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WakeMate (YC S09) Shipping Delayed (druwynings.com)
58 points by dwynings on Jan 23, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 55 comments

Wakemate is really handling this situation poorly. Yes, delays due to hardware are a good reason. But introducing pay-for features as compensation for those delays is not.

It seems that this is a classic case of engineers doing bizdev. Those two have virtually no overlap. For example, "I'm really sorry you feel this way" is the equivalent of "quit whining" and you should never say that to anyone unless you actually mean "quit whining".

Bizdev is hard. I got bitten by it hard when I started my company. Nowadays, each mail me and colleagues send get meticulously checked by the others, and any bullshitting gets taken out. I think they would do good to do something similar. Let me know how it works ;-)

Good point, this is one of the things that always bothers me too.

Real apologies don't start with "I'm sorry that you.." Real apologies start with "I'm sorry that I.."

I want my money back, and I'm going to request it till they do. I feel cheated - fitbit is shipping, and what the hell is this bullshit about premium analytics?! When I pre-ordered there was no indication that there was going to be a monthly fee - and now they are delayed and can't even say when it will appear. And they are talking of MONTHS of delay?

I was really impressed when I first saw the company, but my mood has swung the other way entirely. I do not think they ever had a product to begin with. I want my $5 back and my fitbit will only cost $94 and not $99.

YCS09? That's more than 10 months ago. If they can't ship till now, then they will be slow and not add any features to match the competition. Sorry, but if you are in a business with good competitors and you have already collected your customers money, you just don't do this.

Fitbit had a shipping delay of about a year. Check their blog: http://blog.fitbit.com/

Granted, their preorder was free.

And, like so many others, they don't ship outside the US. You can read about it on their FAQ: http://www.fitbit.com/faq#shippingoutsideus

For the record, YCS09 began 8 months ago and ended 5 months ago.

Give the guys a little slack, you might be jumping to conclusions. And we of all people knew the risks with buying a hardware product from a startup.

As far as fitbit being and alternative, it doesn't do wake mates main function: wake you up at the right time.

That said if you want your money back I hope they give it to you hassle free. They missed their dead line and there is no reason they shouldn't try their best to satisfy customers who want their deposit back. Let us know if goes well.

I'm really sorry you feel that way. Of course if you want your money back we have no problem refunding your 5 dollars.

We've developed some great premium features in addition to the existing product. The main features are still free.

We're working really hard to get the product out. It's difficult to launch quickly and iterate with hardware and we want the product to be amazing. I can promise that it will definitely be worth the wait!

"Sorry everyone, we really fucked this one up! Chalk it up to a massive learning experience for our entire company. This being our first mass email, we didn't phrase anything well enough, we didn't check it thoroughly enough, and we didn't properly communicate our business model and what people are really paying for. Like I said, we fucked this one up.

Here's the deal- the hardware delays are due to us finding some very cool improvements that increase the accuracy of the device 50% and reduce power consumption significantly. Since this is a hardware product, we don't want our first users stuck with a shitty revision that's significantly worse than a version we ship in three months. To do this only takes a one month delay, and the logistics of shipping two versions, one for people who want the 'old' version now and one for people who want the 'new' version in a month just wouldn't work. There's only three of us, so we have to make some gut decisions.

However, we didn't communicate the premium features well at all- we haven't even begun working on them yet! They have nothing to do with the delay, and, though very cool, they don't affect the core functionality of the product- helping you wake up more refreshed every single morning. This is more for folks who love geeky graphs like us :) We'll be charging something trivial like $3.99/month, but felt it would be a nice token of appreciation to people who had to have their product delayed.

Again, my apologies for all of this- we'll definitely improve how we communicate with our customers starting immediately. And, if anyone has any questions, here's my email so you can get ahold of me directly : [ceo's email here]."

Why are you apologizing for them feeling that way? It seems to me like everyone is reacting in the same way. Perhaps you should apologize for your own behavior.

