Founder Jan Stanek. Stuck deep in Sahara. Tunisia, 2015
Why you may be wondering, why is there XLifter? What is the story?
Well… My name is Jan Stanek and I created the Xlifter for all fellow LR enthusiasts. I’ve owned my Land Rover Discovery 3 for almost 10 years. Yes, I’m a big Land Rover fan. I also love overland traveling by such a capable car. We’ve done several expeditions all around Europe and North Africa. It’s amazing what the Discoveries can do, but I felt that the air suspension was limited somehow. Initially, I thought of buying the Australian LLAMS system but haven’t been entirely convinced by the design/quality. I wanted a better, more feature-rich product. But it simply wasn’t on the market.
So back in 2015, deceived by my own IT/electronic development background, I’ve decided to build my own. I thought it must be easy. Lol. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made. It was all but easy.
I was comfortably running a few businesses, utilizing all my “MBA” education, being more on the managerial side. So why does one to dive into the doubtful waters of vehicle electronic development, especially at such a niche market? I guess it’s a very individual question. Perhaps my daily routine was simply too predictable. Knowing what’s gonna happen the next day got tiring. An urge to build, create something out of nothing, a desire to invent started to kick in. To explore again. Stepping out to unknown terrain. Finding a way, making mistakes. Correcting them. Making more mistakes. Enjoying it when you got it right? Just like we do on our expeditions. Yes, I was longing for all of that.
Building the very first cable loom. At the Baltic sea, 2016 🙂
So I’ve taken the red pill. And I’ve got it all. It simply exploded. The rabbit hole goes all the way down and, even after five years, I can only guess where the bottom is.
Surprisingly, it was easy to build the initial proof-of-concept “wire nest” prototype. It was clear, within a month since the initial idea, that the concept was right. But to build a market-ready, solid-looking, and reliable product, that was hard. And it took three years. Three years of development, testing, LR community discussions, feedback gathering. I’ve quit three times. Three times the Czech Land rover forum members forced me to get back on track. Endless hours, nights. Slowly, but steadily, the final goal turned more into a proverbial “the journey is the goal”.
“The journey is the goal”
The once opened Pandora’s box provided many challenges and tested my patience. You hit the problem, get to the bottom of it, study, learn, solve. Nothing more. Not rocket science. Only you have to repeat that a thousand times. Learn to design reliable, bullet-proof circuitry according to the automotive standards? Necessary. Learn C++ low-level programming? Sure. Make the sensible user interface on a few-pixels display? The controller design? Serial manufacturing processes, testing, quality assurance? User manuals? Video-guides? Web, Eshop, Legal? Shipping logistics? Yes, yes, yes. And all of this while maintaining tremendous attention to detail. Because you can’t neglect even a bit of it. Forget it. The EAS unit is in the car’s critical chain, sitting there, quietly, running for years. The margin for error: zero. Devil in the details. So on the one side, you are flying over the top business strategy, big picture, and, by the flip of a coin, you are at the lowest level of detail of silicon chips. The diversity is enormously complex, the learning curve steep. And yet the simplicity of the final product must not be lost.
First “prototypes” in my Discovery 3
The first controller design iteration. Luckily not the last one
Fortunately, I was not alone and received help from many friends along the way. All of them are some of the best experts in their respective areas with amazingly deep insights. No way I could commercially buy such knowledge on the market, but the idea and story behind the project seemed to attract brilliant minds and the project got help when it was needed. These people – you know who they are – thank you all! No way the Xlifter would be where it is today without your contribution.
Was it worth it? I do not doubt it a second. Monetarily? I guess I’d do better being a CEO somewhere or work in corporate IT. But honestly, with the self-leveling for Land Rovers…I can claim “first in the world”, and although there is not a prize, it just feels good. It feels right. The joy of stepping into uncharted territory and making your own rules is addictive. Stepping out and being a maker in today’s information world. And there are so many positive reactions and product feedback just keeps us going forward. Thank you all for them!
And where all has all of this gotten us?? “Us” is intentional. XLifter is now a small team of smart individuals covering multiple business areas. We will definitely continue to produce new Xlifter features, listen to the community, keep the new Land Rover vehicles lineup in our minds.
So to wrap up. This is a story of how I’ve joined passion for Land Rovers, expedition traveling, and electronics, added a bit of heart, spices by a bit of brain, and mixed it up together until the XLifter was born. And what have I learned? We are living surrounded by thousands of products and we take them for granted. Yet in each of them, there are so many details, work, and effort which someone cared about. I don’t take it for granted anymore. I respect it now.
And what’s next? It’s all up to you. Get out there. Don’t take your umbrella with you. Just go. Go beyond… be a maker, or whatever you want to be, but… what if? And is it wise? Well, how can you know until you tried?
Haven’t you heard? “One life. Live it”.
Discolifter was the first name 🙂
communications and social media
Petra has established herself as a competent and creative marketer, living and working nearly two decades in the US, completing strategies and campaigns for both large corporations and small advertising agencies. Among her passions has always been the off-road industry. Initially, she earned her dirt chaps riding dirtbikes in Oregon, California and Nevada desserts. She was also lucky enough to be a part of the organizing team of the largest US off-road race in Las Vegas, NV, The Mint 400. Her friendship with Jan has started while organizing TEDxPrague, where they met. She started working for Jan out of pure admiration for his dedication to the quality of his product, but also for the benefit of being able to stay in touch with the off-roading community.
The manufacturing and assembly of each Xlifter unit is handled by a Czech electronic producer with more than 20 years of development and manufacturing experience. While our supplier expertise originally focused mainly on business activities related to materials and technologies for the production of printed circuit boards, it gradually expanded its activities to include mechanical processing and mounting of printed circuit boards and the production of electronic devices. This ability to offer a comprehensive product solution from its development through production and assembly to the final design, as well as a flexible approach to requirements and realizations of prototypes, is exactly why we can pride ourselves in this quality driven partnership. If this type of background and expertise wasn’t enough, each unit is thoroughly tested and for now 100 % of our product passes through our founder’s Jan’s hands on its way to you, our customer.
Libor is a digital marketer helping spread the word about X lifter with Facebook and Google tools. He is passionated in running, beer, skateboards and mountains.
new business development
Frantisek got his first business experience when he was 17, translating business meetings for his father in the UK. Even though a small family business, this experience already gave Frantisek a glimpse into the interesting world of international commerce.
In following years he worked for a couple of Czech companies, acquiring foreign clients and acting as their key account manager – which was a truly rewarding experience.
He had teamed up with XLifter in order to support our efforts of delivering our product to the worldwide audience, as well as for our family like company environment, which brings him back to his roots.
In the free time, Frantisek likes to do sports and to travel a lot. He enjoys a good book as well as a good music, and when there is some time left, he likes to play some videogames too.