China and Kansas City

I realized today that I never actually wrote about why I was in China. I don’t really write here anymore, but it is a sort of history of my life, and that’s a pretty important thing to leave out, so I better write. I’ve also moved back to Kansas City, and that’s kind of a big deal too. So…

Back in June of 2015 I was asked by a company called Tin Whiskers to join them in Shenzhen, China for 3.5 months as part of their participation in the HAX Hardware Accelerator program, batch 7.

Tin Whiskers was a pick and place startup run by my friend Neil. They were building a delta pick and place system and wanted to use my OpenPnP software to run it. I had shared a booth with Neil at Maker Faire in 2015 and I was excited about what he was doing, and we got along pretty well, and this was a huge opportunity to go to the electronics capitol of the world, so I jumped on board.

If you’ve read my other posts on Shenzhen, you probably have the impression things didn’t go very well. It actually went a lot less well than it sounds, but there were some good things too.

The goal of the project was to have a working prototype after 90 days, demo it in San Francisco on day 111 and then to launch a Kickstarter to sell it. Unfortunately, for a lot of complex reasons, it turned out that the prototype wasn’t going to work. This caused a lot of strife within the company  and due to a lot of other unrelated strife the company imploded about two weeks before the end of the program. I won’t go into details about what happened. It was pretty ugly and a lot of feelings and friendships got hurt. I had a very minor nervous breakdown at one point, which is something I hope to never repeat.

The end result is that at day 111, when we should have been demoing at HAX Demo Day Batch 7 in San Francisco, those of us still with the company instead stood around watching our friends from other companies demoing while we all got pretty drunk.

Aside from that, my other posts on Shenzhen basically sum it up. Since then I’ve kind of softened on Shenzhen and I’d even like to go back – on my own terms and with my own resources. Less 1 star, a little more 3 star, maybe.

So that was 2015.

2016 had two stories. The first was that I took OpenPnP back to Maker Faire again and had an absolute blast. This time I invited two of my friends from HAX, Dan and Will, to come help out and it made the entire experience so much better. Courtney and I were able to take some breaks and enjoy the show while Will and Dan manned the booth. They quickly came up to speed with answering questions about OpenPnP and we were able to talk to a lot more people than usual. It was awesome!

The other big story is that Courtney and I finally got fed up with our too big for us house in the suburbs and put it on the market. We knew we wanted to live somewhere else but we didn’t really know where. We also knew we wanted to sell our house while the market was hot so we put it up and hoped for the best.

The best turned out to be a sale in 8 days and then we needed to find a new place to live. We looked all over Seattle and quite a ways outside of Seattle even. We really wanted to stay in Seattle, or near it, but a few things made it hard:

  1. It’s expensive as fuck.
  2. The traffic is a nightmare.
  3. The traffic. God.

In July we were in Kansas City for a concert and a quick visit. It was Sunday, and we were blowing time until our flight home. We were driving around the Crossroads area and drove past an open  house in a cool old brick building and since we didn’t have anything better to do, we went in.

We had found a 3000 sq ft loft in a 100 year old popcorn machine factory, zoned for residential and business, with a huge amount of space for all our hobbies. We suddenly realized we were moving back to Kansas City.

And that’s what happened. We put an offer in 2 days later, it was accepted, we packed all our shit and we moved back to Kansas City! We’ve been here since September and we’re loving it. We have family and friends nearby, a much more busy social life, the ability to walk to everything we need and tons and tons of space. The only thing missing is a back yard but Flux doesn’t seem to mind. She loves picking up the morning sniffs every day and is getting more walks than she ever imagined.

Buying a 100 year old brick building comes with it’s own interesting set of problems, and we’re working through those. It’s 4 months later and a lot of our stuff is still in boxes but it’s slowly taking shape. It’s been a lot of fun so far.

Now it’s on to 2017 and whatever that brings!