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