Work on doppel began in 2013 after Andreas, Fotini, Jack and Nell came up with the idea whilst studying together on the Innovation Design Engineering MA/MSc at both Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art.
Together with Manos Tsakiris, Professor of Psychology at the Royal Holloway University London, we developed the first prototypes. Back in 2013 these were called ‘myTempo’ and looked like this:
myTempo exhibited at the John Lewis Future Store Exhibition 2014 and we won the Deutsche Bank Award for Creative Enterprises before graduating.
Read more: Awards
After months of prototyping, myTempo became doppel, and the team created the first test rigs allowing hundreds of people to try it for themselves in all sorts of situations.
Overwhelmed by the positive feedback we commissioned The Royal Holloway University of London to run independent tests exploring doppel’s effect on focus. The results were incredible; in a double blind test doppel doubled focus. You can read the white paper here.
Meanwhile, interest in the company was growing. We won the Pitch at the Palace People's Choice Award 2015 in March and then the ICTomorrow Wearables Innovation Competition in April.
After a year of designing, prototyping and testing we launched on Kickstarter with a bold ambition of raising £100,000.
Crowdfunding was both incredible and incredibly stressful! (We wrote about our experiences here). We got huge amounts of press coverage and during the month long campaign we were named in the top five products at the London Innovator of the Year Awards, exhibited at London Tech Week and Fashion Tech Berlin, and spoke at both Solid Con and the Wearable Technologies Conference in San Francisco. Phew!
We raised £111k and the manufacturing process started!
We slimmed down the design by adjusting the battery and began work on developing our only bespoke part - the clear top vibration motor. These didn’t exist at mass manufacture scale so we created our own and then shipped them to China to see if they could be scaled up.
There was good news! Our supplier liked our design and was prepared to manufacture them!
As the project grew, so did our company. In November we hired Georgina to take on marketing and communications. Then, in the new year, the five strong team headed out to Las Vegas for CES where we had been invited to speak.
We returned to a cold London winter and some unfortunate news from our motor suppliers that the manufacture process was going to take considerably longer than expected. As the motor is key to what doppel does, and every single stage of our manufacturing process depends on them, this presented a real problem for us in terms of knock-on delays.
We apologised to our backers and pre-order customers and sent an updated manufacture timeline with a proposed shipping date of September. We’re incredibly grateful to have such understanding backers and customers - we received loads of supportive messages which really brightened up the office.
We remained focused on delivery and hired a fantastic software developer called Andrew who is doing transformative things with our app. We’re really looking forward to sharing the final design!
In February Nell and Fotini journeyed to China! They had an incredibly productive trip and it was great to see the progress our motor and battery manufacturers are making.
We're learning a lot about working in China. One our favourite lessons so far comes in the form of a parable.
Business should be like bamboo; it should grow fast and strong. But no bamboo can grow forever, a single shoot is not enough. You must be patient, prepare the ground properly and grow many shoots if you are to grow a forest to feed your grandchildren.
Whilst there, we began the stage where, in conjunction with our manufacturers, we lock down every single one of doppel's components. Here's a short video of a motor sample.
At the end of March we exhibited at The Science Museum!
At the beginning of May doppel ventured to Berlin! Fotini addressed the audience at re:publica - Europe’s most exciting conference on internet and society.
She took the audience on a journey of discovery, from technology and wearables, to our senses, and sense of self. Watch the video of her talk here:
Shortly after landing back in the UK she then headed to Imperial College London to give her TEDx speech ‘Senses not sensors: Feelings are the future of technology’ which was incredibly well received.
Back in the studio the product team were working hard.
When we first launched the Kickstarter project we showed doppel with a standard buckle like you’d find on most entry-level watches. Buckles are effective, but they can be fiddly and they aren’t unique. For us, doppel is a unique proposition with a unique design and we want to make sure that every component part complements its natural look and feel.
We’ve studied every watch and wearable strap we could find and have begun experimenting! So far the best solution we’ve designed is this incredibly sleek popper - it’s practical and discreet; it pops through the holes on doppel’s strap. After lots of testing and taking on board advice from our backers we’ve got a final design that we are really happy with the result. It holds doppel securely in place (the distance between the holes is the same as on the buckle strap), and it’s easy to take doppel on and off.
Whilst we consulted our backers and customers on the new design, the doppel team were all over the world.
Fotini spoke at WEAR Boston arguing that wearables must go beyond monitoring to be truly useful.