I don't think the delay is near as bad as the way you guys are handling it. I'm a bit taken aback and I haven't even invested in your product. If it were my company, everyone would be refunded their $5 since they pre-ordered to receive their product on time. I would certainly not offer (what appears as) contrived premium features.

Part of the reason why there is some backlash against this announcement isn't so much against that it's going to be late, but that the monthly fee was a complete surprise.

It's totally normal (and encouraged!) to have premium features, but the shipping delayed announcement went like this:

* Hey peoples are really excited about wakemate! * We've made some breakthroughs in the development of wakemate that makes it more awesome than before (yay!) * Because we've been making it better it's going to be delayed, and we're going to compensate the delay by giving you free access to the premium analytics features. (Wait, what? What premium analytics features?)

I think this announcement would have been received better if the premium features had been mentioned in the same paragraph announcing all the breakthroughs. The premium feature could have been presented as benefit of these breakthroughs (with the increased feature set, we can now charge for value), but because it was first mentioned as part of compensation of the delayed release, it comes across as negative.

"I'm really sorry you feel that way. Of course if you want your money back we have no problem refunding your 5 dollars."

Wow, this comes across as bitter and nasty. How about:

"I am really sorry you feel that way let us refund your money," or the like. Seriously. Your previous comment is such bad business just based on how demeaning it comes across. Better yet:

"I am really sorry you feel that way let us refund your money. However, we've developed some great premium features that you may be interested in; and of course our the main features are free. Can we convince you otherwise?"

I would take the "you feel that way" out and replace it by:

"I'm sorry with our miscommunication, let us refund you your money. However, we've developed some great premium features that you may be interested in; and of course our the main features are free. Can we convince you otherwise?"

"I'm sorry you feel that way" makes it seems that it's the customer's fault and not their fault, it's demeaning to the customer.

Your tone is a bit incorrect for the particular situation. But whatever makes you happy. Just give me back my $5, I'll buy myself a beer this evening at a bar.

You don't get it. As somebody noted up-thread, real apologies start with "I'm sorry I" not "I'm sorry you."

I think they should give the premium features to those of us who pre-ordered, for free, permanently.

It wouldn't cost them anything extra to do so (maybe a few dollars/year in server costs for the entire pre-order userbase). Sure, they will lose potential subscriber costs for some pre-order customers, but if they can't sell enough WakeMates to make the pre-order crowd an insignificant blip, then they are not going to be able to succeed anyway. Furthermore, the pre-order crowd is the group you really, really want to be happy. They are going to be the first to give their impressions to the world, and those tweets/reviews/blog posts are going to be at the top of Google's search results for near-infinity.

I feel like a pre-order was a commitment to Wakemate, and they are not honoring their side in expecting us to pay more to fully utilize the product. They can say that the premium model has features in addition to what was initially planned, but I think that anyone who planned to buy the product expected the free service to improve and add features over time anyway, so it seems that effort is instead being redirected to the premium version.

Exactly, I expected the web version to improve over time, and I expected (and was fully willing) to pay for a better and improved wakemate down the road (better battery life, smaller, etc).

Having to pay for both hardware upgrades and for monthly analytics... that seems a bit much.

Also the WakeMate marketing message is disingenuous: "Limited quantity, reserve today" it says on the front page, which indicates that the WakeMate device actually exist. From the email they sent this morning it's clear that they accepted "thousands" of pre-orders and that the device was still in the concept phase (otherwise they could never make all those changes to the design/internals).

How a company acts in the first few months is generally a pretty good indicator of how the company is going to turn out. Maybe I should get out while I can.

Perhaps they should have announced the monthly fees before the delay. I'm more than a little disappointed to find out that I'm not getting it on time, and that I might unexpectedly have to pay a monthly fee once it does ship.

Any piece of hardware that has a contrived monthly fee attached to it should be avoided.

Satellite TV? Tivo? Hell most internet connections are this. A bit of an over-generalization.

No, not really. Those are not contrived, they simply wouldn't function without the online component.

But this devices would works as good, or even better if it did not need outside connectivity.

