MOD is at a crossroads - and needs your input

"I went down to the crossroads
Fell down on my knees"

Dear members of the MOD community

Unfortunately, we have not reached the minimum funding needed to execute our reboot plan.

Without the funding, we could not proceed with the deal we were organizing alongside the preliminary insolvency administrator and carry on with the reboot in due time. In fact, we even moved backwards on the committed funding amount. More details on that are coming below.

This does not mean the game is over yet, but we have even less control over the next steps. We are now moving into a new phase of the insolvency process, with the insolvency admin opening up for other buyers to purchase the assets. Therefore also turning immaterial assets open source is legally not possible as they belong to the insolvency mass we don’t own anymore.

We also get evicted from our office and everyone is being fired by the admin. Any reboot entity needs to rehire staff, which we believe is still possible if we are moving fast with re-aligning on the mission and securing the resources.

Since we cannot actually work, most of what we do today is to reflect, digest, and think about how to proceed. After reading all the comments and inputs given here in the forum and also looking back at the history of MOD, I have arrived at an important conclusion that I want to share with you all and invite you to an important discussion.

I would like, if I may, to ask for extra attention here in the forum for the next few days. I know everyon´s time is limited and you all have our lives to take care of but this is very important and I need your input and knowledge.

The conclusion I have is that, since the early days, MOD has been torn apart between two antagonistic paths:

  • an open-source-based project, made by a collective and rooted in a community.

  • an innovative consumer product, made by a business and funded by financial investors

While the open source community gave us the initial momentum, the majority of the resources to grow were provided by investors.

Many of the issues raised and discussed in the forum for the last few days are rooted in this division. The problem with the knockoffs, the low community engagement, the confusing product line, the fear from investors, and many more.

Being torn between these two paths, MOD has not taken a firm stance on either of them and that leads to having negative impacts on both sides.

The community, because we are not “open source enough” (whatever this might mean), sees us with a lot of skepticism. The knockoffs get more help from the community than MOD because we are seen as a “paid product” in a traditional customer-seller relationship, in which we are demanded more and more.

The investors, on the other hand, see us as a non-business-oriented project and refrain from investing in us. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, the committed amount actually has been reduced. After my post disclosing details of the insolvency, I got a lot of heat and cold feet from investors, leading to them changing their minds and walking off.

While I write this post here, I feel that as soon as I press the “Create Topic” button, I am diminishing even more my chances of engagement with investors, as businesses do not like such levels of disclosure as communities do.

So, the thing I want to do right now, and that I consider the most important in MOD´s life, is to make a decision, take a firm stance, and proceed.

There are three options for me:

1 - We go full community

2 - We go full business. There are still routes for that.

3 - I give up and go do something else. I am tired and broke, and I have two beautiful sons that I deeply care for and all this is getting in the way of fully enjoying them.

Before we dwell on the discussions, I´d like to share my personal opinion and vision.

1 - I believe in the power of collectives and I am a huge enthusiast of open source.

Collective solutions are superior in the long run and open sources act both as powerful catalyzers and growth drivers of collectives, due to their democratizing nature.

My enthusiasm for open source is not rooted in a belief that things should be done for free and I think that financial interests are important for those “last mile” efforts inside a collective.

2 - I believe that an open-source-based solution for audio processing can be properly set up and polished to the point it results in a product that caters to mainstream musicians with no compromises.

My wish is not to make a product “from the community to the community”, but rather to make a product that is community-powered but serves as a bridge between the community of techies and the non-techie mainstream audience.

I have been saying this exact thing since I presented the MOD Duo project at the 2014 LAC: my mission is not to please the open source enthusiast, but rather to convince the non-enthusiast of the power of open source and the collective.

I say this because I have this belief in my DNA, and this is probably both the reason why I managed to gather so many like-minded people around MOD and the reason for this rather confusing business approach.

There are economical challenges related to putting a hardware product on the market and those challenges lead to the invalidation of certain dynamics that would normally work when applied to OS software only, without hardware involved. MOD´s insolvency is proof of that.

As I repeated many times, while software can be translated into development time, hardware requires moving material, which costs money that cannot be translated into development time. If we want to develop a product that involves hardware and that has a strong community involvement, we need to re-think many things like:

  • direction of the development
  • marketing and sales models
  • licensing model
  • funding

So, the big question here, to which I want to try to build answers together with the community is:

Is there a workable community-based approach to this?

and, in a positive case, what is the effective ownership level that members of the community wish and are willing to have on the aforementioned items?

I’d like to discuss this topic and try to find a working model, together with you, to serve as an alternative to options 2 and 3. If you are excited about what MOD does and want to have active participation, I’d say that this THE opportunity.

Although we are many in the forum, we are just a fraction of the total users. In this process, I´d like to work on some hypotheses here in this forum topic and then validate them with surveys, so that we can have some foundation for decisions and conclusions.

