WE SHIP WORLDWIDE. ALL PRICES IN US$
Its been a year full of trials and tribulations, notable victories and good learning experiences and struggles that continue to this day, however, one thing for sure is that Stark Drive has achieved so much more then we had ever anticipated with the launch of our ultra affordable electric bike thanks to you backers. It has been a incredible experience with the community that we discovered that had the same vision as we did in bring ultra affordable electric bikes to everyone. The understanding demonstrated by nearly all our backers when we faced hurtles and delays was humbling and we are incredibly thankful to all of you who believed in us.
Its been a long road to get to where we are today
Just to recap what it took to get Stark Drive here today I wanted to briefly go over the history and finally reveal information that has not been discussed on our blog previously which will serve to clarify precisely why schedules seemed to lag behind my original expectations.
Stark Drive originally launched on kickstarter on November 1st 2016. At the time we were new to this whole crowdfunding business model and this inexperience showed. We made many mistakes including not promoting Stark Drives' launch, setting our funding minimum at a level that was assessed improperly as well as not spreading the word about our campaign after the launch in the best way.
After a few days on kickstarter we were contacted by Indiegogo. Indiegogo thought we had an excellent product at an unbelievable price (perhaps too unbelievable for some?). At the time Mate, offering a similar electric bike based on a similar frame, had been on their platform since around July 2016 with the 'backing' to get one of their bikes at around 2x Stark Drive's prices, and they had raised millions of dollars.
Indiegogo saw an opportunity to further improve their revenues (all crowdfunding websites take a cut of the total revenue when anything is launched on their platform) with Stark Drive, a handsome well built and well equipped electric bike stood out in the crowd.
On contacting us, they told us at the time that if we cancelled our crowdfunding with kickstarter and moved to their platform they would provided us a dedicated support team, something that kickstarter did not offer at the time. Although it was not unheard of to launch on two platforms at once, they cited 'backer confusion' as a good reason to end our cooperation with kickstarter. We decided that this was the way to go and thus, cancelled our crowdfunding campaign with their platform and instead Follow the advice that they provided us regarding how to launch a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Thus began round two with much better marketing, much better promotion and spreading word of mouth about Stark Drive and our new upcoming launch which was now scheduled on February 15, 2017. During the interim. We focused our efforts on everything that indigogo told us about and when we did eventually lunch, or more correctly relaunch, we were a striking success raising just shy of US$300,000 in the span of about one week with the momentum building daily.
Then started the most chaotic time up to that point for Stark Drive and our continuing existence. At around 10 PM Swedish time on February 23 2017, we started receiving emails from indigogo stating that They were issues with our account and that they were going to be canceling our crowd funding campaign. All of our emails to indigogo went unanswered and we learned then that there actually is no way to contact indigogo besides email. They do have a 1-800 number however this is a number that just provides more information verbally as opposed to via their website text. True to form as they have stated via their email to us our campaign was in fact canceled and all the backers refunded.
Obviously, in terms of a company trying to crowdfund a new product, this would cast a significant level of doubt as to the credibility of the product and/or the company that was tried manufactured. Not resting on our laurels we in the following days frantically tried to establish what had gone wrong and the reasoning behind why our campaign was canceled.
After contacting legal representation And trying to get a hold of anyone at indiegogo unsuccessfully i decided that the only way to get some answers was to go straight into the dragons den and visit the indiegogo offices. I booked a flight to New York And traveled to their offices and met with them. I have summarized this visit In a blog update which you can read If you're interested here. I won't discuss too much on this now, however, the visit was fairly successful in terms of them once again demonstrating a high level of interest in our product and they were impressed at the level of refinement And professionalism in our Advertising campaign. They especially Liked our promotional video which they felt to be clear concise to the point And enticing.
After leaving indiegogos’ offices once again we set to work on the Seemingly insurmountable task of relaunching Stark Drive. As our account with indiegogo had been suspended I had no way of contacting any of our existing backers. However one thing that I have done correctly Was to keep a database of Email addresses of those whom were interested in Stark Drive and these people were once again contacted and informed about the relaunch at the end of April 2017. We were successful in raising enough funds in order to proceed with manufacturing Stark Drive just hours after our relaunch.
Conspiracy Within Our Ranks
As the relaunch had done so wellI we were easily able to proceeded in placing the first order with our manufactures in China whom we had already signed contracts with almost 6 months prior. We sent money over to our local representative in China, Lance Liu (pictured below) Whom had a company registered there and able to accept US dollars. It was his responsibility to transfer the funds over to the factory to begin production of all of the electric bikes. He role also included QC to ensure that every bike met our expectations.
I traveled to China at the end of June Approximately 2 months after the launch Expecting to see hundreds of electric bikes ready To be boxed and shipped out to backers around the world. When I arrived There were only two prototype bicycles manufactured. I had known Lance for years and had worked with them on projects prior to Stark Drive and thus trusted Lance to handle the funds and begin production of Stark Drive.
It turns out that this was a huge mistake which I will get into more later. The visit went fairly well with the factory owner demonstrating a clear level of enthusiasm to work with us and to manufacture the highest quality electric bikes possible. Upon leaving the factory We were promised by special contract that the bikes be finished by the end of July. It was at the end of July that the deception was discovered.