It's just a way to turn a device into a service.

They've answered this concern on Twitter:

"all the planned features are still free! we've developed some new awesome premium features that we're planning on charging for."


This is pissing me off more and more. How do I know that these "premium" features are not the actual features that I want? They may just give me the bare minimum, and since I already invested $50, they now try to squeeze more money out of me by withholding the good stuff.

Tell me this stuff before you make me pre-order. Let me be aware what I am getting into. I thought that the hardware is what you pay for, and the website and all awesome upgrades would be free. But it seems the hardware is just the entry ticket, then they will do the usual - premium, solo, business bullshit to try to make me pay them $99 a month or whatever.

This is bullcrap, and I feel it is dishonest marketing. I would not be pissed off if they just asked me to put my email on a list. But they asked me to give then $5! Then turn around and stab me in the back. No, I don't want your product anymore.

When I give you money, we have entered into a very different kind of relationship, and you have given me the right to get pissed off about you and complain on the internet.

The negative tone in this thread is incredibly out of character of Hacker News. What happened to civility?

If you have a problem with the way they handled these delays, I can understand. Getting delayed -sucks- and getting a crappy response sucks worse. It reminds me of dealing with airlines - they already have my money and can't manage to give me a straight answer.

But please consider giving these guys a break. Hardware is hard! It's a delicate balance between software and electrical engineers. You can't avoid outsourcing production - a process that's hard to manage for cost and quality standards. You don't just hack a site over a weekend and go from there. It takes tons of planning and lots of risks. It is not easy.

If you don't like it, at least give them the benefit of common curtesy. Email them sternly and politely and request your money back. Problem solved.

You know why I'm harsh now? Because this is just a small community. They are dealing with a mass-market product - if they discover the things that piss off customers now, they will know better how to do things in the future.

Yes, hardware is hard, but if you coddle a business then it will grow in expectancy that things will just fall in their lap. They made a serious mistake - it annoys me, and I'm telling them. If they think that I am wrong for saying my opinion, then they will repeat the mistake and they will piss off more customers that way.

I was really really a big fan of their approach when they launched. But they fucked it up. They did something wrong, and because they belong to this community, we could pat them on the back and say - oh you'll do better next time - but the customers do not belong to this community. The customers don't give a shit who YC or PG are, all they know is this same feeling I am feeling now. And they will convey the same impression to their friends, other potential customers.

WakeMate is not launching a new concept. They are entering a market with established competitors. They need some tough love, because they just played bad with their greatest asset.

Their greatest asset is the fact that they have a direct line to the early adopter community, through this site and through the YC program. This social network is what they can use to leapfrog over competition. Apart from that, they have little compared to FitBit and others.

If they mess with their core advantage, people have to let them know. There HAS to be a negative tone so that they know they fucked up. If we are all nice and dandy, then they will merrily go on whistling down the road till they discover that the cliff started a few steps back.

They fucked up. I am angry. I am communicating this to them, so that they know how what they did makes their customers feel.

If you feel it is not neccessary to communicate this to them, then it is you doing them a disservice.

you have implied that they lied about ever having a product and that their company is falling apart behind the scenes because their shipping was delayed and mentioned they have premium features. both of which I think everyone expected anyway.

I dont think they announced their premium stuff in the best way, but you went well past the stage of giving constructive advice, or "tough love"

Whoever came up with this email should employ the George Costanza tactic - take your instincts, and do (write) the opposite.

Exactly. Also, for many people, it's not the $5 or $50, it's that they were really looking forward to using the product because they wake up tired every morning. That to me is the issue, the trivial amount of money customers paid up front is not.

In the email they mention delays due to new innovations -- so basically, I won't be getting my product on time because they were developing a premium service I didn't know about and will now have to pay for to benefit. Doesn't seem right...

I'm sorry if it seemed that way. The new features are in software and the delays are mostly hardware related. I would be pissed too if it was delayed because we were trying to squeeze more money out of you. That's not the case.

Appreciate the clarification.

