A look inside Flutter

As many of you have noticed, our communications have not always been prompt, and our shipping schedule has slipped. As Flutter's creator, I want to issue an apology for this and express my deepest appreciation to you all for supporting my project and being so understanding. The truth is, Flutter has been a very difficult journey for me, and I have struggled to keep up with all of my responsibilities. Though our website may do a good job of making us look fancy, we're really still a very small operation. In fact, I've actually been doing all of Flutter by myself for the better part of the past year. Katelynn worked overtime for months before, during, and after the campaign, but eventually she got very tired of working two jobs and we decided she'd be better off working for a paycheck while I did Flutter's development. Since the end of the campaign I've done all the hardware designs and redesigns, ported the Arduino code environment to a new processor, updated Flutter's code libraries, done extensive code and hardware debugging, communicated with Chinese suppliers, assembled prototypes, drawn up product artwork, written internal assembly documentation, done networking for possible hiring, and even hit a trade show (MakerCon). I’ve spoken to a couple companies similar to ours and they both have 12 employees to manage what I have been clamoring to do myself.

It has been a *very* busy year for me.

From a young age, I've had lofty ideas. Way back in 8th grade, to give you one example, I was given an assignment to build a project that demonstrated something I'd learned in physics class that year. One student made a pulley out of a thimble and a thread; she got 100%. I built a 5 foot long 3 foot wide gasoline powered hovercraft that could carry a small child over land and water. I suppose I've always been kind of a show-off.

When I started laying out Flutter's architecture it was no different. I thought "Man, all these companies charge so much for their products, and the software is still so limited. I could do so much if I could just work on the product full time." And so, I drew up what I thought the system should be, and got to work. I wrote working prototype code for a network data relay in python, and whipped up a few Android apps that could change the color of an LED strip or take voice commands. I designed six different boards before the campaign even launched, assembling each prototype myself and testing each one extensively. When it came time to launch the campaign I thought that a simple wireless board would fail to drum up interest, and figured that the point of the extra funds provided by Kickstarter was to build out the system the way I'd really want it to be. So to compete with similar projects that make it easy to communicate with the web, I included web connectivity as a system feature. This meant making a home relay device, Android and iOS apps, and a cloud backend. That was on top of all the cool features planned for Flutter's main hardware.

I think a huge part of these additions was just fear of being a flop. I’d worked like crazy for months to prepare this project, and seeing similar campaigns fail had me worried. I wasn’t sure how I would pay my bills if the campaign didn’t succeed, and I was hugely afraid I’d have to end up working another job at a company I didn’t like. Fear of failure led to major feature creep.

Needless to say, the plan was ambitious. Sure, I have the skills to program microcontrollers, design hardware, write mobile apps, do web programming, source parts, interact with customers, and more, but did I have the time to do all of those things? In my effort to cram as much work as possible into the pre-campaign run, I don't think I took one day to relax. Kate had actually planned a trip to Seattle six months before our campaign, and though we'd hoped to launch earlier it ended up falling on the first weekend after launch. She made me promise months in advance that I would avoid work for one weekend, and I still ended up answering emails and doing a radio interview in the back seat on the way up, and then doing coding, range testing, and an update once we were there.

If I'd slowed down once, I may have realized how much work I was adding to the schedule by adding web connectivity, mobile apps, and the home relay. It's hard to know for sure what I would have thought, as I've learned so much in the past year it's difficult for me to imagine myself before the campaign. "Lean product" makes a lot more sense to me now. I've designed a lot of systems to someone's specification, but when you're making the product yourself it's kind of a whole new ball game.

Looking back, it's clear my plans were optimistic. Despite all these varied skills and an absurd excess of enthusiasm, I am a little new to comprehensive project planning, and I would have had a better time with something less complex. My last job was run as if the building was on fire, so I never got to really see how professionals really plan things out. For project planning as with all these other things I thought "How hard could it be?" In my exuberance, I missed the basic tenant "walk with one foot in front of the other", and got ahead of myself. Sometimes it feels like I was trying to jump the grand canyon. My whole career is on the line, and this is the biggest thing I've ever done.

