Thursday, August 13, 2015

We must sell products to survive and grow

As most of you know, the sale of just a few New55 PNs does help the project and is consistent with the kickstarter goal to create an ongoing enterprise that would sustain 4x5 instant photography. The whole idea of New55's kickstarter is to get a sustainable thing going, not just a one-time project. How do we better communicate this ongoing goal again to those who are just becoming aware of the project? Maybe the larger question is about how well we understand the economics of small-scale products and how they might survive in the midst of a mass market culture that knows little about where the products come from?

Recently, a few supporters and onlookers have talked online about the project and asked why, for instance, their reward hasn't shipped yet when others have and some sales have been made. Like building a house, the roof can't go on first, there has to be a foundation and walls to support it. The analogy is clear when you look at how things are made. It is the capacity of manufacture, the know-how, and the money flow that make any sustainable business, project or crowd-funded effort move forward. A one-time project, like a book for instance, is written, goes to press, ships, and then is done.

Film, especially instant film, is just not like that. It would be a waste to apply the effort to assemble a finite number of units and then not be able to continue. One of the most explicit goals of the project (seen on this blog since 2010) is to find where the economic center - if there is one - can balance a sales price with a real world cost to manufacture.

Ladies and gentlemen, that time has come. New55 FILM is officially, though not yet robustly, commercialized. A substantial goal of the kickstarter effort has been met. No icing on the cake though, at least not yet. We produced well for two weeks before the shocking news of the coating failure stopped everything, and now we are at a crawl. But there are other things happening, too.

We are seeing the first reactions to the initial high prices as expected. We are seeing some impatience, as expected. We experienced more than the expected share of problems, but these have become interesting in themselves, and though daunting and still extremely risky, that is not something new either. Many people have found our several disasters to be instructive and even entertaining. They are, and we've all learned much.

New55 is at a very critical stage of commercial infancy and could be discontinued if the motives and money cannot continue to be aligned. That requires continued product sales and the support of the community, which I personally thank the many for. I would not have gone into this if that was not the case, and as many of you know, kickstarter only supports about half of the cost to get going. The other half comes from substantial six figure cash amounts, huge chunks of unpaid volunteer time, and sales of stuff.

So buy the stuff, Use it. Show us what it can do. It has warts and the recent failure of the coatings (which cost over $100,000) really threatened to end the project. Yet, as of today, we coated again, by hand. We made some full boxes. We made new pods, we did a lot of things, just a lot more slowly. And speaking of things to buy, the unexpected success of the Monobath Developer phenomenon has shown a lot of people how big the demand is for easy black and white processing. Something quick and easy that takes the same amount of time as instant PN is appealing. We've been experimenting in the background and have an even better formula that might reduce some of the shortcomings and make it even easier to use.

Rewards, when available, are shipped in the order of the pledge.  There may be a few minor exceptions based on logistics and timing of available materials, and of course a supporter poll went out and some people elected to have their rewards changed, which may accelerate the shipment of some. If you haven't responded to that poll, and have a moment, it would be helpful if you would. But you don't have to - it's optional and was put up in response to supporter suggestions, and sent out to all kickstarter supporters. We get a lot of good suggestions and the poll was one.

About 11% of all film rewards have shipped, and the non film containing rewards will have shipped fairly soon. That is real progress.  In the meantime we are going to try - within constraints of very limited available cash - continue to do what we said we would do - establish the means to produce instant 4x5 film into the future.


19 comments:

Alan Jarvis said...

Yay! Keep up the good work! Have faith.

bruce said...

Please send more information about this film. Will fit in the Polaroid 545 holder?
Is this available now or will it be soon?

Thanks and please contact me

Bruce

Brucetree@aol.com

GregRob said...

Do we receive a confirmation that the poll was completed? I was on vacation and completed mine from a Blackberry, and thus have some uncertainty as to whether it was received.

Keep up the great work! I know some of this must be very frustrating, but I hope you are enjoying most of this adventure.

Greg R

erniesbudolab said...

Thanks for all the effort you and the team have put in. I pray the uphill struggle pays off multi fold.

Eric said...

