ZAGREB, July 23, 2020 — Albert Gajšak, the young CEO (he is only 21) of CircuitMess, produces DIY robot kits and recently moved from his garage in Karlovac to new offices in Lučko. His business is thriving despite the COVID-19 crisis.
“We simply have to adapt. People were urging me to freeze everything, and not throw myself into new projects this year, but I am glad I did not listen to them. People have not stopped shopping or living. Many have lost their jobs, there is less money but not everything has stopped. In fact, COVID-19 motivated us to learn something new,” he points out to Tena Šarčević/Jutarnji List.
DIY Robot Kit Kickstarter Campaign Raises 106,000 Dollars
The so-called Karlovac DIY genius sold over 15,000 MAKERbuino game consoles and MAKERphone mobile phones in three years. His well-known DIY robot kits combine STEM education and entertainment. Despite the corona crisis, his company CircuitMess is growing and that growth is exponential. Just over a week ago, they introduced six new products under the brand STEMbox. Their Kickstarter campaign has attracted 558 subscribers from over 30 countries and raised over 106,000 dollars.
“We hope that this campaign will break our record with MAKERphone when we raised 324,000 dollars. It was the biggest Kickstarter campaign in Croatia at that time. However, we have already collected twice as much money in less time for our new campaign,” Gajšak reports.
The new company headquarters is in Lučko and employs 15 people within 270 square meters. There are several departments, two meeting rooms and a spacious kitchen. Along with numerous awards, the walls showcase the framed sketches of MAKERbuino and MAKERphone which Albert drew in high school.
A boombox is also among those sketches, an idea which never came to fruition, but it inspired a DJ desk called Jay-D. Each of the six new products has one common feature, which has become Gajšak’s trademark: The user assembles and codes the product.
New DIY Robot Kits: Spencer & Wheelson
“We launched two DIY robot kits in the last three years, and now we’ve developed six in just over half a year, and we have a bunch of other ideas. We also have Wheelson, an autonomous car,” says Albert. The car has a camera so it can follow the road. There’s also Spencer, a talking robot, a version of the popular advisor Alex.
“It comes with a big red ‘mushroom’, a button you press to talk to the robot. It gives you answers, and you can program it to react to words or sentences. The idea was to jump on board with the smart assistant hype and show children and young people how they work,” Albert explains.
ByteBoi, on the other hand, is an updated version of the MAKERbuino.
“We replaced MAKERbuino with a new version that costs almost the same but has a color screen and can be programmed in one internet interface. And ByteBoi has a Wi-Fi network, which can be paired with Wheelson and used as a controller,” he adds.
The overall goal is to connect kids with technology.
‘Netflix’ for learning STEM
Not only are the DIY robot kits innovative, Gajšak and his team are selling them in an unusual manner.
“We are a kind of Netflix for learning STEM,” he says. The purchase of STEMboxes works on a subscription basis. The customer can buy one, two, five or all six products, and a new device will arrive every three months.
“Subscription packages are popular in the west for beauty products, make-up, food, clothes, and even razors. But we do not have any competition in our sector.
“I am proud of the fact that we have a rating of 4.7 on Trust Pilot,” Albert emphasizes.
Although some employees work from home, according to the people we met in the office, their average age does not exceed 25.
“We do not intentionally employ only young people; these people most often respond to our job ads. Since that we are not a large corporation which can offer giant salaries to people who have a lot of experience, it makes sense that we will attract young people who are just starting their careers,” Albert explains, adding that they have already hired several people this year.
COVID-19 Stalls Kit Parts Deliveries
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, they have also had problems procuring parts.
“For the first few months, the entire global supply system was at a standstill. For example, we ran out of a button cap for one of the products and there was no way we could get to it. We had 300-dollar orders for DIY robot kits we could not deliver because of caps that cost ten cents apiece.”
“Eventually we had to take a cap off an existing phone and send it to China to be copied.”
“We paid an additional 600 dollars for the mold, but we managed,” he recalls the recent difficulties, and added that deliveries were further complicated due to the shutdown of national post offices, which forced them to turn to more expensive courier services.