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The Brydge for iPad – Review

March 3, 2013 1 comment

I have been meaning to write this for some time now that the Brydge is shipping and it’s been in my hands for the past couple months. Click here to see the video overview of the Brydge if you are not familiar with this iPad keyboard and cover.

The Back Story

A few years ago a friend, Eddy, and I were working together for a startup. The startup was on its last legs and during the summer of 2008 there was no light at the end of this tunnel as most venture capitalists were not willing to invest with the impending financial decline. As a result, we both had an extended vacation. At this point I decided on a career change to pursue Internet marketing with the consumer division of Symantec, started this blog and co-authored a web-comic with another friend.

Eddy went down a different path of self enlightenment and discovery. Eddy was always very creative and good at building things whether it was carpentry, electronics or other types of design. For exaample, while we were still at the start up, he worked evenings and weekends building a Segway. After our days at the start up ended, he spent most of his time at the techshop as a prototype builder-for-hire. When he wasn’t being paid to build something, he was building things out of his own curiosity. Things like colorful 3D printers back in the pre-hype days of 3D printers.

Fast forward to 2012 and Eddy emails me a Kickstarter link to a bluetooth keyboard for the iPad. This was his latest project and it had raised $800K. The promotional tagline for the Brydge was that it made your iPad look like a Macbook Air. This was definitely an interesting concept and the protoype looked very impressive in the videos. There have been other iPad keyboards on the market so what made this one so different? Having known Eddy for so long, I had the impression that it was not only going to be well designed, but functional and might actually make my iPad look like a MacBook Air.

The Review

The Brydge is pretty much what it promised it was going to be in the original Kickstarter campaign. There are now three versions, the Brydge with a brushed aluminum keyboard with or without speakers and a third version with a polycarbonate keyboard. The brushed aluminum version definitely feels more like a Mac keyboard with the same texture and a good weight. The Brydge supports iPad 2, 3rd and 4th generation models.

The element of the keyboard that most impressed me is the ease with which you connect the iPad by sliding into the clamp or hinge of the Brydge. The clamp is extremely well designed, very solid and feels sturdy. Setup is as simple as pairing a bluetooth device to your iPad.

Carrying around the Brydge connected iPad is like carrying a Macbook. The iPad easily folds down on the keyboard, looking like a clamshell and goes to sleep. There is a little extra weight added onto your iPad with the Brydge, but that makes the product feel that much more stable when placed on a table with no fear of the iPad tipping over when it is open. The clamp also alllows you to display the iPad in a range of angles depending on your preference, going from 90 degrees or greater if you want to get just the right angle to view a movie on your iPad. If you can image giving a presentation on your iPad or letting your kids use it for games or videos, this flexibility is a life-saver.

The keyboard itself works great and is very responsive, springing back upon touch as I type. You’ll have to get used to the width of the keyboard which matches the length of the iPad resulting in a more compact layout. Nonetheless, it takes no time to adjust and you’ll be blogging away in minutes. Also, the keyboard sleeps after a minute or so of non-use further maximizing battery life. Typing a key wakes the keyboard up within a second or two. One hidden gem of the keyboard is it runs up to 2 months between charges…seriously?

The Brydge is available online at www.thebrydge.com and goes from $150 for the polycarbonate version to $220 for the brushed aluminum with speakers. The aluminum version are on back order due to high demand. I have used the Brydge with and without speakers and find the speakers to be a nice to have, but not needed for everyday use.

If you happen to get the Brydge sometime in the near future, you’ll wonder how you were able to use your iPad without it especially when typing emails, blogs or note-taking. In the meantime, here is a closeup of the Brydge for your visual pleasure.

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Not all start-ups are built the same

Let’s start with the most important characteristic to look for in a start-up.

1. People. I don’t think you can underestimate enough the need for a quality team of people that can work as one and who are dedicated to the success of the company over any individual achievement. If you don’t have the ability to check your ego at the door, then you probably shouldn’t work for a start-up if not for your own sanity, then for the sanity of others around you.

Now some notes on how to get the right people.

1.1. Hiring. For hiring managers at start-ups, start by getting your employees to invite their friends to join the company before going the headhunter route. These are people that you or your co-workers have gone to battle with at previous companies, know their strengths, weaknesses, and have seen them in action at the top of the their game. Even more important is having seen them work in difficult business conditions, under the most stressful of circumstances and deadlines and you would still work them again in a heartbeat.

1.2. Interns. The second best way to increase your talent pool and still maintain the chemistry within the team is to go to the nearest college or university, put up a job opening and bring on highly motivated individuals. The best that can happen is you uncover a valuable addition to the team and by bringing them on early within a start-up they learn about personal sacrifice first hand. The worst thing that can happen is you uncover an unmotivated individual, you let them go after a few months and probably have a few good stories to tell about their exploits.

1.3. Skill set. Skill set does not trump everything in the hiring process. I have spent the last 10 years in the security and networking space and have seen a lot of evolution in how products are built. I believe that any problem can be solved by the highest end intel processor, a base of open source code and a few really innovative engineers*. Look for people that think outside the box, are not afraid of tough problems, and have a genuine interesting in solving real problems rather than showing off their coding skills. There is the rare case when you are developing something that is so unique and requires a rare type of skill set that can only be had for a high price AND you don’t have a direct referral for a person to fill the need. In those cases you have not many choices, but their is a greater risk of lack of chemistry.

*Once you have a proto-type and a business plan you are set to get some funding. If your business plan depends on building a chip to hit aggressive price points or incredible performance levels that you can’t get from Intel or any number of multi-core processors in the next 5 year horizon, then rethink the problem you are trying to solve and talk to your potential customers again. Chances are the problem can be solved a different way.

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