Getting from prototype to project during the chip shortage with Rohan Singh of Tidbyt

via Tidbyt

Last year during our quarterly informal talks series, we heard from community member Rohan Singh, co-founder of Tidbyt. Singh’s original idea for the product came while working in Manhattan and needing to take the subway every day from Brooklyn. Rather than needing his phone to check the train times, Rohan wanted a way to see the next train easily from anywhere in his apartment–without the distractions that come from a phone. And from that, Tidbyt was formed.

Tidbyt prototype, Rohan Singh

To make Tidbyt happen, Rohan and co-founder Mats Linander both quit their day jobs during the middle of the pandemic and went full in with their idea. They definitely weren’t anticipating that they’d have to spend a full year working on a product before it was ready to be released.

The first prototype of Tidbyt was a bit rough, as most prototypes are. But, even in its unfinished state, people were impressed by its unique, retro aesthetic. Rohan and Mats went through many iterations, each time playing with the style and finish of the piece.

When Tidbyt launched in 2021, they were able to raise one million dollars on kickstarter. And, they grew their community of developers from just eight apps to over 10,000. Community is the secret sauce for Tidbyt — their active discord shows just how easy it is to build apps for it.

The hardware for Tidbyt is simple: it connects to the cloud and only pulls down what needs to be displayed, meaning that it will never need a hardware update.

Throughout their design process, the Tidbyt team quickly learned that they needed to focus on 1 or 2 key items and knock them out of the park, and then let the rest fall into place. The team chose to focus on two areas:

Look and feel: After testing and sanding many wood species and finishes, and after countless trips to Home Depot, the duo settled on the walnut design that we know today. The aesthetics are what make the product stand out in a sea of smart displays.

Tidbyt prototypes, Rohan Singh

Set-up Experience: If you have ever set up a smart bulb or smart thermostat, the experience is often grim. The team spent weeks working on this experience so that when you turn on Tidbyt, it just works. They knew that they nailed it after testers remarked, “that was so fast and easy!” No fishing for compliments required.

One of the issues with hyper focus is you can start to miss other things, and manufacturing management was unfortunately neglected. The original manufacturer told the pair that they could handle it all and not to worry. In retrospect this was a pretty massive red flag to Rohan, as Tidbyt had confidently told backers they’d have the product in hand in six months. This was in 2021, when the chip shortage was in full swing. They soon learned that the company was not prepared to manufacture the product, and they had to scramble to find a new approach. Thankfully they were able to deliver only a few months later!

Tidbyt PCB layout, Rohan Singh

Tidbyt is a product that has been able to gracefully weather the ups and downs of production. Their strong community backing and approach to adversity has made a product for the ages. Informal weas able to help out the Tidbyt team ship on time by assisting with design for manufacturing and supporting their supply chain challenges, and we’re so happy to see this product come to life!

Client Stories
Lee Wilkins

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