Keep plugging, gang! In the interest of "field testing," though, what ISO should we be exposing the negative-only New55 for?

Bob Crowley said...

I'll ask Sam if he saw your response, GregRob. Indeed, in a curious way, the excitement has its fun (terror) moments. Your encouragement is appreciated and essential. Bob

Bob Levittan said...

Despite the fact that I put quite a bit of money into the Kickstarter, I'm ready to buy - but every time I get a notice of some film being available - whamo! it's gone. Seems like there's a demand for it. Hopefully one of these days, I'll see the email early! Keep up the good work, and I'm ready to buy...

Bob Crowley said...

I expose the negative only at about ISO 150 and shorten the development time to 2 minutes, and very quickly dunk the negative in fixer after peeling. This reduces the base fog density and still gives a moderately dense negative. To scan I set the V700 black point up 2-3% from the bottom. Most of the photos I've published were scanned that way.

Your support and encouragement is awesome. Thank you

Bob

Ralph Brandi said...

I have the t-shirt. I bought a bottle of the monobath. I bought three packs of 1SHOT. And I bought one pack of New55 PN. All before receiving my Kickstarter rewards. I've shot two pictures with the New55 PN and am loving it. You keep making stuff, I'll keep buying it.

Anonymous said...

At the current prices you have limited yourself to a tiny market willing to spend > $10 sheet to support an idea. You have very few chances to make it in the Large Format market and I think you have probably blown it by trying to operate on a shoestring budget.

Box up some of your film as cut 4x5 sheets (not one-shots) and sell it competitively at < $3 per sheet so we can all try out the film. If the film performs and offers characteristics not found in other existing films, you may survive. Perhaps sell the boxes with R3 as a package.

Bob Crowley said...

Bob - we've only put a small number up for sale - just enough to pay for the labor for a few days. If things improve there will be more. Over time the quality should improve, too. We've never taken pre-orders however. Ralph- thank you! The most basic question of the project centers around the potential for a steady market. If we are successful we can scale up and produce faster. Things would be going much faster had we avoided the coating failure.

Bob Crowley said...

I've never believed there was a substantial existing Large Format Market and you can read about it beginning in 2010. Much has been discussed about the scale-up and price trade off. 1SHOT is a fundraiser. R3 is a way to get new people to try real film. The entire reason for the project and the kickstarter is to fund the industrial capacity so that prices can be moderated over time. But they will never be cheap.

Brian Tremblay said...

Please keep up the good work. You folks are inspirational! I don't think I would have the guts (let alone the smarts) to do what you're doing. New55 came along as my love affair with photography was being rekindled again. It was fortuitous, exciting and I had to support it.

I got the t-shirt, just snagged some New55 in the last release; next pay I'll get some one shot and monobath.

Bravo all!

Anonymous said...

I think you need to really still embrace the unique selling proposition you had with the instant 55 concept. Selling raw film or developer is a non-starter. Better products are available cheaper elsewhere already. You will never gain any real traction in that area. But you might with the 55, if you can get the issues sorted out. That doesn't exist except as expired Polaroid product, which although better in basically every way, is expensive and risky as far as quality.

At this point, the stuff available (R3, film, etc.) is really just charity items, no one is going to standardize on those in any quantity to make it viable economically.

Is new55 just going to eat the $100k loss? That seems insane, there must be a way for the coating vendor to assist with some of that, since the coating run apparently didn't meet specs.

Hopefully it all works out, would be a shame to get this far and not really any further.

Bob Crowley said...

This has been a hell of a fight from the beginning. We're well past the rubicon.

Anonymous said...

And the joke lives on And the naive keep believing. And ...

Bob Crowley said...

And the jealous, anonymous joker keeps reading in horror as we make progress. The fact is, we need a jester. People see a few mean-spirited and thoughtless comments and that helps define the bottom.

Bob Crowley said...

We've sold a fair amount of sheet film and developer and it has made an improvement in our ability to go forward. People love Atomic-X. We also sell the monobath daily.

Bob Crowley said...

We've sold a fair amount of sheet film and developer and it has made an improvement in our ability to go forward. People love Atomic-X. We also sell the monobath daily.