When weather permits, I peddle up and down a popular bike trail here in The Great Northwest – on my big-seat, balloon-wheel cruiser. Usually I pass by folks pushing, pulling, or tugging all sorts of wild contraptions. Often they’re strapped to these medieval torture devices.
Awhile back I received a phone call from a gentleman who’d designed a clever piece of exercise/sporting equipment for rollicking and rolling on trails. It was an adaptation of another clever, successful product, making a certain popular activity much safer – and more fun. He told me the URL, I punched it up, and immediately knew his offering had potential. Lots of potential.
I was preparing for an overseas gig, said I liked his product, and would contact him when I returned.
A week later I punched up the URL and took a look around. I still loved the product, but there were major issues – both with the design and the positioning:
- Although well-constructed, the product looked like an odd piece of medical equipment you’d find abandoned in a corner of a hospital. It needed an industrial designer/artist to mold it into something exciting and engaging. Colors, sleek lines, etc.
- And, of course, since it’s (mostly) for Baby Boomers, the offering was positioned as a medical device. Very silly. It’s actually quite an exhilarating and fun piece of sporting equipment - although you’d never know that by looking at it.
I emailed the inventor/entrepreneur, telling him that in the next few days was going to put together a memo about his product, tell him what I think he needed to do and what I could do for him.
He immediately replied:
I didn't request anything from you … I didn't hire you … I just finished professional videos which are now being edited.
Not sure how to respond (if at all), I thought about the fact that most entrepreneurs – at least ones with an idea for a product or service – might not be businesspeople, might be a bit naïve and paranoid. As understanding as I could be, I explained my intentions:
Of course you didn’t hire me. I was going to ‘pitch’ you at no cost.
How about this – do what you’re doing and have fun and good luck. But if it isn’t going as planned in a few months, contact me. I’ll put together the pitch then.
I never expected to hear from him again – and never did. A month later I punched up his web site. The ‘professional video’ was anything but. Some lady quacked away about the product – and there was no wind shield for the microphone. Just standing there, it sounded like she was reporting from the scene of a hurricane.
And the rather dismal-looking picture of the product languishes on the web site. Alexa global ranking: 16,104,259. No U.S. ranking because when one or two or less people visit a site per month, Alexa ignores it.
Lessons for entrepreneurs? Due Diligence, of course. But not everybody is out to steal your your money with promises of fortunes with their marketing/advertising prowess. I’m not the only one who could’ve helped this fellow, put him on the right track.