Who Has Permission to Create? America’s Lucky and Precarious Position in the Global Economy

We’re almost to a place where my Chinese design and engineering teams understand the US consumer aesthetic. I suggest a few tweaks to the cosmetics of the soon to be created wearable, and about an hour later I get back some really nice renderings that capture my feedback.

The software engineers at the factory in Guangzhou have made a spec app for the yet to be finished wearable. It displays a lot of data about your body, almost too much. That’s fine because we can always dial back features. It’s harder to make new ones.

The device design process and the software are a free exercise as part of the collaboration to make something together. The software will also be included, but we’ll need to pay for some development time later to dial back the readouts and adjust the user experience. There will also be some licensing fees to pay for Bluetooth and a few other OEM chipsets we’re using.

A business conversation on WeChat

The factory invoices me on the spot through WeChat. I pay for the initial prototype and we adjourn. In four weeks I’ll get a package in the mail with the new device and some spec packaging. The factory will throw packaging design in, but we’ll still have to redesign it with a relatively expensive American creative director so that it works for the market.

We probably won’t have to pay that expensive creative director to work on the packaging for the next product though. The Chinese creatives are really good, and will have a much better understand of what plays in America by then.

We’ll sell every unit of our smaller initial run on our own e-commerce websites at a 70% margin. We could go to a big box retailer, but that would mean setting up a meeting with someone on a high horse, and then traveling to Minneapolis or Cleveland or Chicago to be told that our product is worth half of what we know customers will pay. Eventually, they will want to meet with us anyway, and we can afford to wait until then, if we take the meeting.

Pretty soon, China won’t need me to come up with new product ideas. In fact, they won’t need me for anything at all…

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