In the summer of 2012 a Kickstarter project, the Nifty MiniDrive, was launched that sought to expand the storage on portable Mac computers. This is something that is normally difficult to do without voiding your Mac's warranty. The team intially aimed at raising $11,000 but they exceeded this goal by a huge margin.
One year on I caught up with the, CEO Piers Ridyard, to ask about how he dealt with the intial success and how his team was able to cope with the development phase and to find out how this particular Kickstarter project became one of the most talked about third-party Apple accessories!
The Nifty MiniDrive is an innovative expansion device allowing up to an additional 64GB of data storage on a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro. What was your motivation for this product, how did you come up with this idea?
I decided to design my own solution to the problem.
The idea came from my own frustration in finding that the storage on my MacBook Air was not nearly enough to hold everything I needed. I searched around for a way to solve this, but one that would not void my warranty. Finding no easy way around, at least not one that did not involve carrying extra cables and bulk around or required things to be sticking out of my computer, I decided to design my own solution to the problem. This became the Nifty MiniDrive.
Most people probably first heard about the Nifty MiniDrive through Kickstarter. What sort of preparation was required to get your Nifty MiniDrive idea out there?
Never underestimate the power of a network of people, especially at the beginnings of an idea!
Most of the preparation centred around creating a working proof of concept - this was a lot further from a production ready model than we realised at the time, and there was comparatively little preparation. We of course have the guys from our first Indiegogo campaign to thank for helping us build the first working prototypes, and equally helping in spreading the word once we launched on Kickstarter. Never underestimate the power of a network of people, especially at the beginnings of an idea!
Your original goal of $11,000 was overfunded (just short of 35 times) to $384319. That's incredible and shows that it really struck a chord with MacBook owners. What did you expect from Kickstarter and how did you cope with this level of interest?
Ramping up production to the level of mass production is not an easy task, and something for which we had no experience.
The response was overwhelming in every sense. After the campaign it really has just been a matter of grabbing a tiger by the tail and holding on. Ramping up production to the level of mass production is not an easy task, and something for which we had no experience. However, it has been an amazing journey, and for myself and the team, has been a matter of taking one step at a time and keeping our eyes on the end goal of making a product we can be proud of.
After the intial interest on Kickstarter there must have been vital decisions which were necessary to make. What was the first steps and how did you develop your roadmap for the important first months?
The first steps were to completely scrap the production plan we had made for a level of interest at around the $11,000 mark. Instead we had to quickly offer for tender and then choose the manufacturer, or subcontractor, who would take on the task of creating our first run of product, as the size of interest meant that we would not be able to make the product in house, as previously hoped.
Suddenly we had the pressure of fulfilling orders for almost 10,000 backers, and that alone had its own set of challenges.
It's over a year on from Kickstarter and it must have an exciting journey. What has been the hardest part of the evolution from a Kickstarter innovation to a product accessible to the masses?
Quality, consistency and packaging! The Apple market is quality hungry and making sure that your product is always to high level of quality that is required is a constant battle with your manufacturer. "Good enough" is a very easy trap to fall into and one against which everyone must constantly fight.
Packaging and regulatory requirements, as well as support for multiple languages for multiple markets are also important further considerations to putting the product in retail, once you have got the quality and consistency of the product inside the boxes right.
Nifty Drive obviously has an exceptional team behind its development. Who makes up this team and where are you based?
We are mostly based in Manchester, UK, where our main office is. The team currently comprises:
Piers - CEO
Steve - COO
Russ - Global Sales Director
Bea - Finance Director
Alex - Legal Council
Mark - Graphic Design
Jameet - Customer Support
Varun - Customer Support
We are currently looking for an Electronic Engineer to head up our product pipeline development too.
The future looks bright for Nifty Drive, but, what does it hold for the company? Are there new products in the pipeline?
Of course! Though unfortunately, none that I can tell you about.
Aside from work, what does your current setup look like? Do you rely on Mac's for your daily routine?
Use the operating system that makes you feel the smartest.
I'm a bit of a strange one. I have a MacBook as my main computer, but I run Windows 7 on it. A good friend of mine once said that you use the operating system that makes you feel the smartest. Windows certainly has its bugs and kinks, but they are the bugs and kinks that I know about, and can normally solve almost any problem on Windows.
Mac, on the other hand, is a closed book to me, and I spend too much time on it working out how to do things that I would be able to do without thinking about on Windows. I use keyboard short-cuts for almost everything, and half of them don't blooming work on Mac! I don't think either is superior (though Mac is definitely better looking and more user friendly for the new user), but Windows suits my workflow better, while the MacBook itself suits my preference for really well built stuff.
At Mactuts+ we like to look at applications and teach readers how to use them. What is the most important application for you and how does it enhance your workflow?
Autodesk Inventor - an invaluable 3D design and development tool, and one I would be lost without.
From memory of the brief time I used Mac, Caffeine was a really useful little app, though.
Personally, I can't wait to see what the future holds for Piers and his team. After their intial success they have managed to turn themselves into fierce competitor in one of the toughest markets, Apple accessories. I'd like to say a big thanks to Piers for chatting to us and wish him good luck for the future!
If you have any questions or feedback about the Nifty Minidrive please comment below.