Friday, April 10, 2015

Kickstarter Update #34 - This could be our most important update, and challenge

Here is the text, in full, from the April 10 2015 New55 Kickstarter Update. I'm posting it here on the blog as well as on Kickstarter so that we can reach the widest possible audience at this critical moment in the project.  As always, your comments are welcome here, on facebook, and elsewhere, and so is your continued support for this fascinating cause. 



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Update #34 - This could be our most important update, and challenge

ALERT: This is an update to the Kickstarter Supporters of New55 FILM. This is a news story. This is a technical drama unfolding now! Written by Bob Crowley

Dear Supporters,

This may be our most important update ever about the cause of large format instant photography, and New55 FILM.

1. We have good general progress to report in the Shop, and technically;
2. A critical coating event is happening now on the Receiver Sheet;
3. We are short of money and have an urgent, immediate need for cash;
4. We are acting on a supplemental fundraising plan based on your recommendations and encouragement to continue.

1. GENERAL PROGRESS

The New55 Team is pleased to report very rapid progress in getting the Shop started, shipping methods in place and logistics underway. All of these steps are crucial but are often overlooked by new startups. Some of you have begun to see the early signs in shipments of t-shirts and accessories such as R3 MONOBATH DEVELOPER. Sam Hiser is learning the ways of Shopify which has been very time consuming to his all volunteer effort. Sam is looking for some outside help configuring and updating the Shop which is essential to New55's survival, in case you know someone. Without an efficient means of online commerce goods cannot flow and New55 will not be sustainable, so the Shop is a high priority.

In other areas, we have made some progress understanding the pod machine. Our connection to 20x24 Studio, which supplies the pods and is essential to the project, continues to strengthen as we work together every day, all day.

Tests continue to show close correlation of the positive and negative and a nice tonal scale. You might have seen these on the Blog:


or on Facebook:


Critical vendor progress is good too: The sleeve and final artwork are nearly done and will be tweaked so that the thickness is correct to spread the reagent between the negative and the positive in just the right way. The vendor doing this will have to hold a critical thickness, so we will watch over it. More of the famous frangible pod material was purchased from a good company in The Netherlands - enough for 25,000 pods.

New55 FILM's supply chain is shaping up, but not without some glitches and one serious change that may be occurring at the sheet film factory: Last week someone at the factory expressed doubts about continued production, which alarms us. An interruption could adversely impact the price going forward, though for now we have some 25,000 sheets on hand, safe in cold storage and ready for final assembly. We cannot survive another loss like Efke when it went out of business. I suppose existential threats exist in any industry, but ours is more sensitive since we know of only six places on Earth where 4x5 sheet film is produced!

20X24 Studio, our friends and recently moved-in new neighbors, John Reuter, Ted McLelland and Nafis Azad, have now trucked in their huge chemical mixer, and that, with their pod machine also now installed, should lead to the ramp-up of pod production. Today I will put on my goggles and get back to rewiring the controls for the mixer so we can fire it up for the first time in Ashland. We have even started talking about a color product for the future, but first things first. There is a lot to do.
On the manufacturing and final assembly front, coordination with two other Massachusetts factories is fast underway, and we depend upon, and appreciate, their attention to New55 FILM's needs, which go like this: We produce and mix the coating formula, then we bring that to the coater while special paper stock for the Receiver Sheet ships in from New York. Once the coater puts on three critical layers, they ship the coated Receiver Sheet paper to a Packaging and Converting company that exactly cuts, folds, pastes and prints the coated materials into components that we will assemble here at New55 FILM in Ashland. If we can get this round-robin of factories to connect, end to end, then we will have the makings of an ongoing, sustainable supply chain. Fingers are crossed it will, though it will require constant attention during scale-up and long after.

The Receiver Sheet coating is still a very big risk, and gets its own category, here.