I think the non-conciliatory tone and some of the content from your email is a little off-putting to a lot of folks.

Whereas most people were expecting to receive an actual product within a week or two, we're now told we'll have to wait indefinitely; words like "tentatively" "first batch" and "as early as" convey this.

If we're waiting because the hardware got better, give us some specifics instead of keeping it vague. I was under the impression the WakeMate was already awesome -- if it's delayed, tell me what you've been working on and improving to show me why I should still be excited about this, why you guys did me a favor by delaying.

The delay email is also functioning as an introduction to PREMIUM features (at a cost) that nobody was aware of, which feels out of place in the context of the message's initial intent.

I'm sure you guys are working hard and round the clock, but unfortunately we don't get to see and experience that, live and breath the company with you guys. All we're aware of is the image you convey in the few paragraphs you send to us. As a company that people have invested in, that has taken money from soon-to-be customers, you need to be ultra-cognizant of how you present to us.

I've worked in places where we've hired professional writers to get out our message. At first, like any smug technologist who thought he had a perfect grasp of the English language, I thought they were a waste of money. But what I didn't realize is how well professional writers can empathize with readers.

First off, I'm not too upset with the email I received. But your email suffered from mixed messages.

In 1999 here in Toronto there was a huge snowstorm. We received 1.2 m of snow that month. We ran out of places to store the stuff (e.g., once it's ploughed in a city you can only pile it so high, it must be trucked elsewhere at some point). Everyone was beginning to get pissed at the city government for how it was handling a situation which, remember, was out of its control. All they could do was react. I remember one memorable news briefing in which the head of the department responsible for clearing our roads got up and issued a statement. I'm paraphrasing from memory (and assembling some facts via Google). But it went something like this:

"We have 800 city staff, 1400 contracted workers, and over 500 military personnel currently working around the clock to clear the snow. They are collectively using 2000 pieces of heavy equipment including ploughs, ice melters, salters, and front-end loaders. That said, Toronto has 5600 km of roads and 7945 km of sidewalks. We cannot clear all roads and sidewalks instantaneously and it will take some time. We believe we can clear the highways and main arterial roads in the next 24 hours. If needed, military personnel in Bison vehicles will respond to 911 calls in order to transport victims to the hospital. It will take several more days to clear side streets and we will need your help. You will be notified when your street will be ploughed. Please remove parked cars so that we can accomplish this task more easily. You will not be ticketed for parking elsewhere during this time. If you do not move your car, it may be towed to an adjacent street at no charge."

The mood seemed to change after that. The statement single-handedly accomplished the following things. It:

-clarified the scope and magnitude of the problem we were facing in a manner that everyone could understand

-reassured people that the government was on top of things by providing specific facts

-set manageable expectations

A statement like the following would have been way better received I think (I'm making up some facts of course):

"Wakemate launched 75 days ago as a 2 person startup. We began pre-orders 50 days ago to incredible demand. In fact, we have received over 5000 pre-orders which is above and beyond our wildest dreams for initial demand. We are currently working 7 days a week around the clock in order to get you your Wakemate as quickly as possible. But we are sorry to inform you that we will not be able to meet our original deadline of January 25th. Instead, we anticipate that we will be able to fulfill our pre-orders over the course of the next 90 days. So that we may more effectively address the orders, we need to know what device you will be using the Wakemate with and who your service provider is (link to survey). This information will allow us to prioritize shipment and provide you with more specific shipping dates. You will receive another email by February 15th detailing such information. Should you have any questions or concerns about your pre-order, please email us at..." (leave the whole premium feature spiel for the follow-up email as there is nothing that customers can do to utilize these features now anyway)

Just now seeing this thread. I posted my thoughts regarding the reply here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1072131

A couple questions:

1) The phones listed are iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Windows mobile, Palm & non-smart phone. Which category does symbian fall under?

I have already been informed by email that there will be a s60 app.

2) Premium analytics?? I was under the impression that the entire analysis would be made available as a service that came with the device.

