#Awful2Awesome How it all began – Update 90
How a really bad product I found at Costco changed everything!
It’s two years and two days ago today that we first unveiled our idea for MAGFAST to the world.
If you’re one of the thousands who have been with Amy and I from our start in this industry way back in 2013 you probably already know the story.
Early in 2013, trying to get a good charging solution together for our own home, we became frustrated by many of the products we bought.
One design in particular that we’d got from Costco in a multipack seemed to promise a solution. It was the size of, and plugged into, a wall outlet and offered both a 110v outlet and a couple of USB’s.
In practice, however, we realized that, same as any other charger, it was using up an outlet, just with a much larger ‘brick’ that offered no additional benefit.
It was a moment that really clarified for me the difference between products superficially designed to sell, and those that are really thought through, and on MAGFAST’s second birthday and near enough the six-year mark since our original charger idea I thought it would be worth spending a few minutes reflecting on how it all began.
As bad as that product from Costco was, however, I’m incredibly grateful to it because it sparked the idea for our original charger design. What if, we wondered, we kept that block-the-size-of-an-outlet form, but put two outlets on the front and tucked the USB outlets underneath?
From many angles, you’d hardly even notice the charger was there because from the front it looks just like an outlet. You’d have USB ready whenever you want it… without losing any outlets and with minimal visual impact to clutter our homes.
Also great, it would take about 3 seconds to plug in, and be easily moved from one outlet to another, unlike those replacement wall outlets that require permanent installation.
But the idea still left one gnarly problem behind. To charge your phone you’d still, of course, need a cable. That meant in practice that once you were done charging you’d typically unplug your phone… leaving a loose cable snaking all over the counter, ruining the aesthetics of an otherwise really crisp neat design.
And then we noticed it.
The top of the box was a perfect shelf – just the right size for a phone. What if… could we possibly… it sounded nuts but…
What if we could somehow mount a charging tip right on top of the wall-outlet-plug-in-box-thing? And what if they could be interchangeable? At the time most of the world was using Micro USB, but there were a few Mini USBs around and Apple was moving from the original iPod flat wide 30-pin connector to Lightning.
Seymour’s original charger design from 2013
And that’s how the original design came about.
Looking at it now you can see the seeds of a great design… but look at that astonishing flaw. All the tips were originally going to be mounted on those uber-wide inserts… just to accommodate the old iPod connector, which was already on its way out.
Folks flocked to it when it was offered on Indiegogo, and it wasn’t long before people were suggesting something obvious:
“What if I want to charge without removing my case”.
That was a slap-to-the-forehead moment. Of course. The tips should be smaller and adjust up and down! There’s no doubt that was the right decision, but it wound up costing a lot of time to design that first mechanism, and although most customers seemed happy enough with it I always felt it was part of the design with which I was least happy.
As most folks reading this know our old company had a rocky ride. In the fall of 2015 it grew so quickly (over 400% in two months Sept-Nov) none of the systems, particularly customer service, could keep up. It wound up quickly turning from a huge success into the most painful experience of my professional life when it ran out of cash and closed in Fall of 2016.
Still over a quarter of a million chargers were shipped to almost 70,000 people and today at MAGFAST we hear every day from folks who have and love the original design.
The most common refrain?
“I use it every day”
As the old Chitty Chitty Bang Bang song goes “From the Ashes of Disaster Grow the Roses of Success” and just after Christmas 2016 customers of the old company voted overwhelmingly (84% as I recall in an up-down vote) that Amy & I should pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start a new company with everything we’d learned.
So thank you for trusting us to make MAGFAST for you. As I’ve said before it turns out that as simple as our designs are for customers they present quite an engineering challenge. No-one else has done what we’re doing, packing so much into any one charger of any quality, let alone launching a family of premium chargers all together.
Progress, at last, is strong at the moment. It’s never, ever fast enough for me. I’m perpetually impatient and often a pain to work with as a result. But our team is incredibly dedicated and I know you’ll be thrilled when you get your chargers in your hands.
Thank you for your unwavering support and encouragement.