The truth, however, isn't as bad as I may sometimes fear it to be. Flutter's hardware is amazing. Hindsight makes me wonder if the time spent redesigning it was really worthwhile, as the prototypes were pretty good already. But the final board is much more capable and much more polished than what I had last summer, so I think it will prove to be worthwhile. I set out to make the best low cost project board I could, and I think I've succeeded. Once we ship the hardware, we will be able to start in-depth work on software, and expand the libraries beyond the basic functionality we currently have. You can do a lot with things as they are now, but presently there's still no easy way to send your data to the web, and I know you all want that capability.

I’m committed to delivering the boards to everyone who has supported this project. In order to make that happen, I need to maintain my focus on getting the main boards completed. The biggest thing preventing us from moving forward is FCC testing, which recently introduced some more delays. We’re working on that, and once it’s completed we can immediately go into manufacturing. Success with the testing is key, so we’ve developed a straightforward plan to prevent additional delays.
  1. Understand FCC requirements in detail. We have a telecommunications lawyer working on this now.
  2. Schedule FCC tests. This will give us good deadlines and allows us to set delivery estimates.
  3. Make the necessary changes to the hardware, order new boards, and assemble them.
  4. Prepare software for FCC review and begin testing.
Once this is completed, we can begin manufacturing in volume. To avoid any further delays, we’re manufacturing them locally, just down the street from our offices. Once we have certified hardware that is assembled, all we have to do is mail them out.
It’s been a long road to get here, but soon we’ll be on the home stretch to delivery. Once we're mailing out hardware we'll start diving into the software side of things in more depth.

Thank You,
Taylor Alexander
Founder, Flutter Wireless

12 responses
Taylor, Thanks for all the work man. I know it's not much coming from one backer; but ultimately everyone that pledged is still keen to check out the end result, even if they get a little edgy. All I can say as a hobbyist level maker with little to no engineering background is, thank you for the honestly. From my side it makes the wait bearable knowing there is a human being over there that is working just as hard as the next guy to achieve his goals. All the best man, looking forward to you crossing the finish line.
Thanks Diddles! Part of the reason this update took longer was that composing this portion took careful consideration. Knowing it's well received by even one backer actually means a lot to me. Every single one of you pledged to make my dreams come true and I really appreciate that. If sharing my experience helps even one of you I know it's worth it. Thank you!
Hey Taylor, I admire your tenacity and vision. I can wait a couple of months. Flutter will open a lot of doors not just for you but for anyone else with vision. I'll back your next project too ;-). It must be weird to be under a microscope, hang in there.
You know... It took Edison a long time to get good stuff built too. Don't kick yourself too much... thank you for doing this. All we had to do was send some money.... and glad to be able to do that!
Seriously thanks for the hard work. I know life hits and delays happen but you're working hard and keeping us updated which is all that matters. This is particularly interesting for me to hear how this is going cause I'm planning in a similar project for a shield with a similar lack of people to help problem, so hearing what works and doesn't work is helpful to me.
Many reading this share your traits of extreme dedication and striving just beyond what you previously thought you could do in order to achieve something great. I think I am not alone among Flutter supporters in appreciating your tremendous effort to do this lean, the pressure towards feature creep, and above all your dedication. Reaching very high is not something to apologize for! I do think you have one of the best ideas on this problem, and while I can't wait to get my hands on the communications core for my own personal SkyNet, don't kill yourself man - I for one will remain patient.
Honesty is always a good thing .. and the product idea is a GREAT thing! I'm just watching and waiting to buy. Hang in...
looking forward to trying this out - hope that flutter works out.
Any update on progress, we are waiting with bated breath...
Hey Taylor, just wanted to say thanks, I appreciate all the hard work. It will be worth the wait. Good luck.
Agree with the positive comments here. Word to the wise: when you deal with the human beourocratic machine just try to downplay your tech as much as you can. If the wrong people get a sniff of how big this could be you may find magic red tape appearing and somebody's brother in law with their finger in your pie, or perhaps it could suddenly be a security issue requiring DOD approval, or who knows what. Too many honest, straight-forward, smart, task-oriented guys have been snapped up by mediocre sharks. Even if you can prove it you will have to devote the best 10 years of your life to the court action. Call me a cynic, but until you want to publicly list your company, remember "its just a little hobby thing for nerds". Good luck, you deserve the win :D
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