16 August 2012

The Ones That Got Away: Skating Device

In March 2010 a fellow called me.  He’d developed an exercise device for Baby Boomers who loved to strap on rollerblades and zoom every which way - but because of bad knees or safety concerns were hanging them up. 

imageThe device was really one of those newfangled three-wheeled baby strollers without the stroller.  The handlebars were more like a bike. I’d say it was a cross between a walker and a stroller.

imageThe problem was that it looked more like a walker, giving the impression that it was medical equipment.  I’m pretty sure he’d designed it himself, perhaps with help from the manufacturer.  It was pure function, no style.

When he called I was preparing for a workshop/presentation and getting ready to travel abroad.  I told him I liked his product and would email him in a week.

My thoughts:

  • Like the previous product in this series, take it out of the medical realm.
  • Position it as a cutting-edge, sleek piece of sporting equipment. 
  • Unless you’re a speed-skater, the average person can skate faster because they’re not worried as much about balance.
  • You can skate longer distances.
  • There is less strain on your knees and legs.
  • With a basket, skate to the store.
  • imageThe product needs a total overhaul.  Hire an industrial designer.  Today’s bicycles and other types of non-motorized mobile devices are designed for the eye, with bright colors and polished construction.  If it looks like a walker, nobody will want it. 
  • Even medical walkers are being redesigned for the eye.

I didn’t get too far:

…This weekend I’ll put together a basic, short, creative brief. My guess is that you won’t like all of it. I think your product needs to be positioned away from the medical realm.  I’ll send you the creative brief – and we can talk afterwards if it interests you.

…I didn't request anything from you. I didn't hire you. I just finished professional videos which are now being edited.

…Of course you didn’t hire me. I was going to pitch you with no cost to you…How about this – do what you’re doing and have fun and good luck. You have a good product. But if it isn’t going as planned in a few months, contact me.

I never heard from him again.  Those professional videos were anything but.  In one, a lady was practically screaming over a windstorm – with not much success since the mic was likewise getting blasted.  I guess the professional video company forgot their mic windshield that day. 

imageAnother video had a fellow pretending to skate poorly, almost falling over, looking very sad and frustrated.  He wasn’t enjoying himself.  This was followed by the same fellow utilizing the device, now smiling and happy, floating safely down the trail.  Quite the comedy sketch.

If you’re presenting sports equipment to people who are relatively fit (and they would be relatively fit if they’re even contemplating putting on rollerblades), don’t insult them by assuming they are clumsy and helpless.  You’re introducing an exciting, exhilarating product.  You can do things on rollerblades that you never could have imagined.

I visited the website the other day.  It’s a placeholder, with this message:

The ************® is no longer available.

There is a 2011 post about the same subject, but thought it  appropriate to update everything for this series.

Entrepreneurs & Baby Boomers III
imageThose measly trike things unnerve me the most. Put someone on one, and they remind me of cartoon velociraptors swerving and scurrying, looking for lunch.