Merge has been inundated with change ever since they landed their last round of funding. I’ve made it a priority over the last couple weeks to make frequent visits to their office and see what’s happening.
When I set foot in the Merge office for the first time I was scrutinized the entire time I was there. A stranger in the Merge environment would feel eyes following them as they passed desks from the moment they walked in to the moment they left.
Now, there are so many new people and random visitors making their way in and out that you often don’t get a second glance from anyone when you walk in. The new activity is constant and so is the change. The one consistency has been co-founder and head of hardware, Jasper Collins.
Jasper hasn’t taken a single work day off since I started covering Merge two months ago. He’s the rock in a churning ocean of change. I had the chance to sit down with Jasper this week to peer inside his view of Merge’s growth and future potential.
Jack: What do you think sets Merge apart from other startups you’ve seen in Silicon Valley and here in Canada?
Jasper: We’re marrying the hardware and software divisions of both smartphones and personal computers together to create something unique for users. The physical design of the device and the software look and feel are each unique. This is something that’s not happening anywhere in the world on two different fronts. That’s what makes me excited every day.
Jack: With the recent influx of cash into the company, what do you think will be the biggest obstacle to success in the short and long term?
Jasper: First off, there is no short and long term for Merge. Only the long. I didn’t uproot my family and move to another country just to build something and have it sold off quickly to a multi-national looking to acquire talent and patents.
As for the biggest obstacle we face, I think it’s speed. Putting our devices in the hands of users quickly will be a huge undertaking, especially when we could screw up the design or development of something along the way.
Jack: So the philosophy of “done is better than perfect” doesn’t apply to Merge.
Jasper: I think that quote is over simplifying what it takes to build something that will catch on and last in our consumer world. To say, “done is better than perfect” is to imply you don’t care about your end user, you only care about taking their money,
If we don’t create great products, they won’t catch on, regardless of how innovative the product is. Look at the original MP3 players from 15 years ago. They did the job, held a few songs, but they were horrible to use day in and day out. In comes the iPod. It had massive storage ability for the time, seamless design, and an unparalleled user experience. Sure the devices were 3 times the cost of a comparable MP3 player, but that didn’t matter to the user because the product was great.
That’s what we’re up against. We have an innovative product, a wonderful design concept on both the device and the software interface, but we need users. And, paid users preferably.
Jack: With the need to find paid users, what are the next steps in making that happen?
Jasper: We need to finalize the design of the device we are going to go into production with. We’re close. After that, I need to head off to our manufacturers in China and get that ball rolling. We plan on doing a pre-sale and in order to make that happen as seamless as possible, we need to have solid, working devices that are ready. Not a huge production run, but certainly a commitment of 30-40,000 devices.
We also need to make sure the processes are in place in case the pre-order goes as well we expect and need more devices to keep our customers happy. We’re still small, and have a niche product so we are seeking to bring working revenue in and show a consumer interest beyond our initial user focus groups with CIOs and people off the street.
Jack: You speak about processes and manufacturing, but where do the people of Merge come into play?
Jasper: Having the right people makes us move forward faster. With Alison back in the city the software side is pushing ahead and even since Ryan came back he has been more intense than ever before. He’s going to come along with me on our trip to China.
The people of Merge, especially the new ones, are bringing lots of energy to the product and even new ideas for our next iterations of Merge devices. I might not jump up on my desk and yell with excitement with my arms pumped above my head, but I’m very, very excited for where we are headed. But our first public product needs to be perfect, not just done.
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