In October 2013, we launched our second Kickstarter campaign to raise funding for Triggertrap Ada: An infinitely-expandable modular camera triggering system for high-speed photography.
After a very successful Kickstarter campaign we were super excited for the release of Ada, but unfortunately there were more than a few hitches along the road to delivering this product that resulted in several severe delays. Eventually we made the painful decision to cancel the Triggertrap Ada project and the product was never released.
For more information about what went wrong along our journey and what lessons we have learnt as a company, please refer to our Kickstarter update and an in depth discussion over at How our $500k Kickstarter campaign crashed and burned, here on Medium.
Questions answered in this document
- Are you still bringing Triggertrap Ada to market?
- Where can I find source code, schematics, etc, for Triggertrap Ada?
- Can’t you just raise additional funds to deliver Ada?
- Did you really have a working prototype when the Kickstarter project started?
- Doesn’t the Kickstarter Terms of Service say you must give a full refund?
- How is it possible to fail, when you asked for £50k in your Kickstarter goal but received £290k?
- Is it possible to place a smaller order of Ada, for the people who REALLY want one?
- What about the IPR and the work done to date?
- What does Kickstarter say about Triggertrap Ada’s failure to deliver?
- What do you recommend as a high-speed trigger instead of Triggertrap Ada?
- What if we added additional funds / upgrades on BackerKit?
- What is the status of the refunds?
- What would it take to make Ada happen at this point? Can I contribute more money?
- When did you find out this was going to happen?
- What is Vela, and how does it relate to Triggertrap?
- Why aren’t you sending out the cables / dongles that were part of the backer rewards?
- Why aren’t you offering a full refund?
- Why can I get 50% refund in the shop, but only 20% refund via Kickstarter?
- Why is Triggertrap not shouldering any of the risk?
- Where did all the money go?
- Would it be possible to make a kit / DIY version of Ada?
- Where can I inspect the audited accounts for the Ada project?
Are you still bringing Triggertrap Ada to market?
No. We are going to release Triggertrap Ada (source code, schematics, casing designs etc) as open source, and will cease development on the product. We will not be selling Ada, our current product roadmap doesn’t include any aspect of Ada in future products.
It currently seems unlikely, but should that change — i.e. if we do consider using any part of Ada’s development in future products — we will do so in dialogue with our Kickstarter backers.
Where can I find source code, schematics, etc, for Triggertrap Ada?
We are in the process of open-sourcing all the work to date. This page will contain the links you need to find everything.
- The Ada Source Code is available under GPLv3. It’s in GitHub, here: http://tri.gg/ada-source
- The Ada schematics and electronics is available under GPLv3. It’s in Github, under ‘Ada Electronics’ — http://tri.gg/ada-source
- The Ada plastics and casing designs is available under GPLv3. It’s in Github, under ‘Ada Casing’ — http://tri.gg/ada-source
Can’t you just raise additional funds to deliver Ada?
We wish we could. In fact, we tried.
We spoke to our bank and to some of our current and potential investors to see if we would be able to get a loan or some bridge investment to ensure that we can deliver the Kickstarter project fully.
Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out; we weren’t able to secure a loan at a rate we could afford. Ultimately, that no bank would loan us the money we need in order to ship the product was one of the biggest disappointments we ran into.
Did you really have a working prototype when the Kickstarter project started?
The prototype you can see working in our Kickstarter video, was an early working prototype. However, even as the Kickstarter project was in progress, it became clear that we had made a mistake.
One of the promises we made in our Kickstarter project was that we wanted to make a fancy UI (User Interface) to make Ada as easy as possible to use. We did have a rudimentary UI on the prototype, but to get to get the UI we wanted / had promised, we needed to make a lotof changes.
In retrospect, this was a poor choice: If we had stuck with the simpler UI, we might not have had to replace the processor and all the software that was running on the Triggertrap Ada. This choice cost us a tremendous amount of money and a huge deal of delays, as described in Triggertrap CEO Haje Jan Kamps’ blog post ‘Hardware is Hard’ over on Medium.
The change to a new processor, and all the other things that went wrong throughout the project, are further described in the Medium post that serves as a retrospective for what, exactly, went wrong in this project.
The long and short of it is this: We had a working prototype, a lot of things went wrong, and we essentially started from scratch, when we really shouldn’t have.
Doesn’t the Kickstarter Terms of Service say you must give a full refund?
The Triggertrap Ada Kickstarter campaign launched between October 2012 and October 2014. That means that this is the version of the Kickstarter Terms of Service that applies to the Ada project.
The Terms of Service states that
Project Creators are required to fulfill all rewards of their successful fundraising campaigns or refund any Backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill.