And Jack flew out to Budapest to take part in Brain Bar Budapest - Europe's festival on future thinking. He debated the future of humans in the 'ROBOTS vs CREATIVITY' session.
He also took part in a F***Up Nights event. These are volunteer run evenings where people (not just entrepreneurs) gather together to tell the tales of where they’ve gone wrong and the lessons they learned. They’re supposed to be funny and fun - and to let people know that it’s okay to fail. Here is his story.
As shipping gets closer, we're getting ready for distribution! Here's the beautiful image of doppel which we sent out to our pre-order customers and Kickstarter backers as part of our customer surveys.
It also finally stopped raining in London so when we received final samples of doppel’s straight and tapered resin strap, we decided to take some photos - outside!
We then announced that we've been invited to join Kickstarter on stage at The Guardian in November! There are hundreds of tech projects on Kickstarter so we feel pretty special to have been chosen as ambassadors. We discussed our experiences of Kickstarter and answered questions from the audience.
Since launching doppel on Kickstarter, battery technology has improved dramatically. We originally designed doppel to charge via micro-USB which is great, but the only problem with micro-USB charging is that the port (the little slot on doppel’s base) is near on impossible to waterproof.
We want doppel to be water and sweat resistant so we’ve designed, tested and prototyped a charging solution that meets these requirements.
doppel will now charge via a bespoke charging base. You slot doppel in and the charging pins on doppel’s base and the pins on the charging base align. This then connects to a power source via a USB cable. This is the same solution found in most wearables released today.
In July, Co-Founder Jack was one of four graduate entrepreneurs to win one of the inaugural RAEng 1851 Royal Commission Enterprise Fellowships. The Fellowships are awarded to entrepreneurs with disruptive early-stage engineering innovations tipped to shake up major industries around the world.
Also in July we had the team from Sky Swipe in the studio and not only did we go out live on Sky News, we also went ‘Facebook live’ from our studio to over 270,000 people! It went well… despite the fact that they told us we’d be doing this about 20 minutes before it happened!
We also had a chat with Sophie Charara from wareable.com who then posted this incredible write up. It’s definitely worth a read as it’s one of the few pieces of coverage that takes the time to understand the research that’s gone into doppel and explain that we’re not just another fitness tracker..
Also, Nautilus Magazine published this fantastic piece on doppel's very own Fotini Markopoulou following her journey from physics to design.
In August, we got some bad news. We received an email from our casing supplier (who is also responsible for assembly, packing and shipping) stating that they were now unable to go ahead with manufacturing until they’d seen final electronics from our electronics supplier. This presented us with a fairly major problem. Given that both companies had our final design, we’d planned for these processes to happen simultaneously. We had to add two months to our shipping date.
We’re not blaming our manufacturers. The responsibility for this lies with us. We’re small, and we wanted our suppliers to be able to move as quickly as we can. We’re incredibly fortunate to have the suppliers we have whose payment terms have enabled us to deliver our project on our budget. But we underestimated how long the negotiations would take.
Ultimately, the reason for this order is to ensure quality. Something which is of course very important to us. However we had wanted both: to deliver a product of the highest quality, on time.
Some light relief:
Despite Nell’s protests, we couldn’t resist sharing this story with you...
Ahead of a trip to China, we received a WeChat message from doppel’s Head Engineer in China, asking us politely whether we’d be able to check the design of doppel’s charger. We were a little confused given the design had been finalised. He then sent us the below photo… It transpired that we had accidentally added an extra 0 on to the length of the cable when we ordered samples, so the cables that arrived were over five meters long - not 50 cm as we had agreed! Once we’d explained what had happened, they, like us, found it pretty funny! And in case you’re worried, the five meter cables have been put to one side…
We headed back to China in September
Co-Founders Nell and Andreas spent the beginning of this September 5406 miles (8700 km) away from our London studio in sunny Qingdao via a brief stopover in Shenzhen.
Our daily WeChat calls meant that we were able to make big decisions on suppliers and shipping as well as small (but still important) decisions on things like packaging and information leaflets.
Doing business in China isn’t something any of us had experience of before this project and it’s been a fascinating journey so far. It’s great to have such fantastic manufacturers guiding us through the process, and also to help us with translations!
Here are some pictures from the trip:
From top left, clockwise: doppel in the beautiful Shenzhen airport. Nell and Andreas meet some of our suppliers on the factory floor. doppel overlooking Shenzhen. doppel overlooking Qingdao.
