Once upon a time, there was a Kickstarter project called Brydge to build an awesome clamshell, aluminum keyboard for the iPads. It was funded well beyond expectations and got off to a good start. But the company went astray and there were many unhappy customers. In this interview, Nicholas Smith tells the story about how Brydge was brought under new management that has tried to make everything right again.
Back in 2012, it was very exciting to hear about the Brydge Kickstarter project. The goal was to make a beautiful aluminum keyboard, connected via Bluetooth, that would make an iPad 2,3,4 look almost identical to a MacBook.TMO was sent a unit and reviewed with the verdict: "The Brydge: a First-rate Case & Keyboard for Your iPad." The rating for the device itself was 4.5/5 "Great!"
Regrettably, the team that launched Brydge didn't do as good a job with the order fulfillment system. Units didn't get shipped on time or at all to some people who paid in advance, and the Brydge group quickly earned a reputation for poor customer service. Many customers appealed to The Mac Observer, seeking assistance, and the comments following the above review documents a litany of customer complaints. And that was just what came around our way.
Nicholas J. Smith
Early this spring, this editor was contacted by Nicholas J. Smith in Singapore who told us that he had formed a new company, Brydge Keyboards, which had assumed ownership of Brydge. He was in the process of relaunching the brand and offered us a chance to interview him about the new company.
Mr. Smith was asked some rather probing questions, and he answered them all cheerfully and completely. Hopefully, the interview below, conducted via email, will provide a good understanding of the new company, its approach to customer service and what the future holds for Brydge Keyboards.
TMO: Briefly introduce us to how you took over from thebrydge.com. Did you buy the old company and its assets outright? How does that work with a foreign company?
NJS: We’ve taken over the Brydge business via an exclusive global licence and are now the exclusive manufacturers and distributors of the Brydge iPad Keyboard. Our company is new and completely separate. Brydge LLC is still owned by Brad, Sam and Eddy however Brydge LLC no longer operates the Brydge business.
TMO: How did you come to personally know the Brydge team? You mentioned you have a very close relationship with them. Was that before you took over or after?
NJS: It's a great story. I travel all over Asia and while in Korea on a trip I came across the Brydge. After realising I couldn’t get one I reached out to the Brydge Team to enquire about Distribution in Asia. After some negotiations my partner (Toby Mander-Jones) and I began distributing the Brydge across South East Asia. After moderate success, it was becoming evident that the founders (Sam, Eddy and Brad) were starting to focus on other ventures. There was no roadmap for a future model and more so, the willingness to support us was wavering. However we saw huge opportunity in the Brydge.
From there we had a very open conversation about their direction and how we could help and what resulted was an offer from Brydge LLC for us to take over the business. With our backgrounds, it was clear that Brydge had built a very strong brand and ultimately a great product but it had been hampered by incredibly poor customer service, next to no vision on how to scale the business through an enterprise sales strategy and more so had not invested properly in building out an enterprise online distribution platform. All of these points combined pointed towards a business that had great potential but was being driven into the ground.
Our relationship with the team now is quite different. We have regular communications with Sam and daily or weekly communications with Eddy. Given Eddy’s focus on the original production of the Brydge, we’ve now engaged with him as our head of product innovation and manufacturing. Having him onboard as our manufacturer is critical in maintaining the high quality of the Brydge as we develop new models.
Next: Backgound on the founder and company.