Finding a Manufacturing Partner
We engaged with a few Chinese manufacturers very early on, well before launching our Kickstarter campaign. It became quickly apparent that this may be the first time that two individuals have set out to bring a mobile phone to market. Traditionally huge corporations working on products within established markets are the only ones that build phones. Since we were working on opening a new market with a new product, we knew we needed to prove demand to our potential manufacturing partners. Our goal was to partner up with a manufacturer who had experience with engineering, sourcing, assembling, testing and distributing mobile devices to markets overseas. It was extremely helpful to get feedback at such an early stage directly from manufacturers who were able to tell us what was feasible at a high level. We knew this would need to be a long-term relationship and it that would be crucial to meet in person to find the right fit for us.
The Chinese market for mobile devices is booming. South China, specifically ShenZhen, is currently the place to be if you want to make a hardware product in general. The supply chain for electronic devices is very mature there. You can basically find everything you need in a matter of days.
When a factory decides to engage in a product, they are essentially investing in your product because there is a large opportunity cost. That being said, because the Light Phone was such a new type of product, we were worried that maybe the factories might not understand the philosophy or even potential of what we were doing. Over three weeks we spoke almost 20 different factories. To our surprise, almost everyone was intrigued by the Light Phone, and understood its premise. They fully resonated with the idea of feeling overly connected. One person we met told us, “I need the Light Phone now! My smartphone is ruining my life.”
Some of the manufacturers wanted to partner up with us, but didn’t have the specific experience for exactly what we needed. Many companies had to say no just because our idea was not aligned closely enough with their current roadmap for them to allocate the resources. It is a very competitive time, and we were seen as too much of a gamble. One of the executives at a factory actually sent us a personal message to express his appreciation of the Light Phone after his company ultimately decided they would not be able to partner with us.
We flew to Taiwan to meet with a team from Foxconn. We met with them every day for a full week. This team really believed in the value of what were trying to accomplish. Some of them have been building cell phones for 20 or more years and yet our idea excited them in a way that no other smartphone did.
We asked them to evaluate our design and ensure that our phone is built to meet international requirements for both carriers and government regulators. They have been able to troubleshoot potential hurdles that other manufacturers were not and began to immediately suggestion solutions. We will be working with this team around the clock to bring the Light Phone to life. The engineers will design the Light Phone in Taiwan, the sourcing of many of the parts is from Shenzhen and will be producing and assembling the phone in Yantai in north China.