Fortunately I had the private contact information for the factory owner which Lance was not aware of and I Contacted a friend whom was fluent in Chinese and thus began the dialogue That unraveled the deception that had occurred. Lance had not transferred any money to the factory. In fact left the factory was a bit confused about my company and exactly what we are doing because a lot of promises kept coming from Lance but there was never any action (ie $$'s moving).
This was a catastrophic event. Knowing that there is a lead time between 45 and 60 days to manufacture Electric bikes as per our factory contract. I immediately used my personal funds and wired them to the factory's new contact to start production. Now remembering that it was now the beginning of August That meant now that the bikes were going to be finished at the end of October And shipping at that point. And this corresponds with our actual batch one shipping dates and when our backers received batch one bikes. There was of course an unfortunate knock on effect to batch two due to the fact that batch one had been delayed. This delay of course being caused by the former business partner Lance whom we had now filed criminal charges against in Chinas well as being forced higher legal representation there in order to reclaim our funds.
As a small business owner i would like to mention that HSBC was incredibly uncooperative during this whole situation. the funds were transferred to one of their accounts and when we learned of the decption, we contacted them in order to place some flag on the account. Call, after call, email after email, there was no cooperation from their side and the only thing that they would tell us was that if the police contacted them they would cooperate fully. In the mean time however the account was open to further moving the funds and making it even harder to reclaim what was stolen from us.
This did not deter me or dissuade me from my ultimate goal of launching ultra affordable electric bikes worldwide. The knock on effect only really had a significant impact on batches one and two, batch three which were starting at the time did not have as significant a delay as was associate with the first two batches and thoughts we are able to improve our delivery by reducing the delivery time in every consecutive batch.
Ironically this deception by our former business partner Lance might actually have been a good thing If we look at it from the perspective of the relationship between Stark Drive and our manufacturing partner in China. Such a deception could be said to not look so favorably upon the country as a whole and the factory decided that they would work even harder in order to achieve our extremely ambitious pricing targets. Not only that but they are willing to work with us to do customizations which would normally require large initial orders. This is how we were able to compete with the more established bigger players In terms of providing ultra customized electric bikes versus our competition which provides one model that's identical with the possible color change. If you look at it from the perspective that every single bike was unique and required exceptional monitoring to ensure that it corresponded to the backers customizations on our website. I know of no other bike manufacturer offering this level of customization.
I like to think of myself as an optimist and think of the glass half-full. A positive perspective on life and words to live by.
Ironically the deception that was caused by our former business partner in China did not only effect us in terms of the delay in the manufacturing of the electric bicycles. This also had a significant Impact on our payment processing partner PayPal. Of course It is understandable that PayPal wants to protect their customers from fraudulent transactions as they ultimately have contracts with all credit card providers in order to do so with the extended delivery of batches one and two It raise some eyebrows over a PayPal and they decided that it was In the best interests of all their clients to put a hold on all of the funds that Stark Drive had with them. This caused us even further problems as even though we had an Excellent repor with our manufacturers in China they must also purchase all of the product in order to manufacture Stark Drive and Ultimately cash is king. We then faced a situation where our cash flow was causing us difficulties. Once again for the sake of keeping the dream alive i was compelled to use my own funds in order to keep Stark Drive on track.
It took approximately one year for the situation With PayPal to resolve itself however with this resolution came more problems In that we were no longer welcome on the PayPal platform. Fortunately for us we had a good relationship with our other payment processors and were able to continue our crowdfunding via of those means.
Stark Drive MIni
If you stand still the world will pass you buy. While we were working with our very funds and dedicated team to deliver bikes all around the world we were also hard at work to making our Master Plan a reality. In the coming weeks we are going to out do even ourselves and once again launch the worlds most affordable electric bike at $299 US. The bike will still have the same ability to customize it to your needs and not only that we are going a step further and every single bike that leaves the factory will be fully 100% assembled. All you need to do is remove it from the box, turn the key and start riding.
Stark Drive Torque
Furthermore the launch of Stark Drive Torque is well underway with customized moulds being completed as we speak so that we receive the first prototypes with the batch 3 bikes that are being shipped out. This of course being important so that we can test and fine tune the performance to deliver the best torque based electric bike experience possible.
We don't have the resources of our competition, all of our team have day jobs and 'work' at Stark Drive for free with the reasoning being that an altruistic goal such as ours is one that will never come easily. There will always be those that want to uphold the status quo and prevent companies such as ours from lowering the global prices of electric bikes and hence the barrier of entry into owning this environmentally beneficial technology.
Just because our competition has tried to prevent us from being a green transportation enabler does not mean we just let them walk over us either. there are some fairly significant legal actions that are ongoing as we speak which could result in a fairly significant slap on the wrist for those that tried to cause the global electric bike market harm. This has yet to be decided and we will of course report on it when a resolution is reached.
I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone that believed in Stark Drive and our mission, as difficult as it was to achieve. For your patience, for your understanding and for your and your unfettered belief in what we are trying to do.
The world thanks you.
CEO, Stark Drive LLC.