A few of our backers were reading the above mentioned clause as the campaign having to offer a full refund. However, the ToS doesn’t specify that a failed project should offer a fullrefund — it just suggests that a refund should be made.
In our opinion, partial refunds is the only interpretation of those ToS that makes sense: If the ToS stated that creators always had to refund all backers in full in case of a failed process, the full burden of the project would be on the project creator. On Kickstarter, you aren’t buying things that already exist — you’re helping to create new things, and Kickstarter exists to give creators a chance to take an ambitious leap at creating projects, products, and artworks that would otherwise have been impossible. Should a full refund be due in the case of a failure, nobody would use Kickstarter.
After taking legal advice, we believe the terms of service means that we should offer a refund of the remaining funds, so that is what we are doing: Offering a refund equal to the money that’s left from the Kickstarter campaign, distributed proportionally by their backer level — in other words, we are offering everyone a 20% refund.
How is it possible to fail, when you asked for £50k in your Kickstarter goal but received £290k?
Product development — and especially hardware and electronics product development — is a complicated art. By the time we started our Kickstarter project, we had already invested closer to £20k in the Triggertrap Ada project, and we had an additional chunk of cash we were ready to invest into the project.
Following our original budgets, we would be able to deliver the project if we invested £100k into Triggertrap Ada, but we also felt that we would be able to generate more PR and excitement around the Kickstarter project if we hit our goal faster, and if we raised a higher multiplier of our goal. With the money we had already invested, we were feeling quite confident, and set our Kickstarter goal at £50k.
When we ended up being backed for just over £290k, we correctly identified that we would have more money to spend on the R&D phase of the product, but where we went wrong is that didn’t police exactly how much more we were spending. We hit several big bumps along the road, and that set off a chain reaction. Not in our worst nightmares did we expect that our costs would spiral so dramatically out of control.
What we hadn’t anticipated, was that getting a higher amount of support was worse, rather than better: If we had had a smaller amount of money to work with, the Ada project would have ground to a halt much earlier, and the problems we were facing wouldn’t have been masked by the money we had in the bank account at the beginning of the project.
Is it possible to place a smaller order of Ada, for the people who REALLY want one?
It is technically possible to do a smaller run, but so far, each of our prototypes has cost over $1,000 each, including certain hand-soldered modifications and custom software.
Even if we found some people who were willing to pay a significant sum for each hand-built prototype, we wouldn’t have the bandwidth to offer this as a service or support the products after they have been launched.
In other words: we’re sorry, but we won’t be able to offer Ada for sale.
What about the IPR and the work done to date?
We will be releasing the software, hardware, and electronic designs as open source as quickly as we can: In our mind, we don’t ‘own’ the work we’ve completed so far: It belongs to our Kickstarter backers, who stood with us through this process.
Keep an eye on the Kickstarter page for the announcement for when we are ready to release everything.
We still need to include the licences and package up everything for release. We expect to have this completed by the end of March 2015 — stay tuned.
What does Kickstarter say about Triggertrap Ada’s failure to deliver?
Kickstarter has not made a public statement specifically about Triggertrap Ada, but our backers report that the below is the reply Kickstarter have given to them when they are contacted about Triggertrap’s Kickstarter project:
As the creators and stewards of Kickstarter, we hate more than anything when a project doesn’t come to fruition. Allowing creators to take risks and attempt to bring something new to life is the backbone of what we do. However, we also understand that there is an inherent level of risk in any creation process. Kickstarter is built around minimizing that risk through all-or-nothing funding, which allows the collective voice of the people to decide which projects reach their goal. On our end, we review projects, uphold our rules, practice careful governance, and use anti-fraud filtering. The foundation of the entire system, however, is the collective wisdom of the people who back projects.
Still, despite a creator’s best efforts, some projects won’t always come together as planned. In these situations we make ourselves available to creators to help however we can, and we encourage them to be as open as possible with their backers about the obstacles they face. But no matter our efforts, projects will sometimes fail to come together as planned and backers will sometimes be disappointed in outcomes. We cannot issue refunds on behalf of a creator. That said, we strive to constantly learn from this, and to make sure that expectations are appropriately set for backers (like on our Trust & Safety page).
What do you recommend as a high-speed trigger instead of Triggertrap Ada?
We are heartbroken that Triggertrap Ada is not coming to fruition, but we’re aware that quite a few of our customers are still keen to try out high-speed photography.
- Camera Axe is a powerful, flexible high-speed camera trigger that is open source, and easy to use. Through the end of May, they are offering a 20% discount to anyone who was a backer of the Triggertrap Ada Kickstarter project. For more information, see the Camera Axe site.
- Stopshot is another alternative from Cognisys, a company that sells a series of high-speed and droplet photography solutions.
