I am Zach Supalla, CEO of Spark. Ask Me Anything

Ask Me Anything!

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So, what are your feelings on oatmeal raisin cookies?



Raisins are awful things that ruin other foods. They wish they were still grapes.


Zach, what are you most excited about regarding the imminent release of Photon and Electron?

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Hey @zach

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome with the spark… from kickstarter till now

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Zach what’s something every hardware startup should know?

Really really fast over-the-air firmware updates. We’ve made some big changes to our firmware so that system code and user code are split in two (thanks to @mdma for that), and so an over-the-air firmware update will take a couple of seconds instead of a minute. That seems like a small thing, but it totally changes how people work, because you can deploy new code much more frequently if it’s sent more quickly. I hope it’ll speed up iteration and make the whole experience much better.


What made you go like:“hey, I’m going to stop doing whatever it is I’m doing, and I’m going to build this awesome platform!”?

It’s a different challenge every day. At first it was “how do we spread the word?” Then we figured that out, and it was “How do we make this work?” Then the next phase is “How do we grow?” That’s where we are now, and that feels like the hardest problem, because it’s the one we haven’t totally figured out yet :slight_smile:

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Go to China. Seriously, just go live there for a couple months. Everything else will be so much easier if you do that.


Hey Zach, looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

Please comment your commitment to Open Source, particularly for the cloud services/middleware. Many shops are providing interesting hardware/dev platforms but trying to get vendor lock-in with proprietary cloud software - making those platforms vastly less interesting to me.

At first, we were just making consumer products. Anybody remember this?

That Kickstarter campaign was unsuccessful, and caused us to rethinking what we wanted to be when we grew up. It took us a couple of months to release the idea and decide to “pivot”. Over time we thought “we’d love to see more great IoT products out there, why aren’t there more? Maybe because it’s hard? What if we could make it easier?” That’s what drove us to become a platform company, and the Spark Core Kickstarter campaign proved that we were onto something.


Any recommendations for someone that wants to launch a new product or idea.

Hard to say. All of the things that we’ve done wrong we’ve learned from, and I wouldn’t want to give up that learning. Doing the Spark Socket, for instance: it was unsuccessful but that experience taught us everything we needed to know to deliver the Core. So it’s hard to come up with things that we should have done differently.

Maybe we shouldn’t have made the Battery Shield shaped like a mustache :slight_smile:


In my mind, there are a few reasons to go open source. They are:

  • It dramatically reduces risk to our customers from vendor lock-in (also start-up risk, i.e. what happens if our business changes, we go out of business, we get acqiured)
  • It allows people to solve their own problems and solve each others’ problems
  • It gives our customers the ability to directly influence our product (if it doesn’t do something you want, make a pull request!)

If our platform were proprietary, it makes us a blocker instead of an enabler. At the same time, we do have to figure out how we make money and build a viable business, and that’s a tricky thing in open source, but I think we’re starting to figure it out. We’re committed to keeping the basic platform open source, while building additional tools on top that will be proprietary (sort of a git vs. github model)


And what are you most proud of? :slight_smile:

Go to China! It will change your perspective on just about everything.

Zach, how much has the Spark Community contributed to Spark’s success and why?

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