The “SpotLoss” Fob allows you to press a button on the fob to find your phone, or a button on your phone to find your fob.
Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mr. ‘McLain’ regarding his start-up company and their flagship product “SpotLoss”;
1. What is it exactly that you do and what your “SpotLoss” is all about?
We provide a device that allows you to keep track of everything from your keys to your phone to your kids. The SpotLoss fob allows you to press a button on the fob to find your phone, or a button on your phone to find your fob.
Additionally, it is a proximity alert system. You can be notified by the fob or by your cellphone if the two devices become more than 50 meters apart, or conversely come within 50 meters of each other. This would notify you that you left your keys on your desk, that your child ran off in the mall, or that your sister is nearby. Besides an alarm, you can also be notified to a change in proximity by text or email.
The fob runs for roughly a year on a replaceable watch battery without having to remember to recharge it. It measures 5.6 x 3.0 x 1.5 cm and the carabiner style design allows it to quickly latch onto nearly anything.
The fob uses a free cell phone app, and we are planning an SDK for developers that would like to use our hardware.
2. When has “SpotLoss” been founded? And what stage is “SpotLoss” currently at?
We were founded in January 2012. Currently, we have working software and working prototypes. We’re in the process of trying to raise money to start mass production on our first SpotLoss product. At the same time we’re continuing to design new software and make variations on the SpotLoss hardware.
3. What is “SpotLoss”‘s business model and how does it work?
We plan on selling our hardware for $25 to $35 dollars and providing a free iPhone and Android app. Our marketing strategy is still being finalized, but we will be distributing a lot of free fobs and investing in advertising and marketing campaigns. We are also currently running a crowdfunding campaign to establish some pre-sales.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
I (Chris) sought out Charlie Taylor and Erik Gregory on a tip from a friend’s father. I write the software for the fob and the apps. Erik designs and builds the PCBs and is focusing on our first production run. Charlie, a retired EE professor, provides general guidance and all around mentor-ship.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
We use Bluetooth 4.0 which allows our product to have a range of 50 meters while using a watch battery that doesn’t need to be recharged. (Unlike similar products such as Zomm which need to be charged weekly.)
Also, we have a unique way of connecting that allows devices to connect in a many-to-many relationship. This increases the number of uses.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “SpotLoss” achieved so far?
Our biggest milestone so far was the production of our prototype devices. Also, we started a IndieGoGo campaign today, which will represent our first attempt at pre-sales. We do not have any actual sales yet, so we obviously have no growth either
We are looking to begin sales in earnest in late March or early April.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is “SpotLoss”‘s competitive advantage over them?
There are a few proximity products out there. Specifically, Zomm (which recently appeared on Shark Tank), StickNFind, and MiniBlue, however, none of those truly address what we do: providing a simple, no hassle way to keep from losing your stuff.
For example, Zomm and MiniBlue use Bluetooth 2.0 and have to be changed weekly. StickNFind uses Bluetooth 4.0, but the alarm can only ring on your phone, not on the external device.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
We all had to step outside of our element in some ways. I had to design software for a piece of hardware that didn’t have a true operating system. All my previous work had been written for cell phone or computer platforms.
The hardware guys were force to design and layout the PCB prior to designing the enclosure, and then build the enclosure around that. (They found this flew in the face of their typical procedures.)
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
When people want to find out about the location of someone or something, they often really only care about proximity to themselves. For the most part, people don’t care where they’re friends are unless they are close by.
Another thing: Android is really dragging its feet on Bluetooth Low Energy development. While many phones have BLE capabilities, Android doesn’t have the API to implement them.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
We have a broad support network and good ideas. On top of that we work hard, work well together, and enjoy working together.
We have invested time and effort in building SpotLoss and through this, we have become experts in wireless hardware and software.
(Plus, I eat, sleep, and live SpotLoss.)
11. If “SpotLoss” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
We plan on building a credit card style proximity device that could replace an employee id card. This could perform everything from password protecting an employee’s computer when they walk away to automatically calculating the number of hours worked.
