Around the Plynth, Vol. 1: Begin Here
This is the first monthly-ish Plynth update, which I’m calling “Around the Plynth”, after the semi-obscure Faces song. We’ve made a lot of progress the past few weeks, including a new prototype (v0.3), the launch of the (very alpha) web application and demo’ing at the Entrepreneur Expo, so let’s take this for a spin.
Side A: Product
Track 1: Web App is Live!
We launched a simple web app that lets you upload a photo, then identifies the album and asks whether it’s correct. It’s currently slower and less accurate than I’d like, but we’re getting there! Right now this is mainly to support testing, but it’s also a nice marketing tool. Very open to feedback. Next step is to account for different users and saving of collections, which is a requirement for the Plynth device as well. Give it a try and let us know what you think!
Track 2: Prototype Plynth
There’s a new look for Plynth, made just in time for the Expo. It’s a bit of a divergence from the mockup on the website, but I expect it to become more similar in future iterations. The two main differences are the camera position–it’s higher, and sits at more of an angle–which is the result of seeing how far we can push the boundaries of image dewarping. This is as much as it can handle right now, but it’s getting better all the tiiiiime. Better, better bettttter.
The other big difference is the higher back to prop up the album. Differing widths in vinyls (think double albums vs regular albums) means that the channel needs to be wide enough to account for thicker albums, but without a tall back that lets thinner albums lean back, which is a problem for both the camera and the vinyl. It’s also much larger/taller than the final version will be, to account for the Raspberry Pi board I’m using.
The prototype was 3D printed at Nextfab, a first for me. Happy with how it turned out, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. Take a look and let me know what you think!
Track 3: Hardware
A few week ago, Plynth was accepted to the Arrow Electronics Certification Program, and I had a follow-up call with one of their engineers to get their advice on electronics (thanks, Pierce and Jim!). More recently, I had a long call with Samuel Clay of Turn Touch, who gave me some invaluable advice about hardware and software design, as well as running a crowdfunding campaign. He basically did everything for his Turn Touch project himself, and documented all of it as an open source project, which is an incredible resource for someone like me. Check it out, it’s pretty great.
Track 4: Software
There’s been a lot of progress on the database stores the images, the machine learning algorithm that runs the image identification process, and the image handling. Next steps are to improve all of these, starting with image dewarping to get the camera closer to the album.
Side B: Business
Track 5: Entrepreneur Expo Was Excellent
We scored a free table at the Entrepreneur Expo last week at the Fillmore, organized by the Philly Startup Leaders as part of Philly Tech Week. Kevin and I manned the booth and were pretty blown away by the positive response, especially given how early-stage we are. Having some vinyl records on the table certainly attracted the right kind of crowd. My personal takeaway: the overlap between vinyl collectors and early adopters is probably larger than I realized, which is great for Plynth.
Track 6: Crowdfunding Campaign is Coming
The campaign is coming later this year, but in the meantime, Plynth will make more appearances at events like the Expo, the upcoming Philly Mini Maker Faire, and also record swaps, flea markets, and hopefully some record stores! I also had a meeting with a representative from Kickstarter a few weeks ago that was very helpful in shaping my approach. Big takeaway: build the audience.
Track 7: Business Development and Partnerships
I’ve applied for Spotify’s Hardware Partner program, which is a requirement to get Spotify Connect working on Plynth (aka that menu on your Spotify app that lets you choose the device–all of those devices have to be approved by Spotify). We also made it into MongoDB’s Startup Accelerator program, which gives us a bunch of credits towards out database costs as well as a few connections. Unfortunately didn’t make it into the Nextfab accelerator program or Comcast LIFT Labs, but, hey, they were a long shot given where I’m at.
Track 8: Talent Search
Still doing the majority of this on my own, but I’m actively searching for someone on the software development side who would be interested in coming on as a cofounder. Any referrals or advice are appreciated!
Big thanks to everyone, including all the friends and family I didn't mention here, who helped me get this far.
That’s all for now, folks. As always, for the latest updates, follow Plynth on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and, sure, why not, Youtube, Vimeo, Medium, or get this monthly update in your inbox by signing up on the website.