The humble perf board has been around for a long time, so it’s probably safe to say that every electrical engineer has had a moment where they wanted to give a wire tangled, half-functional prototype on perf board the same treatment a printer gets in “Office Space”. But while the problem is old and familiar to EE’s, few solutions have arisen over the years. Sometimes the best solution to an old problem is a new set of eyes. That’s where Perf+ 2 creator and young entrepreneur Ben Wang comes in.
Like many engineers, Ben’s gateway drug into building things and programming was experimenting with Lego and Mindstorm when he was very young. Building on that exposure, by the tender age of thirteen, Ben was designing and building his own electronics. One day, while he was working on a perf-board prototype battery tester for a school science project, he found himself getting increasingly frustrated with the tangle of criss-crossing wire jumpers. He thought to himself, “there has to be a better way to prototype.”
Turns out, there is. Inspired by traditional perf board and guided by his youthful, fresh perspective, he came up with Perf+ and Perf+ 2, prototyping boards with a two-dimensional twist. What’s special about Perf+? The campaign page says it perfectly: “Perf+ has the advantage of not requiring any jumper cables over traditional prototyping methods such as stripboards and veroboards. Perf+ is a double sided circuit board with perpendicular traces on each side. The unique design allows any two holes to be connected together with an easy solder bridge.” Basically, Perf+ lets engineers and hobbyists create neater, cleaner, simpler prototypes with fewer errors.
Initial success with the first Perf+ encouraged Ben to seek crowdfunding for the next iteration, Perf+ 2, so that he could make as large a manufacturing run as possible and thereby keep costs down for everyday users. He chose Crowd Supply for its “targeted audience of electronic enthusiasts” and the access to potential new markets. He also appreciated that Crowd Supply could provide help with marketing and outreach and, once the campaign concluded, could spare him the headache of order processing and fulfillment.
It turns out that was a good call, as Perf+ 2 ended up raising more than 2000% of its original goal! It also garnered positive evaluations from reviewers such as Hackaday. Fortunately, Ben was prepared for that eventuality, and because he had established a relationship with his manufacturers early in his campaign he was able to handle the additional orders. As he says, always “make sure to partner with companies who are able to handle large volumes, and maybe have separate manufacturing plans for different volumes.”
The unexpected success of Perf+ 2 also illustrates another important lesson for creators. As Ben puts it, “In crowdfunding campaigns, nothing will go according to schedule. Make sure to allocate an extra month or two of slack in your schedule so that you can deliver on time. Most crowdfunding campaigns deliver late, so if you are able to do it on time, you will give a good impression to your backers and keep them coming back for more!” We would add that it’s much easier to retain good will from backers who got what they expected, when they expected it than it is it earn that good will back after multiple delays. So building the possibility of delays into your manufacturing schedule is actually good marketing.
Encouraged by the success of the Perf+ 2 campaign, Ben is now considering a Perf+ 3 iteration which would be “optimised for more complex designs.” However, he says he’s also likely to keep the Perf + 2 around, since it is so friendly to beginners. Starting college with half a decade of electronic product development and design experience, Ben is hardly a beginner himself. But it’s nice to know that he’s keeping the rest of us in mind. We’re excited to see what he comes up with next, he is clearly a creator to keep an eye on.