Almost 2 years ago in August 2009, I moved to Tokyo to work for CUUSOO.com, an innovative “crowdsourced product design” web company. The reason why I joined CUUSOO was because of its vision – users submitting their wishes up front, others declare their intention to buy that product at a certain price, thus creating a market demand signal. Consumers become co-producers to make the perfect products for themselves. I believed that by making this system successful, on a small scale, independent makers and small workshops can produce just the right amount of highly customizable products for the local market, while on the large scale, manufacturers can know upfront the market demand for a product before it’s made, hence lowering the risk of wasting raw materials and natural resources to produce crap that nobody wants! (See event I organized to promote CUUSOO) I wanted to work on something that would make the world a better place and CUUSOO.com had the right idea!In these past 2 years, I had initiated many projects to try to make CUUSOO’s original idea work. When I first joined, after evaluating the legacy system and the company’s goals, I suggested creating the English version of LEGO CUUSOO as a new, simple website (the term “Minimal Viable Product” wasn’t invented yet) using one of the new web frameworks like Drupal, forget about the old Japanese contents and concentrate in the US market. Once we build up a healthy community in the West, we can then migrate our old Japanese contents & users from the legacy site. When that got rejected, (after weeks of persuations and arguements) I started an open source project called Open Hippel. I went out to social events and talked to people about my idea – an open user innovation system, in which CUUSOO can be its first commercial user, but the software is free for all to use. I even started a P2PU course to teach Drupal through building Open Hippel! Pairing the software with a 3-tier business model – a top layer of independent communities using Open Hippel to bubble up ideas, and a bottom layer connecting to my inventor friend in Hong Kong, sourcing the manufacturing to the experts, thereby creating a whole eco-system around CUUSOO and Open Hippel in the middle. It was grand! The friends I’ve made through the Open Hippel project have been truly inspirational! We share the same passion and we pushed each other to work hard on developing the open source platform and the new eco-system. Although the plan to use the system for CUUSOO failed, the seeds we had sewn, the work that we had put in are not lost. My friends continued to follow our common goal and a couple of new startups were spawned! One of which is Makible.com, which I’ll be joining as… hmm… I don’t even know what to call myself! I guess I’m “the guy who connected the dots and pulled the people together”.
Let me take this chance to thank and also apologize to all my friends again, particularly David Siren Eisner, Soren Jones, Shaun Ward, Rob Whittaker, they are the core Open Hippel members and had believed in me and put in so much of their valuable time! Sorry for failing to persuade managements to adopt our work!! 😦Yesterday, I had officially handed in my resignation at CUUSOO. In the past 4 months, with the help of our new development partners at Wizcorp, I had been able to implement almost everything I wanted to do for CUUSOO – developing the new system for LEGO CUUSOO using Scrum Development method, focused on customer development and being agile, created thorough social strategies with new LEGO community manager, connecting site visitors to Facebook and Twitter, all accounts managed by multiple people in LEGO and CUUSOO. I’ll continue to pass my knowledge to my successors and co-workers. This is not the end, I believe in CUUSOO’s original idea and with the new system, they have a renewed chance to make it happen! I’ll be speaking for them as an outside evangelist when I see the right fit! Starting in July, I’ll continue to follow the vision that brought me to Japan, but this time we’re really setting out to disrupt the current manufacturing models! It’s definitely a difficult task, changing user behavior, but my comrades and I believe we’re riding a new tide in a changing current! Want to know more about the world we’re creating? Check out this article on Small Scale Production, Jon Buford’s answer to the question “How to do lean startup on a hardware product” and CloudFab founder Nick Pinkston’s “Hardware is the New Software” talk at Pivotal Labs.