On the surface, our first Kickstarter project was a great success. We were 100% funded in the first 24 hours and ended up raising over 600% of our goal in 30 days.
We were riding the wave of success, and we felt unstoppable. We had always believed that the Ratchet Ring would be a highly niched item that would be obscure to most.
We were even worried that we might not make the €15,000 funding goal - even though we had a list of over 6,000 that had signed up to be notified when we launch. We were thrilled to see the overwhelming support we received.
Since the very beginning of showing the Ratchet Ring on social media we had said that it would be made out of Grade 2 Titanium. We’d done some prototypes in this material, and they had worked well. And, you know, Titanium is cool. Definitely cooler than saying that something is made out of plain old steel. So we decided to make the Ratchet Ring in Titanium and advertise it as such.
But, there was one thing. One small (or so we thought) detail. The final prototype was made out of 316 Stainless Steel.
We made a decision with our manufacturer to produce the final prototype in steel instead of our planned titanium as they could get it done faster. We had made all other prototypes in Titanium, so we already had proof of concept on that, right?
So we thought, anyways. A short while after the campaign’s end, when the hefty check of €92,000 had lined our pockets, it was time to start manufacturing.
We started with the largest size as that also had the highest quantity - 250 rings split up in 750 parts scheduled for machining in the coming weeks.
From the very beginning we stressed the importance of being able to test a ring as soon as a all parts for one ring had finished production - we wanted to make sure everything was working right and that the tolerances were correct.
Unfortunately we couldn’t sync our schedules. This meant we had to wait until all 250 rings were done before we could try a ring out.
Finally - the big day is here. Anders, living in Seoul at the time, goes to the factory to take delivery of the first size and test out a ring. I (August) am with him via a phone call attentively listening, standing on my toes in anticipation.
The ring is assembled. Anders tries the first turn of the ring.
It’s not turning right. It has a high friction and the clicks aren’t close to as distinct and tactile as our steel prototype. He tries dismantling and reassembling, he tries a different ring, he measures it up to see if there’s something wrong in the tolerances - all to no avail.
Panic strikes. What the heck could be the problem?! Did we just manufacture 250 unusable rings? I feel a stone sinking to the bottom of my stomach.
This stone stayed there for the next few weeks as we realized that the problem wasn’t the design or the manufacturer’s, it was the material. What we hadn’t realized or detected in the earlier prototypes with more forgiving tolerances was that titanium has prominent galling when under the stress of tight tolerances.
This means that there is high friction between moving parts of the same material. This led to the ring being hard to turn, not smooth at all, and this diminished the feeling and effect of the clicks.
It just wasn’t satisfying. It was the exact opposite - like nails to a chalk board. We had to do something.
We wanted to explore all options before coming with any final news to our beloved and eager backers. That’s when we got to experimenting.
We spent considerable time and resources trying out possible solutions:
- Combining different steel and titanium parts
- Tweaking the tolerances
- Changing the titanium from grade 2 to grade 5
All to no avail. It became clear to us that we wouldn’t be able to deliver the Ratchet Ring in both the quality we had promised and the material we had promised. It was time to make a decision.
We thought about it long and hard. Geez - I don’t know how many lists of pros and cons I made. We finally came to a decision. We realized that the very heart of the Ratchet Ring, and the main reason people backed us was because of the satisfying clicking mechanism.
We ended up deciding that the best move in this bad situation was to scrap the titanium rings and manufacture the Ratchet Ring in 316 steel, the material of the wonderfully working last prototype. This was a decision we had to make in order to keep the integrity of the ring intact and deliver a ring that created blissful clicks, not screeching friction.
We also ended up partnering with a laser engraving shop to offer a choice to all backers between 5 different designs we made, for free.
Soon thereafter we nervously made a Kickstarter and IndieGoGo update to explain the situation and let our backers know about our decision. It was with a heavy heart and nerves acting up that we finally pressed the “Post Update” button. What would people think? Will everyone opt for the cancellation of their pledge and money back? Did this one mistake just mess up EVERYTHING?
After a few hours of seeing the reactions to our message, we were relieved. Even though around 5% of all backers ended up kindly asking for their money back, the support was immense. Our day-one trustees were understanding of our mistake and most agreed that it was the best option in the pool of unfortunate circumstances. This was when we first realized just how wonderful and amazing our community was, and it has only grown and increased in that respect since.
With the stone of worry finally lifting from my stomach after weeks of agonizing anxiety that we may have just lost everything because of that one, stupid decision, we got back to work and gave the machinists the green light to start machining a new batch of size 12’s in 316 steel this time.
The realization, prototyping in search of a solution, and everything else ended up setting us a few weeks behind schedule, but we finally delivered the promised Ratchet Rings from the crowdfunding campaigns during the spring of 2023.
And - as they often say - the rest is history.
The highs were high and the lows were low (like, to the earth's core low), but all in all, we wouldn’t give it up for the world. If the time comes, we will do it again, but with more experience, more testing, and most importantly of all, leaving nothing to chance.
We are so thankful for everyone who has joined us in this journey - both at the very start and later on. Our crowdfunding community deserves a huge extra thanks for their support, trust, and kindness.
August & Anders, Co-Founders