We are thrilled to announce the winner of our $50,000 competition, Ziteboard. There were a lot of compelling ideas and we would have been happy to work with any of the finalists, but we are eager to get started and see what we can accomplish with this great team. Ziteboard exhibits most of the qualities I look for in a company at this stage, particularly within the context of a $50,000 budget.
To begin with they are solving a problem that is shared by many businesses and teams that work remotely, which is a significant and growing trend. A few weeks ago I was on a Google Hangout and a client was trying to convey an idea so they sketched it on a piece of paper and held that up to their web cam. Not the most elegant solution. Useful ideas are borne from real moments like these, rather than coming up with solutions for problems that do not exist. Most importantly they are beginning to solve this problem in the most simple, minimalistic way. I have played with their prototype and although it is missing a few key features necessary for seamless collaboration it makes it clear what they are trying to accomplish, which is exactly what you want to showcase with a proof of concept. It is clear that the team understands this, and that the next step is getting to a solid, workable MVP.
This is where we come in. $50,000 is a legitimate budget, but it is nowhere close to what is needed to build a robust tech product that is the central offering of a profitable and scalable business. It is, however, enough to get something solid to market in order to generate traction and direct user feedback, which should be the next goal of any startup during this stage. This is especially true for a product such as Ziteboard which does not require a large network of users, significant third party integration or capital investment in items such as inventory or real estate. We can build a product that accomplishes the central goal and begin learning from the market.
I asked the team who their target market is, and although they have many ideas they are not committed to one path. As they said ‘we are creating a tool and seeing how people use it’. This is a great mentality, so long as the team recognizes the amount of work required to really learn from your users in order to iterate and potentially pivot where needed. Saying that you will throw something out and hope people pay for it is naive. Building something focused, engaging your users and incorporating that learning into your product is savvy. If there is a real need and they have the skills to uncover and fulfill it then people will use it. The next step is getting people to pay for it and developing the plan for a business that can raise capital in order to execute on the larger vision.
The big questions for me are simple; What is the total addressable market (or markets)? Is this the tool to serve that market? And finally, are people willing to pay for this tool? Stated differently, is this a cool product or a legitimate business? Only time and hard work will tell, but David and I, along with hundreds of voters and the Coshx Labs team think they have a real shot. One that could be realized in a manner that can hardly be conceived today. As David said to me, “I think it can go places if the team is super”. I believe they are, and I know we are.
Can’t wait to see where we can take this. Congrats, again to Ziteboard. And one more huge thank you to everyone who participated!