From pitch to product, with some bumps in the road.
It’s not often I have the pleasure of actually using a product that’s made it from the fundraising stage all the way to the open market. One of the top finishers at the 2014 Showstoppers LaunchIt beauty pageant, held during the Consumer Electronics Show, was FINsix, which was pitching a small, universal power supply for laptops and phones. It took second place, largely, it seemed, on its personal appeal to the judges who, as I noted at the time, had a “gleam in their eyes as they thought about trading two power bricks for one that’s barely bigger than a plug alone”.
It attracted me too, but remained off limits because my main laptop is a Mac and FINsix doesn’t offer the necessary MagSafe 2 adaptor tip. The key word is offer – as I later discovered, it’s available. Sorta.
While getting ready for a bicycle tour, I slimmed down my electronics load and opted to bring a Lenovo N22 Chromebook instead of the Mac. It’s a light and very rugged device that’s designed to be tossed around by elementary school kids. It comes with a power supply that was bigger than I wanted to carry, so I bought a Dart, which is the FINsix product’s trade name now.
The first one that arrived didn’t have an adaptor tip that fit the N22. I emailed customer service, and they quickly sent me one – it’s not included in the standard kit. That’s when I discovered that my Dart didn’t work at all. It wouldn’t charge anything, and the indicator light on the cord didn’t come on. It was dead and then customer service slowed down. It took a couple of days to get a response, and then a couple of weeks to get a replacement unit – I left on my month long bike tour before it arrived.
When I returned, the unit was waiting for me. It seemed to work – the light came on and it charged my phone. But not the N22.
At that point, customer service sped up again, and a couple of rounds of troubleshooting resulted in the discovery that the tip actually doesn’t work on an N22. At that point, they sent me a MagSafe 2 tip. It’s not a regular product, but it can be kluged together with a “snip tip”, which is a adaptor that can be soldered onto unsupported plugs. That worked perfectly, and now my briefcase is lighter and less cluttered – exactly what was promised three years ago.
My conclusion is that the Dart is a great product concept, but FINsix is having some trouble implementing it. That’s based on a very small sample, though. I might just have been that one unlucky guy. And FINsix did give me a solution that’s better than my original plan, so kudos to them.