Dave: One reason why doing hardware development takes so long in the west is that nothing is co-located. And so it takes a long time, to get the sample... you know, this part has to go to the person who is making the neoprene band, so that they can understand to make sure that, like the holes that were poked in it, are the right size, you know what I mean? These two companies that made these two things, could potentially be thousands of miles apart, and just like, moving the atoms and sort of bits around can be really hard. So getting everything co-located in one place.
I mean, that’s another reason why Shenzhen in China is a very interesting place. Because everything is geographically co-located. And so you can communicate a lot easier. When you are building hardware, it is a thing that lives in the physical world, so you have to deal with it in the physical world, and there are some tricks we are coming up with, to allow us to like, you know, 3-D printing is great one where you can send a description file, you can send a STL somewhere else and they can 3-D print it off of it. It is usually fairly repeatable. But we are still kind of in this area with hardware where you have to deal with it in real life.
So having everything together in one place really speeds up the process and if you were trying to do something like this in San Francisco or like in Boston where I am from it actually takes way longer just to get all the stuff between all the different places to make sure that everyone’s doing the parts that fit into each other correctly.
Slashdot: You can’t drive to the neoprene factory very well.
Dave: You can’t just drive to the neoprene factory and show it to the neoprene man, and have him be like oh yeah, it needs to be more like this, hang on, I will go get another sample and be right back. You know, you got to send an email, you got to wait three weeks for shipping, that’s another email. Like you have to figure out how to communicate with people through a physical medium which is not easy.
Slashdot: Could you have done this twelve months ago?
Dave: Oh twelve months ago? Maybe. I don’t actually know. I mean looking back on it, I think that I could have convinced all these technologies have existed for a while, right, like 3-D printing has been around for 30 years, like SMT assembly of circuit boards have been around for like a really long time, die cutting has been around a really long time. But I mean part of making a physical thing is it is not like you to have like go on the GitHub repo and like plug it into whatever else. It is like you have to develop relationships with all the different suppliers, and also at the same time, the companies that are making machines, maybe make it a little bit smaller, a little bit faster that can fit in to where you need it to be at the cost point for where you want it to be. So it is much more of a continuum. And it is about figuring out how to arrange everything, again, in physical space.
Slashdot: One thing, when you and I talked earlier, one thing you mentioned, I thought was interesting, is that the way people communicate using their mobiles... it is much more fluid than I think in the US, much more formal communication.
Dave: Oh in China, yeah. Oh yeah. Everybody is on WeChat in China. It is amazing. It is an amazing app. I have been wherever I am taking meetings, I have been like, it really, well, what you do is tell everybody at Foxconn we will talk about stuff here, have our WeChat contact. And then it is like they add a group, it starts with three people, and it is like Hi David, this is [...] from Foxconn, like shake hands emoticon, shake hands emoticon, and it is funny at first but then you realize that things can happen in a lot more fluid kind of way, because it is not like it is like very formal, like ‘Hello it is very nice to meet you, do you have time for a coffee on Tuesday afternoon? Thank you, David.’
Now it is like I can get to that email later this afternoon. But if someone is communicating with me informally in a group chat with like three people, about the specific sub part of the project that I am working on, and someone is like how does the die like, then you can like take a picture of the die and drop it in, and it sends it out. You know, I mean it has got these amazing features where Tencent should just hire me to be a salesperson--I really like WeChat. You know, everybody has a QR code, they have QR codes on the business cards, because you meet somebody, WeChat has the QR code reader built into it, you scan it, that adds into your address book. You know if you don’t have business cards, you have a personal QR code on your app, you can just show and you can scan it. And so it is dynamic allocation is the phrase that I keep coming back to, because that’s what it is. It happens in real time.
You know, I have a sourcing agent who goes to the market for me and I can like send her a picture of a business card of someone who I wanted to buy something from. I can project it and she will be chatting back... okay I am with the lady right now, she wants this much if it is cool, she is like okay it will be half an hour, and I will be like alright, and she will be like here is the pictures, does that look okay, and it will be like yeah, and she will be like oh I talked to her in the firmware in Chinese instead of English so I need to go have it swapped out and reprogrammed in English, I am going to have her take it back to the factory and get you a different one. Or a reprogrammed one. I will be great, awesome. Okay, so where shall we meet? We turn on locations services that they have inside of WeChat and it all pops up and they have designed it in a considerate way, where like if you leave the chat, it automatically turns it off for you like they really.
Slashdot: It seems to reduce all kinds of frictions.
Dave: Yeah, yeah, it reduces a lot of frictions, well, but there are also frictions which are artifacts of the way that China does stuff too, right, like you know, you don’t have access to Google services, the streets are not laid on grid systems often, well some are, but like when you are in the markets and doing stuff and trying to find stuff way out in the countryside where not that many people even have devices, it can be kind and hard so it greases a lot of wheels, but it also means that needs to be a lot more communication happening and so that’s why they put a lot more development in figuring out how to make that communication a lot more expedient.