2. CRITICAL COATING EVENT UNDERWAY NOW FOR THE RECEIVER SHEET
Most of you know that the technical team had to scrap the failed original Polaroid-style Receiver Sheet coating, and how that led to the invention of an all-new environmentally safer and more manufacturable technology that we and our manufacturing partners can approve. In case you have only just heard this, suffice to say, it was a major failure requiring the coating team to start again; but then a major win for New55 FILM. Your support helped us invent a new material that never existed before, one that is better for the environment and works very well! It costs plenty and has never been coated before on a large scale, so there are still risks. This unique new coating is like a micro-scaled laboratory, and can have other uses in photography and even in medicine. Together with you we are proud of this achievement since it is something Polaroid never attempted.

Yesterday we tried the very first full-length, production-ready Receiver Sheet test coating and it ran into trouble. And while that news is disappointing, we are working intensely to find a way to get our layers down onto the paper successfully.

3. SHORTAGE OF MONEY. WE NEED TO GET MORE CASH SOON. AND THERE IS A PLAN

A “start-from-scratch” scenario for the Receiver Sheet was predicted as a possible high risk in Kickstarter's “risks section”. I just went back and re-read this prophetic warning again. We all paid a big price when that risk became real and we found we had to scrap the way the Receiver Sheet coating was done in the past. The Receiver Sheet re-do cost the project around 20%, which means that the project may need an additional $100,000 to get to the finish line, if not more. Money is needed to pay for services, rent, and hired help. Sam Hiser and I continue to donate our time without any salary but others cannot be expected to do this, and we cannot do so indefinitely. So we brought the problem of cash shortage to you and asked for your recommendations. The response was heartening, to say the least! Many ideas are very interesting and all were helpful, and as a direct result of your recommendations several fundraising projects are underway already. Here they are:

4. SUPPLEMENTAL FUNDRAISING PLAN RECOMMENDATIONS AND QUESTIONS FROM SUPPORTERS

Q: Can you sell a monobath?  
A: Done! We launched R3 MONOBATH DEVELOPER last week. Not much money will be made but it is a start, and it helps Sam learn to manage the Shop and Dan learn how to execute fulfillment. We'll need these to stay alive.

Q: How about something like Readyloads?  
A: Yes! Stay tuned for 1SHOTTM ready loaded sheet film, yellow dot fundraiser edition. The 1SHOT product was not developed using Kickstarter funds as it is not an instant film, but does share one of the assemblies and several vendors. 1SHOT will be a lot like the readyloads of the past, but with a more film-agnostic twist that I think many of you will appreciate, and buy. New55 FILM supporters will get first alert when 1SHOT goes on sale, before the general public. Our selected Atomic-X 4x5 ISO 100 cubic grained film will be used in this special yellow dot run of 1SHOT.

Q: Can you hold a fundraiser?  
A: Yes. This is planned, a possible auction of artworks and photographs by some well-known artists, to be held in New York. But it can't be held until September, so we will have to do other things first.

Q: Do you have a way for people to contribute if they want?
A: Yes, there is a convenient paypal donation button here: http://www.new55.net/donate Huge thanks to those of you who have already used it! Your donation, no matter how small, makes a big difference.

Q: Perhaps you can attract investors? Big donors?
A: That's a way off, but I plan to continue to invest my time and also sell some of my personal collection of photo equipment like I have in the past to help fund the program. You may have seen the view cameras, brass lenses, Aero Ektar lenses, and other film and large format equipment from my collection that I sold on the blog to augment the first three years of development.

In addition, I am planning to sell some of the instant film stock, lenses, camera gear and other things I bought for New55 FILM, before the kickstarter program. It is my hope these will be sold to supporters who will understand they are supporting a cause and not just buying gear. They will appear on the Shop soon.

Another critical step might be to provide more cash from my own pocket to bridge the gap between now and the time we begin to make money. It looks like, with a note, about $75,000 could be temporarily added to the New55 Holdings, LLC, bank account this way. Since I started the New55 FILM project in 2010, I've already spent most of my time, and a lot of money. Gulps ... passes out ... posts motorcycle on craigslist.

4. Won't you please help? Use the donate button today, and do participate in these other fundraising events. We are creating the means and tools of post-digital photography -- real photography and real photographs -- for us all to enjoy well into the future. Your participation, no matter how small, makes a real difference.

And in other news ...

Christopher James’s new book, entitled The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes (Third Edition), is out! We are on page 704 in the chapter called, “The Alternative Negative”. Nice shot of Sam.