- u-Trigger is new camera trigger on market. We haven’t tried it ourselves yet, but it may be worth a look at u-trigger.com! They offer a 50% discount with coupon code ‘BACKER_HELP-50%’.
- Miops is a fellow Kickstarter alumni, whose products should start shipping any day now.
Triggertrap is not affiliated with any of the businesses listed on this page. We do not receive a commission or other consideration for any purchases made from these recommendations.
What if we added additional funds / upgrades on BackerKit?
Some of you have expressed concern about funds pledged to BackerKit after the campaign was completed, for example for additional cables, mini tripods, etc.
We never processed the additional orders via BackerKit, so you will not have been charged. We’ve now cancelled all of these orders on Backerkit. In addition, we will destroy any additional personal details you have shared with us via Backerkit, in accordance with UK Data protection laws.
What is the status of the refunds?
We will be keeping this FAQ up to date with our most recent information regarding the refunds.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of manual work involved in processing refunds, so it is going to take us a little bit of time, but please bear with us, we’ll get to yours as soon as we can.
- Shop Credit — Per 8 April, we have processed 100% of all claimed Shop Credits. We have also generated shop credit for anyone who didn’t fill in the form, and will be sending them out in due course. If you haven’t received your shop credit, please contact us on email@example.com.
- Refunds — Per 20 April, we have processed all claimed refunds.
- Charity donations — In total, 51 of you chose to donate your share of the remaining funds to charity. This amounted to just under a thousand pounds, so we rounded up to £1,000 exactly. We made the donation to PhotoVoice on 13 April 2015.
What would it take to make Ada happen at this point? Can I contribute more money?
We are flattered and grateful for the faith in us, and for wanting to help still bring Ada to fruition. However, as Triggertrap CEO Haje Jan Kamps mentions in this article, one of the core problems is that the product itself is far, far more expensive to manufacture than we had hoped.
That means that even if we do somehow manage to raise enough money (we’re talking about an additional £100,000, possibly more), there’s still a chance that things go wrong, even with the additional funding, which would put us right back at where we are today.
In our mind, that means that the choice is this: Should we try to borrow, find investment or ask our backers for an additional 30% funds, and invest another 6 months of our time into delivering after all, for a product we know could still stumble if further manufacturing issues crop up? Or continuing at this point be an example of falling for the sunk cost fallacy, where we decide to try to salvage what we’ve done so far by investing even more?
We discussed this at great depth internally, and reached a conclusion. With only 20% of the Ada project fund left, spending any more would be a case of throwing good money after bad. As such, we decided to offer refunds of the remaining funds.
When did you find out this was going to happen?
We ended up with a case of tunnel vision: We poured all our resources into making sure that our prototypes were ready to go into manufacturing — because the project was already so far over due, we focused single-mindedly on a single milestone: Getting the final version of the software and hardware ready, so the manufacturing phase could start.
In the process, we took our eyes off the bigger picture, and we lost overview of how much the manufacturing itself was going to cost.
We only discovered quite how fast we were running in the wrong direction once we had a full and final prototype (towards the end of last year), as this was the first time we discovered that our estimates around the Bill of Materials (i.e. all the parts that go into the product) and NREs (non-recurring engineering costs) were way off.
By the time we discovered what the exact situation was around the end of December 2014, the damage had already been done: The invoices for development costs had all been paid, and there wasn’t enough left in our Ada war fund to be able to deliver on our Kickstarter campaign.
In retrospect, we then made a poor decision in not announcing our predicament to our backers immediately: We hoped that we would still be able to salvage the project. We tried to get additional pre-orders, we spoke with our bank, we spoke to potential investors, and we looked at all other sources of funds we could think of. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, and we decided in late February that we had to cancel the project completely.
What is Vela, and how does it relate to Triggertrap?
Vela was an idea we had as part of a Triggertrap brainstorming session. The idea was a high-speed LED flash, which would negate the need to use an air-gap flash for high-speed (i.e. short duration) photography. We decided at the time that creating flashes wasn’t ‘core’ to Triggertrap’s business, and we left it at the idea stage — as we do with hundreds of other project ideas — but when we researched the ‘Vela’ name, we realised the trademark was available, and we figured it might make a good name for a future product, so we registered the trademark. For the sake of clarity: The trademark registration is not part of the Ada project budget.
When Triggertrap’s ex CTO Matt Kane left in May 2014, we transferred the Vela trademark from Triggertrap to Vela Labs, and he started work on Vela as a product.
Vela is not a Triggertrap product, and the Ada project has nothing to do with Vela. Neither Triggertrap nor any current Triggertrap staff own shares in Vela. However, it is a matter of public record that Kane holds shares in Triggertrap, from his tenure as CTO of the company.
