PayPal and so on.
"Since the contract was fixed for three years we couldn't walk away from it and so we could not handle sales directly nor impact the issues. Licensing revenue to our team also dropped or stopped as partner struggling with frozen funds couldn't pay the licence fee either.
"We were caught in a pretty ugly situation. We couldn't just walk away from that sales partner: Not only did we have a fixed contract, but customers had trusted the Eve brand and would be left without recourse if we did."
So what's changed?
"This time around things are different. We realised that to be successful in hardware business we need to handle supply chain ourselves and have a strong partner ready to help in times of challenge.
"For these new projects, we have raised an investment round, partnered with PCH international a major supply chain company offering all kinds of services to top tier players starting from overnight shipping from China, sourcing, supply chain financing and all the way to quality management.
"On the manufacturing front, we realized that to deliver top-tier products we have to work with top tier vendors directly. Previously it was challenging to convince top tier manufacturers to work with us but now after developing V and showing that there is a lot of demand for crowd-developed products we are able to work with top-tier manufacturers like LG for Spectrum and Grandsun for audio."
Now the team is back, the Eve V is in production and the company is free to start working on not one, but four new crowd-designed products.
Spectrum is a best-in-class monitor, Muse is a pair of premium headphones and Quantum is a mini desktop machine. The fourth project, codenamed 'Donald Dock', is a docking station, which was due for release soon after the V but was delayed by aforementioned shenanigans.
The first product to hit the shelves will be Spectrum. Konstantinos explains exactly what we can expect: "Expect nothing else than a top of the line monitor for gamers, professionals and people in need of a monitor.
"We think that the monitor market is very stale and begs for change. Monitors are overpriced, full of irrelevant meaningless features and defects. Most of the gaming monitors look like a UFO space ship in addition to all the flaws mentioned above.
"Spectrum will be user-centric and packing only the features that people want such as Freesync 2, Gsync compatibility, high refresh rate, USB-C power delivery up to 100W and the fastest IPS panel made to date.
Eve has done the homework on its market too: "Spectrum is all about making the best value monitor out there and users will be able to buy monitor alone without a stand. This makes especially a lot of sense for people with VESA arms who don't want to pay extra for a stand."
And there's more...
"We are also considering a No-Light leak guarantee and factory Delta-E calibration for Spectrum. A lot of community-driven features like proper integer scaling, variable drive implementation and open-source firmware are also packed in Spectrum".
With the original Eve V now over two years on from the design process, it is still a stunning two-in-one, but might be starting to feel a bit long-in-the-tooth. Fortunately, plans for a refresh are well in hand, and the original has received a price drop.
"We love V and think it's a great form factor. This time around we want to make sure that when V2 comes to market it will rock top of the line "futureproof" specs. So we are currently waiting for some of the new key tech to become available. We are pretty confident that V2 shipment is a 2020 game plan while in 2019 we will focus on delivering currently ongoing projects."
For a company that structures itself this way, the community is everything and although there was a lot of grumbling, it appears to have stayed intact throughout the cashflow issues. There's little doubt that Eve gets how important they are:
"Without our community, we would not be where we are today. Time and time again we are proven that crowd-development is the future of hardware. People in our community know what they want us to spend R&D time on and what not.
"Community packs cumulatively thousands of years of expertise in any product category we go to especially when it comes to making compromises. In our community, we are able to understand what the underlying use cases and needs are and create a meaningful product that brings you joy in everyday life."
And with that, he's off to catch a plane to China, to personally inspect the new panels before they hit the production line. This time, it's even more personal.
If you'd like to get involved with Eve's coming projects, you can join the community here. The Eve V is available at its new price now. Spectrum is due for release later this year, with Muse, Quantum and Donald Dock following shortly after. μ
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