The site, as far as I can tell, does not mention that some of the analysis is only available on a subscription basis in addition to the initial purchase price.

In order to compensate for this delay, we will be giving everyone who pre-ordered one month of Premium Analytics Features FREE for EACH month their delivery is delayed.

EACH month? That doesn't bode well...

"EACH month? That doesn't bode well..."

Yes but otoh

"We've tentatively planned for the first batch of WakeMates to be shipped as early as next month, but we'll keep you updated every step of the way. The next message we'll be sending out will include when you are getting your WakeMate and a link to finalize your purchase."

It's ridiculously lame. They've turned their fuckup into an attempt to up-sell people to a monthly service, and all without ever really apologizing.

One month per month? That's a really bad joke.

It's as though they're trying to make sure their early adopters are unhappy, and don't recommend them, or generate positive publicity.

Agreed, there is no mention of additional fees or subscription services on the site. I will be really disappointed if that is the case (maybe it some extra analytics that they haven't yet revealed to the world that they would charge for?).

Not including an option for Symbian is going to screw up their figures, at least for non-US respondents. Symbian phone users are either going to pick "non-smartphone", which is misleading, or more likely skip the survey, which means a hefty response bias. I've sent them an email to this effect; you might want to as well.

Edit: I checked again and the form now has a Symbian option.

Their web site still says "Limited quantity, reserve today! Pay $5 now and the rest when it ships. (Expected ship date 1/25/10)"

I realized when I got this email this evening that I have pre-ordered both the WakeMate and the FitBit. When I get both I shall have to run side-by-side feature comparisons, seeing as I've blown the money already anyway...

Was excited about WakeMate, so much so that I ended up just buying a Zeo. Been using it as an alarm clock for about a month now, and gotta say, its incredible. It basically wakes you up every morning when it detects you are already in light sleep. Been a big morning changer for me since I started using it.

If WakeMate can provide anything close to Zeo for what they're charging (much much less), I think they'll do well.

Just been chatting with the WakeMate guys via the new instant message feature on their website - they've pledged to give these "premium" features to all preorder customers for free for life to make up for their crappy email today.


Yeah, talked with them and told me the same. Shipping will be starting like at th end of february, BUT free LIFETIME premium!

Even if premium was 5$/month, you could save over 700$ in 5 years, not to tell in a lifetime.

I thought the benefit of wakemate versus other similar gadgets was the price. When premium features are included, does it really win on price?

I wonder why I didn't get this e-mail. I pre-ordered one some time ago.

I pre-ordered the product and I did not receive this e-mail either. I forget the exact options relating to e-mail that I selected during the Google Checkout process, but I either chose not to disclose my e-mail address to the seller or I did not opt in for e-mails from the seller. I'm guessing you did the same and that's why we didn't receive the e-mail.

If one of the WakeMate guys read this, it would be good to post this on the blog or main website so people who did not get the e-mail can still get the information directly from WakeMate and fill out the questionnaire.

Yeah I agree, I didn't get this email and I was frantically checking their blog, which looks dead, and their website, which hasn't changed to reflect anything said in the email.

Same here. What's with the 'fill out the form to stay on our list' bit? Did I not already pay you money to stay on your pre-order list?

same here, even checked spam...

I never even received a status delay email from WakeMate. I had to learn about it on TechCrunch.

As a matter of fact, in checking my email archive, I've had NO communication from WakeMate. The only thing I have is my Paypal receipt for my deposit. And I see that now they have switched to Google Checkout for payment processing.

As an early adopter, have I slipped through a crack?

Sending customers to a blog which hasn't been updated for two months for more information probably isn't the best idea either...

looking forward to it! thanks for the update guys

This makes me wonder, has there ever been a successful YC company like WakeMate, ie that was more than just a web application? Maybe it's just a problem of WM having teamed up with an ill-suited process?

This is well written. And the free membership into the premier club is a great low cost way of rewarding people. Making hardware is freakin difficult, and the margins are always thinner than you want in the beginning.

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