Last May, Incident Tech launched the gTar, a guitar with real strings that connected to a smartphone for some amazing sound processing. In the last few months, the founder, Idan Beck and his team have been busy preparing the 800 guitars he pre-sold on Kickstarter for shipment. Theirs is a story of creativity, cool, and the next generation in music technology. I spoke with Idan briefly about his Disrupt experience and how it felt to go from zero to shipping in less than a year.
TC: So how have things been going since Disrupt?
Idan: Things have been extremely busy and going well! Shortly after disrupt we shifted our primary focus on getting the gTar into mass production out in China. While we had already been going out there for nearly a year at that point, we spent the next 6 months hammering out every issue imaginable in production and learning about how much goes into making a thousand of something.
Now we’re starting to get units out of China in batches and fulfill them out to our amazingly supportive and patient Kickstarter backers. As a result of the last 6 months the product has really improved as well, with the end result and build quality far exceeding our expectations, since as a result of production we had to make certain changes to the design and architecture of the product, allowing us to make some significant improvements to the technology, along with the direct ability to upgrade the product in the future through iPhone delivered updates as well as hardware upgrades that our customers can install themselves.
TC: Tell us about the gTar before and after Disrupt. What did you think would happen before you got on stage?
Idan: Before Disrupt the gTar was still a relatively secret project being worked on in a closet-sized office in the flatland of Santa Clara. Before that I had originally started building the product in my garage in Cupertino and after that we were bouncing around for a while (even working for a month or so on an Icelandic ferry docked in the SF bay), but once we knew we were going to Disrupt everything sort of got official. Driven by the pressure to get things right, our team pulled together a really professional looking video and presentation in a matter of weeks while gearing up for what we felt was going to be a make it or break it point for the product.
TC: Were you scared? Excited? How does it feel to launch on stage?
Idan: It’s definitely exciting and almost foreboding to get up on the stage, especially considering that you have such a short amount of time and it’s not really possible to leave much to chance. You’re somehow stuffing three years of work into such a short little moment, and hope that people understand implicitly what had to go on under the hood to make all of that happen.
It definitely has this sort of epic feel to it and we were definitely nervous as all hell. We spent every waking moment practicing and rehearsing every word and sentence we were going to say. Also, our dependence on our early stage prototype hardware was always something we were worried about. For example, the night before our presentation, Josh had to run out to get a Dremel tool that he somehow managed to find at the only open hardware store in Manhattan, so that I could make some internal tweaks for us to re-route some wires through the prototype to avoid any potential battery issues or audio problems that might pop up on stage.
That prototype is in a case now, and we’re planning to hang it up as a piece of art. It was very much a super early prototype (and the only fully functional gTar in existence at that point) and we easily had disassembled and reassembled it at least 10-20 times over those few days. In fact, we did it so much that we were ruining the screws holding on the pick guard and by the last day we only had 3 left!
TC: How many did you pre-sell that day?
Idan: We launched the project around 2PM or something and we hit our $100K Kickstarter goal in just over 11 hours so by the end of the day we had pre-sold north of 200 gTars. The project ended up raising over $350k with about 850 people pledging to get a gTar.
TC: Why didn’t you play any really smoking hot-reggae jams on stage? Like “Stir It Up?”
To be honest I think we could have chosen a better set of songs for our demos, but we were also playing it a little safe as well since we wanted to choose a song that I could play well enough knowing that I’d probably freeze up on stage. I think you can probably see my leg shaking if you look carefully enough in the video of the first presentation. We actually got a lot of feedback on that demo, so for the second presentation we did change up the songs around, which definitely was a good move.
TC: What’s next for gTar? Another version?
Idan: We’re still working hard to get a gTar into the hands of everyone that backed us on Kickstarter, and are making solid progress and getting some great positive initial feedback. We’re eagerly awaiting another large shipment that’s on its way and on the ocean as we speak. We’ll be putting some serious effort into an Android dock and app, as well as Web browser based compatibility. We have done some light conceptualizations of how other instruments would work within our platform, but are mainly focused on the gTar for the moment.
We’re working hard to continuously make the gTar a better product, and as a result of some the design changes that went into effect during production, the units we are sending out today will also have the capability to benefit from those improvements as we roll them out. This includes continued improvement to our own app, such as a deeper exploration and development of the social aspects of the product.
A few weeks ago we launched an online store that is already generating pre-orders for the spring, and we’re developing retail distribution channels for the summer and holiday seasons. We’re also looking to expand our team over the next year as well!
TC: If Disrupt were an EBay account, what would you write in the review?
Idan: I would think that the comparison is much more likened to a summer fling. It’s a short, intense, and immensely rewarding experience that ends up surprisingly thrilling for everyone involved. At the end you might not end up being number one, but the experience will change you for the better.