StereoPi

by virt2real

An open source stereoscopic camera based on Raspberry Pi

View all updates Mar 19, 2019

Lessons Learned

You may hear the term “risk management” from people in suits, giving an interview or just throwing around some clever words on financial channels. All it means is that you think about as many bad scenarios as possible, and plan for them accordingly. We did this analysis before crowdfunding, and, as you may expect, we were unable to predict them all. In this update, I want to share our experiences with you, in the hopes that you can avoid them if you find yourself in such a situation.

If you are one of our backers, a little spoiler for you: everything is OK, but delivery time has been increased by about two weeks.

So, here is a review of the past week’s key events.

Number of Orders

We received approximately twice as many orders than expected. So, we need to produce a bigger batch, which will take a bit more time. In our production plan, we mentioned a “pilot run” and a “main batch.” Originally, the pilot run was estimated to take two weeks and was our basic scenario, and the main batch allowed three weeks more (five weeks in total). These timelines included a bit of a buffer. However, with our current number of orders, actual production time will be somewhere in the middle – about four weeks. Crowd Supply crowdfunding rules allow you to use your money as soon as you’ve achieved your campaign goal. We raised our campaign goal of $35,000 two weeks into the campaign, gaining us about 26 days. That is, theoretically, we were able to start production much earlier. But we didn’t start earlier, and now I realize that was a bad idea. The reason we didn’t start earlier is because it was really difficult to estimate the final number of orders we’d gather in the remaining 26 days of the campaign. If we didn’t produce enough boards in the initial batch, subsequent batches might have been substantially delayed. In retrospect, it would have been better to start the initial batch right away and plan from the beginning to produce a second batch.

Money Transfer

Well, we did one childish mistake here, but I should describe it as it might help other small teams to avoid it. We created our company, StereoPi, LLC, along with a bank account in December 2018. A week before the end of the campaign, I asked our New York partners to check that the account was ready to receive funds. We got a surprise here. It appears that our account was not monitored for several months, and a monthly fee was charged several times, dipping the account balance into the negative. So the account appeared to be frozen. I said, “Okay, let’s fill up our account so it has a positive balance, maybe pay some additional charges and unfreeze it.” At the bank, they asked us to fill out some paperwork and wait a couple of days for the result. After a couple of days, the bank said the account was not frozen, but closed. On the next visit, we clarified that a closed account is not useful to us. The conversation was not exactly productive and went something like this:

Us: “We can’t do anything with a closed account, so please open new account for us.”

Them: “No, we can’t, as you already have an account.”

Us: “But it is closed now.”

Them: “No, we can’t.”

The situation appeared unsolvable. It was the evening of Monday, March 11th, the campaign had already ended, and we had no account to receive the funds and start production. We decided to go to several banks’ offices the next day to ask if any of them could open an account in one day. On Tuesday, we found such a bank, obtained account details, provided them to Crowd Supply, and they transferred the funds. On Wednesday morning, we saw money in our account.

The obvious, but important, conclusion for us from this story: fill up a new account with several hundred bucks right after opening, and always monitor your account. In the end, the problem was solved, but we lost some time. Below, we go over how we can get some of this time back.

How to Save One Day on Money Transfers

Usually wire transfers between banks take one day. You send money today, and the other party will receive it tomorrow. But we wanted to send funds to our manufacturer faster, so we used a trick which may be useful to you in the future.

To do this accelerated money transfer, you need the receiving party’s bank to have an office in your city. The procedure is simple:

  • You sign a check with the sum you want to transfer
  • You go to the office of the bank used by the other party
  • You give them a check and ask to put this money in your partner’s account

The result was that the money was in our manufacturer’s account in approximately an hour.

Unexpected Expenses, Financial Cushion, and Express Service

As mentioned above, two factors contributed to our production delay: an increased number of orders and time lost on bank account problems. We saved one day on the money transfer to our manufacturer, but we needed more.

When considering risks before a crowdfunding campaign, you cannot predict all possible scenarios and expenses. That’s why you have to prepare some financial reserve for unexpected situations. We had built-in such a cushion, and used a sensible part of it to buy some time for us.

I asked our manufacturer if there were options to decrease production time without reducing quality. It became clear that any obvious solutions (like partial production and delivery) did not give us any serious time bonus. But the manufacturer proposed their “express service,” which, in some production operations, would put our order first in their production queues. This is a costly option, but we decided to use it, as it will save us more than a week.

Conclusion: when conducting risk management exercises, try to ask for all available options from your partners. We didn’t know about the “express service” option until we asked.

More to Come

That’s all for this update, but we’ll be back next week with another! In the meantime, feel free to get in touch with any questions or your own stories of lessons learned during manufacturing.


$89,852 raised

of $35,000 goal

256% Funded! Order Below

Product Choices

$69

StereoPi Slim Edition

Perfect for DIY ninjas and those wanting to embed StereoPi in a tight space. This board is the same as the standard edition, but without all the bulky connectors - the Ethernet RJ45 jack, GPIO header, and dual USB Type-A connector have not been populated. To use this board, you will need your own Raspberry Pi Compute Module, cameras, camera ribbon cables, and power cable.


$89

StereoPi Standard Edition

The world of stereoscopic video awaits! This board is the ultimate interface between two cameras and a Raspberry Pi Compute Module. It comes with all the bells and whistles, including Ethernet, dual USB ports, GPIO header, microSD slot, HDMI output, and more. To use this board, you will need your own Raspberry Pi Compute Module, cameras, camera ribbon cables, and power cable.


$125

StereoPi Starter Kit

This kit has everything you need to get started right away. The kit includes one StereoPi Standard Edition board, two V1 cameras (w/ ~20 cm ribbon cables), one Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 Lite, and everything in the StereoPi Accessories Kit (two short ribbon cables, one USB power cable, two power cables, one V1/V2 dual-camera mounting plate, and one wide-angle dual-camera mounting plate). We've also included a microSD card pre-imaged with Raspbian and all the stereoscopic video and image demos you see on this project page.


$199

StereoPi Deluxe Kit

This kit includes everything in the StereoPi Starter Kit and adds two wide-angle (160°) cameras (w/ ~20 cm ribbon cables). With this kit, you'll be able to run all of the demos shown on this project page and start experimenting on your own. You will reign supreme over your stereoscopic domain.


$25

StereoPi Accessories Kit

This bundle will help you mount and connect your two cameras, and supply power to the whole setup. Included are two short (5 cm) ribbon cables to connect your cameras to your StereoPi (most cameras come with cumbersome 10-20 cm cables), one USB power cable for powering your setup from a standard USB Type-A power source, two power cables with bare leads for using in screw terminals or soldering to a non-USB power source, a laser-cut acrylic plate for mounting two V1/V2 cameras, and a laser-cut acrylic plate for mounting two wide-angle cameras. Both camera mounting plates are compatible with the freely available plans for our 3D-printed enclosure. StereoPi and cameras not included.

Credits

virt2real

We are a small team of geeks who have been making remote-controlled things with livestreaming video since 2010. We've done everything from boats and planes, to robots, copters, and VR helmets. If we can't find the right tools for our projects, we build them ourselves.


Eugene Pomazov

Sergey Serov

Kirill Shiryaev


NexPCB

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