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Circuit Breaker

After a disastrous launch for a great computer, Eve CEO says it won’t happen again

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‘I think we’ve made all the mistakes there are to make’

Just over a year ago, I reviewed a cool little computer called the Eve V. It was a Windows 10 2-in-1 that compared favorably in many ways to its obvious inspiration, Microsoft’s Surface Pro, while costing considerably less. The catch was that it came from an unknown company called Eve-Tech that had crowdfunded the device and sought input on its design from the campaign backers. I concluded the review by saying, “If Eve-Tech can follow through on supply and reliability — and that may be a big if — I absolutely recommend it.”

It was a big if.

Eve-Tech ran into financial issues and couldn’t produce enough of the V to meet demand, with many backers receiving their devices months or even years after they’d placed their orders. The company says it’s dealt with almost all of the outstanding orders, it can ship new ones out in two days, and it will soon offer substantial discounts on existing stock. At this point, though, it’s hard to recommend the Eve V and its 2017 Y-series processor over Microsoft’s recent quad-core Surface Pro refresh. (You’d really have to want USB-C.)

Now, Eve-Tech is planning its next moves. It’s secured a round of new investment and a new shipping partner, PCH International, and it’s starting to solicit ideas for its next products. I spoke to CEO Konstantinos Karatsevidis about what went wrong with the V and why anyone should consider giving their money to his company ever again.

“Eve V was our first crowd-developed project, and I think we’ve made all the mistakes there are to make during the project,” Karatsevidis tells me. “Along the way, we had options to solve delays by using lower-quality components and compromising on the final product value. We decided with the crowd that we’d better have a delay than compromise. And that’s why I think even today people who order V have their expectations exceeded by how the device feels and performs.”

That helps explain the delayed product development, but what about the shipping problems? The Eve V I reviewed was great, but others weren’t able to buy it. Karatsevidis puts this down to the company’s payments processor freezing funds after seeing unexpectedly high orders after a flash sale. “We immediately contacted them requesting an immediate release of funds in order to pay off vendors and fulfill orders, but were told to look for funds from a bank,” he says. “We warned them in advance about large sales amounts coming, but I think they didn’t take our forecasts seriously. So we ended up with a lot of devices sold and all of the funds frozen up. We had to switch to another payment processor and persuade our manufacturer to give better payment terms to resolve the issue.”

“Supply chain management is our weakness due to us being a small fish in a big sea,” Karatsevidis admits. “We’re competing with the Apples, Samsungs, and Microsofts of the world for the same premium components, and suppliers are reluctant to deal in the relatively small quantities we need.”

The CEO believes that the partnership with PCH International will give Eve-Tech better access to supply chain vendors and payment processing. “We finally have so much needed stability in terms of operation,” he says. “Now we can focus on what we do best — creating products with the end users — while [PCH] takes care of fulfillment and sourcing.”

Now, Eve-Tech wants to move on to the next thing, and it’s currently gathering ideas from its community. “It’s our job to know what is possible technologically while the end users tell us about their underlying needs,” Karatsevidis says. “In our community, we have thousands of people with cumulative thousands of years of experience of using a particular product, and they know better than anyone else what is wrong with it! As a gadget-obsessed team, we are quite tired of everyone guessing what the market data is saying and where competition is headed. We want to ask people passionate about tech to tell their story and what is missing in the market for their use case.”

Karatsevidis insists that the PCH partnership is “a game-changer. Since PCH will be invested in the products we make, there will be nothing holding them back from shipping them out to our customers. The problems of the past are, well, of the past.” Despite his optimism, though, there’s no way I can offer any advice other than to exercise even more caution over Eve-Tech purchases than I previously recommended. It’ll take time for the company to rebuild its reputation — if it happens at all.

What I can say is that the Eve V did live up to its creators’ goals, even though few people were able to get their hands on one. That, at least, suggests that Eve-Tech has an eye for pragmatic design that could make its next product worth watching. With any luck, actually shipping it won’t turn out to be as difficult this time around.

Photography by Sam Byford / The Verge