Aditya – Input Club sounds cool. How did you come with the cool name? What’s its significance?
Jacob – It took quite a while to come up with the name and design an appropriate logo. It had to be related to keyboards, but also something that we could get a domain for.
Also, the time the keyboard community Deskthority was run as a formalized club. Someone mentioned input devices, and the rest is history. Also, the logo looks like a USB connector – a primary component of many of the things we invent!
Aditya – Tell us more about Input Club.
Jacob – Input Club started as a group of three keyboard enthusiasts that were asked by Massdrop to design a 60% keyboard back in 2014.
We all met on the #geekhack IRC channel on irc.freenode.net. The goal with the Infinity 60% was to see how feasible it would be to design an entirely custom mechanical keyboard with true NKRO (N-Key rollover, means you can press every key on the keyboard at the same time and all of them will work correctly).
Back in 2014, this was a lot harder than it is today as there weren’t many (if any) companies really trying to push the limits of what keyboards could do over USB. Four completely different designs later (and many more unreleased) we’re finishing production for our biggest keyboard, Kira.
Aditya – Who are the people behind Input Club? (Please provide co-founders’ photos)
Andrew Lekashman – CEO (Co-Founder)
Andrew handles all the business and marketing aspects of Input Club. He is also the CEO of Kono Store, which handles Input Club’s logistics and storefront. He was previously in charge of all mechanical keyboard sourcing at Massdrop.
Jacob Alexander – Head of Product (Co-Founder)
I design all the products that Input Club makes, along with most of the firmware that goes into our keyboards. I’m quite notable in the keyboard community and have been featured on Gizmodo’s Show Me Your Nerd (https://gizmodo.com/this-guy-has-600-keyboards-and-still-thinks-he-needs-mo-1823919192).
I lead all engineering related tasks at Input Club.
Gennadiy Nerubayev – PCB Engineer (Co-Founder)
Gene handles all PCB design and manufacturing tasks for Input Club. He is deeply meticulous and has a fascination with vintage IBM hardware (especially keyboards).
Brandon Muzzin – Mechanical Engineer (Co-Founder)
Brandon handles all mechanical designs at Input Club. This includes the keyboard cases (https://input.club/k-type/) as well as taking Jacob’s keyboard switch design ideas and creating 3d models to get them manufactured.
Aditya – What does a day at Input Club look like?
Jacob – Input Club is an interesting company because it’s always been a remote team. Most meetings happen over text chat, originally IRC, though we’ve moved to Discord for the most part now.
As Input Club is an engineering organization that’s set up such that each engineer owns a specific aspect of a project, for which they are responsible. Each member has a great deal of autonomy to solve problems and synchronizes with others whenever it’s necessary (e.g. making sure the USB connector on the circuit board fits into the case). The way I like to phrase it, “You own it, make it so I can sleep soundly at night.”
Aditya – What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced with Input Club till now?
Jacob – Having to quickly design the Hako Switch after losing access to the tooling for the Halo Switch (which Input Club also designed) tooling that Massdrop helped pay for. This was stressful in many aspects; from a legal, engineering as well as financial.
In the end, we were able to ship the WhiteFox Keyboard and now have tooling that Input Club controls, so in the end, we did come out ahead. It was just unfortunate that it significantly delayed future projects.
Aditya – How did you find your first 100 customers?
Jacob – We got them through Massdrop as the first of the Infinity 60% keyboard sold around 300 units in the first group buy. We have now shipped over 40,000 keyboards!
Aditya – What’s your favorite quote?
Jacob – I’m not really a person for quotes. Instead of looking at specific words of wisdom to handle everything, I like to think that quotes are good for specific situations. Like – “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” ― Henry Ford
Aditya – You have been an employee as well as an entrepreneur from the very beginning. How did you manage time for the same?
Jacob – Mainly using my spare time to work on the various engineering and product tasks. I had been working keyboard related projects since 2009 so focusing that energy onto building Input Club into a business wasn’t really that much different. Being focused and enjoying what you’re working on is a huge part in succeeding at time management.
Aditya – You had been with Virtual Instruments for nearly four years, what made you seek something new? Also, have you thought of ever going full time with Input Club?
Jacob – I wanted to take keyboards to the next level and I realized that I couldn’t keep working on projects as a hobby, the R&D I wanted to do required both a team and funds to work on it, even if the team worked for free.
That and being able to fully control what you’re working on as an engineer is a very rewarding experience, both the successes and the failures, as the results are so much more tangible than just working as just another employee.
Going full-time into Input Club has always been a goal of mine, but I also love what I’m working on at Datrium so it’s hard to give either of them up!
Aditya – You have had considerable experience before starting your own company. Do you believe that one should work for someone before working for oneself to understand how a business works?
Jacob – It really depends, but I’ve learned a lot of lessons (technical and not) through all my previous jobs and internships.
Using familiar companies as a starting point of a new business is often ok; however, it’s important to recognize that not all businesses are structured the same. Not all businesses have enough parking spots. And even a business that seems very similar to yours may have just started at a different time and their path to success may be completely different from what you end up doing.
Aditya – We’ve noticed that other members of the Input Club are working at other companies as well. How difficult is it to coordinate with each member?
Jacob – It all a question of time management and being able to schedule around their other jobs. We all got into this because we really love keyboards, so Input Club itself is a passion project for the team members.
Discord really helps in this regard as it’s easy to read up on previous conversations that went on rather quickly, instead of having to actually call, talk and interrupt another member of the team.
Aditya – And finally, if given a chance to reach out to all the entrepreneurs out there, what will you tell them?
Jacob – It’s a marathon, make sure you’re ready to go at it for the long haul!