Why aren’t you sending out the cables / dongles that were part of the backer rewards?
Some of the backer levels included Tiggertrap Mobile kits, which we manufacture and have in stock. However, as soon as we realised we wouldn’t be able to deliver on our Triggertrap Ada project, we wanted to ensure that the remaining funds were distributed as refunds as fairly as possible across our backers.
This gave us a couple of challenges: For one thing, the vast majority of our backers are existing customers, many of whom already have Triggertrap Mobile kits. While some backers may want extra kits for themselves or to give away as presents to friends, for other backers, receiving another kit may not be a satisfactory outcome of this Kickstarter campaign.
The secondary challenge is one of shipping costs: sending out our mobile kits would further deplete our Triggertrap Ada fund, which means that the remaining refunds would be significantly less than 20%.
So, instead of sending out kits to people who may not want them and risk to partially deliver some of the backer rewards to some backers but not to others, we decided to let the backers decide. If you want a Triggertrap Mobile kit, you’re able to select the 50% refund option, receive a credit in the Triggertrap store, place your order, and get your Kit that way. If you’d rather not, and prefer to have the refund as money, that’s an option, too.
Why aren’t you offering a full refund?
We would love to be able full refunds for the full amount, but the nature of this project means that we’ve invested heavily in developing Triggertrap Ada. While we weren’t able to deliver, we did have to pay for the development work that was done to date.
Given that we have 20% of the Kickstarter funds remaining, that’s the percentage we’re offering as a refund — although, as we mentioned in the e-mail we sent out to our Kickstarter backers, if you prefer, we can offer 50% of the funds backed as credit in the Triggertrap store.
Why can I get 50% refund in the shop, but only 20% refund via Kickstarter?
The reason we’re able to offer a bigger refund in the Triggertrap shop than as cash is simple: We manufacture our own products, which means that if you ‘spend’ your refund in our shop, we are able to help you make your refund go further. In other words, when we include shipping etc, a 50% shop credit is about the same as a 20% cash refund, so to us, a 20% refund via Kickstarter is about the same as a 50% refund in the shop.
Why is Triggertrap not shouldering any of the risk?
While it is correct that we have allocated some of the wages of the Triggertrap staff, freelancers and contractors working on the Triggertrap Ada project in the Ada budget, we don’t believe that is an unreasonable thing to do. Resources cost money, and we wouldn’t expect our staff, contractors, and freelancers to work for free.
In addition, there are significant costs incurred in the course of running this project that we’ve carried — the Ada project budget doesn’t include any of the auxiliary costs we’ve incurred along the way: Computer equipment, test equipment, test devices (such as cameras, strobes, etc), staff tax costs (which, in the UK, are significant), office space and related taxes, capital expenditures made in relation with the development process etc have all been written off against our core company overheads, outside of the Triggertrap Ada budget.
In addition to fiscal costs, we diverted significant resources away from other areas of the business in order to attempt to get Triggertrap Ada to market, at serious detriment to other aspects of the business. In the process, we have had to make a series of redundancies, losing several of our colleagues and friends along the way in an attempt to reduce costs and still be able to make Triggertrap Ada a reality.
Where did all the money go?
When we started the process, we created a budget with some contingencies in it. In the budget, we made a series of assumptions, and then added 30% to the budgets, in the hope that the additional money would be enough to absorb any delays or issues that cropped up along the way.
Unfortunately, it turned out that 30% extra wasn’t enough. Not even a little bit nearly enough. In fact, we got things horribly wrong on two different counts: We vastly over-spent on our development budget, and we grossly misestimated how much it was going to cost to put the product into production.
Triggertrap’s CEO Haje has written in more depth about what happened, and how we ended up having to cancel the project.
Would it be possible to make a kit / DIY version of Ada?
We think it is a good idea to try to make a kit version of Triggertrap Ada, but we haven’t yet explored what a ‘kit’ would be, whether it’s feasible, or how we would go about creating one.
Right now, we are focusing on processing the refunds to everyone who backed our campaign as soon as possible, and to ensure we release the schematics and source code under open source licences. From there, we are hoping to be able to work with our wider open source community to find out whether it would be possible to take what we’ve done so far and turn it into a kit, whether that manifests itself as an Arduino shield, or a more elaborate kit.
Where can I inspect the audited accounts for the Ada project?
As a small limited company, there is no legal requirement for us to file audited accounts at the moment — Not until we grow to a significantly larger company.
It would be possible to have the accounts audited, but this would incur additional costs, which would further reduce the amount of money we would be able to refund to our backers. As such, we’ve chosen to refund as much of the money as we can, rather than spending any more of it at this time.