We also plan to looking into household automation based on proximity.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “SpotLoss” based on?
I had dealt with some proximity software prior to this, and the SpotLoss product seemed to be something I desired for myself. With the introduction of Bluetooth 4.0 cell phones, it became possible to build this type of product without requiring recharging while still maintain a relatively large range. That, and I’ve collective spent two years of my life trying to find my keys.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea? (Min. 300 characters) The venture has taught us plenty. Here’s a few:
1. Even accounting for the fact that everything takes twice as long as I think it should, everything still takes twice as long as I think it should.
2. Co-workers should optimally be someone you enjoy talking to.
3. Nothing (or almost nothing) comes easy.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
Now, and six months from now, our biggest problem will be getting the word out about our products. If you look at Square, what I consider another innovative idea, they are just now starting to gain acknowledgement from those outside the tech arena. (And the Square was introduced about eighteen months ago.)
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
Being unable to find your keys or your phone or something like that can be an incredible stress builder. We can help with this. Finding your keys easily, or being notified before you leave them behind can save time, money, and most of all, sanity.
In addition, our product can be used to keep an eye on kids. You can get a text when they get home, or be notified if they run off.
16. How did customers / users find out about you?
We’re currently working on solving this problem now. After all, we’re a bunch of geeks, not marketers.
Seriously, we plan on seeking outside guidance on this. With some effort, we should be able find a mentor and/or investor who can help steer us towards a higher profile, or provide us with the money to hire someone who can.
17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?
Our target customers initially will be anyone who owns a Bluetooth 4.0 enable cell phone or computer – particularly those with children. We plan on highlighting the ability of our product to send a text message or email to alert you that your child got home.
Eventually we want to move toward Enterprise customers as our product line evolves.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
We do not have the problem that we need users to draw users. Right now, SpotLoss is an independent product that doesn’t have social uses. (However, we are looking at changing that soon.)
We believe that once people hear about our product, they will recognize it usefulness. So we think we can draw new users through publicity and advertising.
19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?
The only people who have used our product at this point are our employees and a few family members and close friends. They all think it works fabulously (though, we can be biased). Other people have given us positive feedback based on our pitch or our online videos, but since we haven’t starting selling SpotLoss yet, the responses are limited.
20. How are you going to scale?
We currently build our products in Upstate New York. As our product and name gains momentum, we expect to outsource the hardware building (probably to China) to save money.
On the software side, our databases and server side code are built using Google App Engine. One of the major benefits of GAE is that it will be able to handle whatever we throw at it.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
Like I mentioned above, we don’t have any actual users yet so this is a tough question to answer. What I would like to see next is the ability to use our app for phone to phone proximity detection (rather than just fob to phone or fob to computer). While this would not sell products, it would help to establish SpotLoss as a proximity brand.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
We are hoping to internationalize, but that is about four-hundredth on our priority list right now. Providing SpotLoss outside of the United States should only be as difficult as putting our apps, instructions, packaging, etc. into other languages. Well, plus all the marketing, exporting, and issue we know nothing about.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
I think the one product we have right now can become enormous if we make the right choices. I also think we will have to evolve and expand our hardware and software offerings continuously to keep our company moving forward.
We believe the sky’s the limit, but we’re approaching it in small steps. Right now, we’re primary concerned with getting off the starting line and less concerned with where the race ends.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
Right now, we are looking for someone to provide us some marketing assistance. We haven’t decided whether to hire a publicity agency or an employee, but without that, we’re just a bunch of clueless nerds groping in the dark for publicity.
As a small company, we want to hire someone with multiple skills and the ability to learn quickly, whatever their specialty.
We also anticipate hiring at least one programmer in the near future.
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
Our business is looking for VC and we are currently running an indiegogo campaign. Depending on the success of that, we may or may not be forced to seek further outside funding. If you’d like to see our campaign, here’s the link: http://www.indiegogo.com/spotloss
Plus, we’re always looking people, be it employees or other companies, that we can work with.
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
Push yourself to talk to people, most are happy to help.
27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Phew! These questions were like graduate school oral exams (except that they took longer).