Summary

New55 FILM's technical progress is strong, but there have been technical setbacks that cost the project about $100,000. The technical problems have been mostly overcome but they were more costly than anticipated.

The critical Receiver Sheet coating could lead to first-piece production in the coming weeks! There is still risk, yesterday we had a bad result which disappointed us, so money is needed more than ever.  We are completely focused on this goal. A new product called 1SHOT(TM) will soon appear! R3 MONOBATH DEVELOPER has started to ship. Logistics and the Shop are coming together.
A cash shortfall threatens progress, but fundraising and personal financing from Bob are all in various active stages. These also depend on you. Sam and Bob continue to donate all their time but we still have to pay others their salaries as well as rent and other expenses.

The supporters have made important recommendations, and we have acted on several of them in product areas relating to large-format photography. They are R3 MONOBATH DEVELOPER, 1SHOT(TM) ready loaded sheet film, sales of photo equipment from my collection, and additional personal cash to temporarily bridge the gap. Together these things might be enough if the flow of support continues as it has, and they all have to happen. Will they? They will if we want them to.

Onward!

Bob Crowley


5 comments:

Jack Johnson said...

You should blog about the popularity of R3 and whether it's a good or bad thing that it sells out so quickly, what that might forecast for an alternate revenue stream (or trickle), etc.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is time for you to start explaining why this close to a million dollar project has failed to deliver? When I see your posts implying that a piece of junk from your basement is (and SHOULD be) worth a lot more to a potential buyer because he is contributing to MAKING history (which by the history of this thing is not a history one would want to be associated with).

Perhaps it is time for you to explain how your lab work gets into "medical" field, all-the-while being funded by seemingly unrelated project and public money?

I'm so glad I pulled my contribution from Kickstarter when there was still time. This is little more than a joke not a a professionally run project.

Bob Crowley said...

Mr Anon who also emails me: Please notice that I published your comments just as you wrote them. I don't mind criticism at all, even if it is incorrect or distorted. There are a certain amount of people who will hate the project and the people as it ships and will join you too. This makes no difference to the outcome. If you have a useful suggestion, I am all ears.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Crowley,

It is too bad you do not see what my "suggestions" are. Be transparent in what it is you are trying to accomplish, even if I don't think it is actually possible to please every naysayer out there. I'm sure you do not see what I had noticed quite a while back: your constant bickering about how your project is low on cash and needs more, only this time just totally without any obligations. I do not like seeing suggestions that your own junk is worth multiple of what it actually is, all in the name of "historic" discovery supposedly in the making (it's a disgraceful tactic on your part). You claim your attempt to produce positive and negative are a match, of course also saying "matches as closely as it does" which with play on words means ... it does NOT (and your posted example shows exactly that).

Your project has been funded by public money and has seen nothing that would actually make it look like anything to ever see a daylight. I never liked the fact that you ALWAYS covered your end with negatives about possible outcome. Lots of people naively gave you money in good faith. Since you are nowhere close to delivering the promised goods (and if ever, it would be a HUGE price tag) I find it unnerving your continued outcries about more donations. All the same, I doubt your personal "smarts" you were selling so adamantly during Kickstarter campaign, by blogging about some "medical" application possibilities of your "research". What is it exactly that the money goes towards too? Unrelated field? I'm sure it was just a "side effect", but had you thought that post through, you might had realized its implications to the naysayers like myself.

So to end this, my suggestion is: please stop this charade or show the crowd you meant something real when you asked for hard cash (and continue to do so).

To make one thing clear though: I had hoped you would actually keep your end of the bargain, even as that "bargain" was clearly designed as a one street alley with no recourse to reverse the donations and good half-million dollars in play ... for what???

Bob Crowley said...

I'm publishing your comments even though you are never identified because they closely match the same complaints we see elsewhere on the internet that are as inaccurate and unfair as the ones above. I am sorry that not 100% of people are comfortable with the risks that we stated up front and think this is some kind of conspiracy. All I can say is that if even you were here to see what has gone on and is happening today - and if you had a real interest in innovation in photography - you would definitely have something different to say. And as before, if you do have something useful or some suggestion that is practical and benefits us all I remain very receptive.