In August Forbes writer Parmy Olsen came to visit our studio to interview Jack. We thought it went okay, but you just never know how these things go. Reading our press coverage is always a nerve-wracking experience but this time, when it was published in September, we were absolutely blown away! It’s a fantastic write up. Here are some quotes, but do go and have a read!
“It turns out I’m feeling something too. I’m bopping my head unconsciously to the beat of the Doppel as if I were listening to high-energy, electronic music. As Hooper is talking, I also find myself becoming hyper aware of what he’s saying, with a kind of laser focus.
“After a few more minutes, I take off the band. The effect is even more noticeable once it’s gone. I’m feeling a little on-edge, ready to pounce on whatever task needs taking care of next. It’s very similar to the caffeine jolt I get after a big cup of strong coffee. Which is all the more surprising because I haven’t consumed any caffeine so far that day.”
As we got closer to shipping it was finally time to think about packaging. We know it’s only a box, but we want it to be as beautifully designed as doppel. We’ve been playing with samples in the office and it’s exciting to see our ideas slowly becoming a reality!
... and we were nominated by Wareable in the 'Startup of the Year' category at their inaugural Wareable Tech Awards!
And on the manufacturing front:
We finished the design for manufacture process for the charging bases!
On our third visit to China we reviewed our first test run of the bases, and although they were okay, they were not perfect - and it turned out they were also pretty tricky to manufacture. So Nell and our Chinese partners spent a few weeks working out how to manufacture them differently, while keeping the same form, aesthetics and function.
doppel needs to be pushed into the charging base where then the four flexible arms hold doppel tightly against the charging pins. The first design involved two halves of semi flexible plastic that were ultrasonically welded together around the cable. Frustratingly the plastic halves were too flexible, resulting in slippage when the two halves were pushed together during ultrasonic welding process. Simply increasing the stiffness meant it would be too hard to push doppel in and out.
So now we are making the charging base in two phases. First, there is a hard core of plastic that holds the cable and pins, then secondly, a thin layer of silicon over the structure which creates the four small flexible arms.
We’re really happy with the final design. Design for manufacture success!
November: Good news, and bad news...
We started November with good news and bad news. The bad news: We had to add one more month to our timelines. The good news: For the first time we were close enough to delivery to be able predict shipping dates! All of our backers and customers received lengthy explanation emails with a big sorry from the entire team.
But as we get closer and closer to shipping everything is getting busier and busier!
The compliance process is on track. The sample doppels have arrived on time at the lab in Denmark ready for safety, connectivity and waterproofing tests. Once these tests have been passed, it’s then time to sign off on ‘the final article’ (the final final version that is then mass-manufactured). Everything is set up for our first batch so once we get the go ahead from compliance it’s all systems go on manufacture and assembly.
In the meantime we’ve been finalising lots of details that aren’t related to the manufacturing process but are nonetheless very important. We are currently working to secure the certification we need to be able to fly doppels out of China as there are strict rules around flying batteries. We’ve also finished the packaging insert and accompanying instruction leaflets.
We were also shortlisted for the 'Design in Innovation Award' at #Innovate2016!
At the beginning of November we showcased doppel at Innovate 2016 in Manchester - an exhibition of UK innovation. Not only did we get to spend to days pitching doppel to industry leaders in design, innovation and manufacturing, but we were also one of only ten companies shortlisted for the prestigious Design in Innovation Award.
It was an incredible privilege to be invited by both the Department for International Trade and Innovate UK to exhibit alongside such excellent company. We even caught the eye of a few cameras!
Whilst we didn’t win the Design in Innovation Award, we hope to give it another go next year.
And here's the video that was filmed whilst we were there:
The arrival of December saw Nell and Andreas fly back out to China to meet our PCB manufacturers ahead of mass-manufacture and to make sure that everything is on track. They’re going to try and send as many photos as possible so check out our Facebook and Instagram page for updates.
We also begun the process of agreeing the ‘final article’ or ‘golden article’ that will set the standards for all doppels coming off the production line. This involves bringing together the final versions of the stainless steel base, battery, clear-top motor, gaskets, PCB boards, plastic top, straps, fastenings, charging base and packaging to create a set number of perfect doppels.
Our guide to early-stage product design
In November we were shortlisted for the prestigious Design in Innovation Award - an award which seeks to recognise those projects which employed early-stage design most effectively to improve and/or accelerate innovation outcomes.
