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A Change of Direction
And if you are very lucky, your Oggi-box can be cited in a scientific paper. One of my other products could be glimpsed on the TV program, CSI somewhere or other.
For the last few years of running SingMai we have been mostly selling something called IP cores (intellectual property cores). These are not real physical things, but similar to software code (except they produce integrated crcuits). We email them to customers. The only real physical thing is maybe an evaluation board to test them, but testing can be done just on a computer (I don't like to do that - as I was once told, simulation is like masturbation - it can seem like the real thing, but isn't). Occasionally we are told something about where our design may end up, a Chinese car manufacturer or even the International Space Station, but most companies keep this information close to their chest. And, unlike when you a buy a finished product, we get constant requests for modifications, some small, some huge, and usually only after the contract has been signed because the customer hasn't read the initial specification properly.
Because of this I have tried to move away from the IP cores to selling real stuff, but little things, such as enjoying eating or not sleeping on the streets, means we accept whatever orders come our way. And those orders have been almost exclusively IP cores.
But COVID has meant that companies are taking longer to make a decision about ordering and we have also had some cancellations. A long time ago, when your author was but a young lad with dreams and aspirations, a Chinese company enquired about one of our products. Quotations were sent, but then all went quiet. Months later they enquired again, but after a few emails all went quiet again. Then, out of the blue, we got a request for a new quotation. This author was now a senior citizen, so this came as a surprise. First, the Chinese company requested, we need to get you as an approved supplier on our system, but we need to do this quickly as we wish to order within two weeks. Forms were filled in. Lots of them. Not just the usual information forms, but financial records for three years, size of factory, qualifications of staff etc. etc. etc. Forms were completed. More were sent. Originals of the forms had to be sent by post. Then silence. Weeks passed. I gently enquired what had happened to 'within two weeks'. Ah, they replied. We have decided to put this order out to tender. Now, to my knowledge, and it is in my interest to know these things, no-one else can offer this IP core. We are not expensive - far from it - so it must be that for whatever reason, they don't want to buy from us. They are desperate to find another company to offer this. I chatted with Ploy. 'Fuck 'em', she replied. 'It's a $65,000 order, and I have it - it's ready to go', was my response. 'But you won't get it. You'll just waste more time filling in forms'. So we are going to refuse to accept the tender invitation (assuming we are invited).
And this kickstarted the discussion about selling these evil IP cores. I don't like selling them - I don't get my engineer kick out of selling them. They are a pain to sell as customers, often with no knowledge of what they doing, rely on you to make their product work - the entire product. I have to visit the customer for training and help with testing. And I have one customer, four years after they bought the original IP core, that still send requests for changes (they do pay for this, but even so, I'd rather not have the money and not have the email).
So Ploy and I decided we will take a hit. We have other orders, we have lots of 'real' products at various stages of development, we have a really interesting development job with a Yorkshire company. If you find me, in six months' time, sleeping under a railway viaduct, you'll know we made the wrong decision. But, alternatively, I may see one of my products featured on a TV program somewhere or endearingly referred to as a Singbox by a university academic.
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