To finalize I´d like to share a motto that emerged circa 2017 when we were participating in a hackathon and we were toying with the idea of a music+development hackathon entitled “MOD-a-thon”:

Music always wins!

Shall we start? :slight_smile:

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@gianfranco thankyou so much for this thoughtful and frank post, and for the invitation for community input; it speaks volumes about your attitude, dedication, and intent, that you continue to be open and responsive even in the face of the business pressures you have described! :pray:

having reached this clear crossroads, with even reduced financial backing for the previous direction, reads to me only as a blessing and a huge opportunity. it will certainly not be easy, but the lessons learned and the consequent requirement for clarity of vision and direction are really gifts, not to be ignored.

i don’t have answers at the moment, but it seems to me that it should be possible to draw clear lines between what can be monetized versus what is truly open and collaborative. that should, in turn, allow sensible planning and the development of a sustainable roadmap. that’s all vague, i know… sorry about that! …but my brain is just chewing on what this all feels like, and how the potential freedom to think in new ways plays out…

for my part, i’m eager to be involved as an adventurous user and tester, and look forward to what ideas emerge from everyone here.

thankyou for all that you continue to do for MOD and for all of us, @gianfranco !

cheers!
.pltk.

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Thank you for the in depth and honest post.

I must admit I did get a little lost in what you are trying to ask us.

Here’s my thoughts.

As much as community is great to be a part of we really ask a lot and don’t pay the bills that you so desperately need at present.

Once you try and monetize the community it will fall away leaving a very small core of fans who would only ‘chip in’ for a coffee at times.

OS is probably the least favourable in my mind as the market is saturated, software is hacked openly and I don’t see the returns you all need to function in life outside of MOD.

Hardware side - you diversified too much and got lost in places - control Chain springs to mind. The Dwarf has potential to be great but the marketing put it in with Helix and Boss GT so people buy the brands they know.

The honest part of me wants to say step away especially with the current economic crisis in the UK which I’m sure you are all feeling too.

I like my Dwarf and I’m truly amazed out how a small outfit came up with it but moving forward requires a lot more work.

I and others would love to help in anyway we can but you and the team need stability and health more than I need a new fuzz plugin.

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yes, @Austin73 …the health and well-being of all concerned is the primary thing, and i thank you for stating that plainly!

…i’ll just pick up on your comments about MOD having placed itself up against the big guitar processor companies, and about your need (or not!) for a new fuzz plugin :wink: … to my mind, the capability of the MOD products and platform to meet the needs of a much broader swath of musicians is precisely its unique strength. this flexibility, i think, could be something which is well suited to a new vision which explicitly includes a more open concept on some level.

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Totally agree. The benefits of the MOD are only scratched upon. Still want a Cardinal plugin that’s properly usable which I think would really push sales especially if Gear News gets hold of it.

And yes I’m a guitarist with a Helix too. Don’t want the MOD to go the route of my Parker Fly : (

Oh and I don’t need a new fuzz plugin the Big Muff is awesome! It was a rhetorical quote.

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Honestly, at this point, make what would more probably save the company and your children man. Sell it, or do whatever would feed them and won’t cause financial trouble in the long term.

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Just curious if partnership with another company (small or big) has been an option or considered? I can think of a few that could be interesting.

I think I now understand better than ever why companies like Rane sold to larger entity while others that didn’t, Vestax for example, shut down.

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A full business model to develop and maintain a “core” version of the devices with a selected list of good plugins, and a marketplace for 3rd party plugins developed from the community.

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Is 3 mutually exclusive with the others? It sounds like you could use a well deserved break. Is there potential to revisit this in a few years once your children are older and have more resourced available to you as a buffer?

I can’t help but think that none of these things are entirely exclusive in the long term.

You know far more about this than I do, but to use other products as a starting point: The Empress Zoia is a mostly closed system. As sales have stabalized, they’ve provided resources to the community to effectively open source aspects of the software. A desktop patch manager and even patch editor have been created with help from Empress. This seems like it has some of the advantage of both worlds. They proved the value of the software in a “full business” way, but still facilitate community involvement. The mast majority of users will never touch the community made editor, but it’s there for those who want it. Closed now does not mean closed forever.

The fatal “flaw” of the Mod experience, from a pedal buyer’s perspective, is that it just does too much. I think back to early Source Audio pedals - they 100% could put all of their DSP abilities on all of their pedals. They have the same internals. They actively chose to limit the advertised functionality for each pedal to specific effects - distortion, modulation, reverb etc. They have a dedicated EQ pedal even though their distortion pedals can very easily accomplish the same thing with a different pedal interface.

If Mod had simply released a stereo multi-modulation pedal a few years ago, it would compete in a more limited market without the need for such expensive custom hardware. The same person who wants a multi-mod pedal may not need or want to pay for the dozens of other functions. Now there are bunch of stereo multi-mod pedals, so the market is harder to compete in, but my point stands. If you convince people that the individual effects are competitive and worthwhile on their own, then the larger platform is a much easier sell.