We’ve blogged before about how to design and develop a product collaboratively and we’ve also shared our tips for how to run a successful Kickstarter project. In that spirit, and given the judges at Innovate 2016 seemed to like our approach, we thought we’d share our experience of early-stage design. Read it here.
...with some disappointing news.
Until a few days before Christmas everything had been going well. Almost all of the components had been finalised and manufacturing had begun. But then we hit a quality problem.
The printed circuit boards in the final sample batch weren’t as good as we need them to be. Nell and Andreas dropped everything and flew to China to meet our suppliers along with our lead manufacturers to find a solution.
The talks and tests went well but time, as always, is of the essence. We have already had a new batch developed and initial testing has begun. Providing everything else is perfect, we’ll then be able to get back on track with manufacturing within the next few days. However, the clock is ticking. We weren’t expecting this extra step and whilst the problem itself is solvable, the knock on implications are large because we now won’t be able to finish our three week run and two week assembly and testing step before Chinese New Year begins and our manufacturers close for three weeks.
As soon as they re-open we’ll be able to finish and ship but for now there’s nothing we can do except wait - and hope that the PCB batch we get this week is of high enough quality which it very much should be!
Needless to say, we are working as hard as ever and remain extremely excited to finally get doppels to all of our backers and customers.
doppel at CES 2017
What better way to start 2017 than showcasing doppel at CES - the world’s largest consumer electronics show! Having travelled to Las Vegas last year to scout out the competition, it felt surreal to return this year ready to launch doppel to the US media at a busy press event.
It went incredibly well and the first few write-ups have been really good. Mashable said ‘doppel is the next generation of wearable technology’ and concluded that ‘this may be your most bangin’ wearable yet’ and New Altas posted this refreshingly informed review whilst saying ‘it's a fascinating idea that stands out from the din of solution-in-search-of-a-problem tech on display at CES.’ We even got a preview on CNET.
We’re looking forward to getting as many review units out as possible over the coming months!
It’s getting exciting! The doppel team is back in China this week working flat out to set everything up before mass-manufacturing begins. This includes everything from finalising production drawings for each separate component, to confirming the procedure for assembly.
Creating, designing and manufacturing a brand-new hardware product was never going to be easy - but we’re so close! It’s truly incredible to see everything coming together. We absolutely cannot wait until the first doppels come off the assembly line!
Above: How to make a doppel! / doppel and bamboo in our manufacturer's offices / doppel overlooking Qingdao / Stamped manufacturing plans!
doppel Co-Founder and Design Director named as finalist in 2017 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards
Nell was named as one of three finalists for the Start-up Founder of the Year Award organised by everywoman and sponsored by Barclays.
The award is presented to the most inspirational female founder of a start-up business.
The seventh annual 2017 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards, in association with techUK, encourage greater numbers of women to work in tech, driving awareness of career opportunities, as well as showcasing the breadth and diversity of talent contributed by women in tech across all industries.
February: Manufacturing resumes
Now that Chinese New Year celebrations are finished, we’re ready to start the final part of doppel’s journey from concept to reality: mass manufacture. We’re still on track to ship in March and we’re so excited to send our first batch out across the globe!
We calculated exactly how many of each of doppel’s components we’d need and placed our order with our manufacturing partner. This involved working through our customer lists and then working out exactly how many of the different strap and colour options are needed, as well as adding up all of the internal components.
The longest step is die casting doppel’s metal base and every other component will be timed around that. We can’t wait to send pictures!
Meanwhile in London…
Last year Jack was announced as one of the 2016 awardees of the inaugural RAEng 1851 Royal Commission Enterprise Fellowships. The Enterprise Hub’s membership is made up of some of the UK’s most promising entrepreneurs and researchers and it’s fantastic for us to be part of it.
Last week he showcased doppel at the opening the Taylor Centre - the new home of the Enterprise Hub in London. He also spoke to the team at StartUp Van about startup life and we’re very much looking forward to the video!
To take us up to the present:
We really like this video of the light reflecting off doppel’s clear top motor:
It’s been a long time coming but we’re finally there! We’ve already started manufacturing the bases, black straps, gaskets, black tops, and the packaging - with white tops, straps and electronics starting imminently. So far everything is going well! We haven’t got pictures yet but Nell and Andreas are back in China very soon and we can’t wait to share everything that’s happening.
doppel featured in Eureka! Magazine
This week we were featured in Eureka! Magazine - one of the UK’s leading design and innovation magazines. You can read the full article on our Facebook page.
To be continued...