One year ago, the situation was like this:
We believed that locally-made and highly repairable circular home electronics would result in better products, less e-waste and emissions, more jobs with dignity and community-building.
We also had a concept for how it could work, starting with a modular kitchen mixer that reuses glass jars, with a casing made of local and recycled materials.
These looked like good ideas to us and we were motivated to develop them further, but there were challenges ahead:
Ken was under pressure looking for a new job or freelancing gigs. Paul was about to end his paternity leave and would have to go back to freelancing.
How to finance this project? We didn’t know.
If we built it, would people be willing to pay for such a device? We didn’t know.
Could we find local partners to source some of our parts, and assemble them in Berlin? We also didn’t know.
It smelled like adventure.
One shot, one opportunity.
We applied for the Circular Together Accelerator.
The design concept we used for the accelerator application.
And got selected.
Starting with the 1st of July 2021, each of us would receive a small salary for 6 months (plus mentoring and networking), to turn the concept into reality. This was great, as we didn’t have to look for freelance gigs anymore and could dedicate ourselves full-time to the project.
We needed a name.
We settled for Funk, a music genre associated with good vibes, as well as the rebellion of working class communities in their fight for civil rights. When the Chamber of Commerce told us it risks causing confusion with other brand names, we added the “Open”, to reflect our intention to be transparent and open-source throughout our designs and activities.
We needed a place to build stuff.
We stumbled upon Motion Lab Berlin, a maker-space where we could use their machines to build anything we want, plus get advice from a helpful community. We were ready to start.
Prototypes, prototypes, prototypes.
We’ve built a series of increasingly complex prototypes to validate assumptions we had about our modular kitchen mixer concept.
We first validated the basic design concept: a modular casing with customisable materials, colours and textures, that fits canning glass jars of different sizes.
In parallel, we hacked upon an existing mixer to see if using glass jars can technically and safely work on our device. Turns out, it does!
We then combined these learnings to build our first functional prototype. We used recycled plastics for our casing, and integrated reused parts and motors from old blenders for the electronics.
The first functional prototype, using arty recycled plastic panels and reused electronics.
On our own.
Starting in January, we finished the accelerator and were again on our own. We now had the confidence that this idea is worth pursuing, so we dedicated our energies and our private money to make it happen. We incorporated Open Funk UG. It felt like it was worth it.
From here on, we would refine the engineering, find the right sourcing partners, identify the right production methods and partners…and figure out how to get funding.
Funding. And crowdfunding.
Have you heard stories of founders growing a company, bringing investors in, and then losing control over it?
We didn’t want to end up there. So we chose to stay an independent company and look for alternative funding sources.
DBU (Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt) found value in our idea and decided to grant us financial support.
We also liked the idea of validating our product early, building a community, and engaging with it early-on. So we went to Kickstarter and found 241 lovely backers who supported our project. This meant we now had real customers, and a real commitment to deliver.
The official crowdfunding image we used for the crowdfunding campaign.
One year after
So here we are.
Some questions were answered.
We’ve built a device that combines circularity with aesthetics and functionality. We figured out how to finance the start of the project. People find value in re:Mix and are willing to pay for it. We found regional partners to source and assemble the device.
While other questions opened up.
How can we best coordinate fulfilment, sourcing all parts, assembling them, and delivering on time? How big do we want (and need) to get? How can we ensure our products get repaired or taken back? How can we further lower the environmental impact of our devices?
The adventure goes on. The funk is up.