Not that this addresses any of your points, particularly. I think I’m reacting to “I believe that an open-source-based solution for audio processing can be properly set up and polished to the point it results in a product that caters to mainstream musicians with no compromises.”. I agree with you fully, but I don’t think the route chosen effectively accomplishes that goal. For the mass market, a pedal that does everything appeals to no one. Even Helix owners like me have it for a specific function that it does well (amp/cab simulations), and everything else is a bonus. What is the specific general use function that the Dwarf excels at? I’m not sure if I can even answer that question, and I have one.

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Hey man, thank you for pouring your heart and soul into this product. I love my Duo, and have played it with joy. Please first do what is right for you and yours. Health, happiness and the financial well being of people always come before product. I sincerely hope there is a way for you and your talented team to continue to build interesting modular sound tools. Whether that be in this form–or as part of another entity, I hope to see these ideas continue to grow.

I don’t know the right way forward. My advice would be:

  • Cut to the heart of what is great about mod
  • Force yourselves to rally around one core idea
  • Cut everything else out and throw what resources remain behind that idea

Maybe it stands up and has legs; perhaps it doesn’t and it’s time to move on.

Either way, I’m rooting for you and grateful for the ride!

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Could you do something like Monome does with their Norns platform and make a less expensive DIY kit available, perhaps with a board and a cheaper enclosure, and footswitches?

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Hi all
I ordered my Mod Dwarf in May 2020 and wasn’t in a rush to get it, so was happy to wait.
I never received my unit but what really pisses me off is that they’re for sale on Bax and Gear 4 Music!
I mean what the actual f**k!
Surely you should have honoured your commitment to your backers first.

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This is what I would do from the coziness of my couch:

Using the profiler plugin from @deathbeard on discord https://faustlv2.bitbucket.io/profiler

  • this device could fill the empty spot in market guitar amp modeling of profile players only (kemper and QC are both profilers and players). If Kemper would release a new “Kemper Player” under $1000 would take a huge market percentage. This is the only chance to be successfull with an HW solution. Otherwise you have to offer something more (superior quality software) than competitors like Kemper and QC at a minor price.
  • Profiling could be sold for cheap as a service on the cloud.
  • Build a consistent store where it would be possible to get free and commercial pedalboards and plugins as well.
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@gianfranco try to step away for a year - be with your family. Recharge for a bit and reflect.
There is potential in all aspects (as a guitar pedal, as a synth, as a bandinabox) but maybe more separated and community driven.

exactly that. Build one version thats simple and barebones, hast few knobs a few switches, no screens and act as a profile player.
The other is the profiler. more advanced with a screen.
If I can sell profiles to the “player” that’s maybe half the price of the profiler - I think you sell a lot of those.

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I was waiting too for the tier 2 Dwarf to arrive
I made this account just to try to help and share my vision and hope

For me mod dwarf could became best best groovebox ever (like the youtube video of Benn Jordan demonstrated)
It has sound generators, modulators, midi capabilities already there… Just plug in a midi controller or a mobile screen with a virtual controller and it can compete with the MPC, MAschine, roland MC 101, deluge… cheaper and portable

Please consider that and embrace what you already have builded.

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They were pretty open about why they had to do this. They needed to sell more pedals in bulk to afford to keep going, it was their only way to get a cash infusion and sustain themselves. It definitely sucks and there’s no way to make it feel less shitty. That is the risk of kickstarter, unfortunately.

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@redcloud interesting idea about leveraging existing hardware, built into a professional package with a full suite of I/O and onboard controllers… i don’t know enough about the ability of such an approach to meet very high audio QC requirements, but it would seem like a very effective way to reduce hardware dev and build costs.

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As i cannot think of a successful and profitable community based hardware project, i think the only way to keep the hardware in the project is to go full business.
The only way to go full community is a software project that runs on different existing hardware (RasPi, RISC etc…)
If it is sustainable for you (and the team?) personally, i think the “full business” route is the best option. Your experience of the things that do not work could be a big asset for this. But at the same time in this case some decisions have to be made, that will be offensive for some people, especially in “the community” - but their support is lacking anyways…
In German: Wer für alles offen ist, ist manchmal nicht ganz dicht.

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As said before, I knew it as I started to see Dwarf on commercial sites…as first backers I expect to be refounded somehow.

Hi @gianfranco
I was literally about to buy a Dwarf when you made the announcement of mod’s insolvency.
I’m sure you can understand why a then held back, to see what was to come.
I’ve been chatting with a few people on here, (@jon has been especially helpful), and I’m still here hoping that a solution presents itself to you.
Even knowing the difficulties you face I am still trying to track down a Dwarf to try, I think the concept is fantastic
If you need to go down a more commercial road to keep it Mod alive then do what you think is best. I still have concerns of course, but I hope things start to look brighter, I especially hope I can see the website back to full strength so I can see more of what the device is truly capable of.
I’m watching for updates
Very best wishes
Mark

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