Yesterday, Quick Left was invited to participate in BDW's (formerly, Boulder Design Works) pitch night. If you're not familiar, BDW is a "…project-based and accredited learning initiative focused on developing today and tomorrow's digital leaders and entrepreneurs… developed by the University of Colorado at Boulder." Because I have experience consulting with startups on web/mobile based applications, I was chosen to represent Quick Left with the expectation that I would provide technical and business oriented feedback to the five groups that pitched.
I've spent enough time in the start-up community, both as a participant, and currently as a consultant, to observe a common theme in how much time and resources are spent trying to find the perfect idea. A great idea helps, but it has very little to do with the overall success of a project. While some ideas may, in fact, sell themselves, most successful business owners will tell you that success is more accurately defined as function of hard work, dedication, and the ability to monetize. At this event, it was clear that most of the groups were fully committed on executing their business plans and launching a working product sometime in the near future; however, there were three pitches that especially stood out.
The first mentionable pitch was for a product called Riffle: a mobile approach to social media based on connecting people through snippets of both interesting sounds and voice-based messages (Mr. Bell called…). The group had an impressive presentation – outlining the app's design and workflow in a way that allowed you to imagine yourself following along on your own device. However, I had a bit of trouble identifying the actual problem they were trying to solve, or how they were going to attract new users.
The second mentionable pitch was for a product called Cue: a mobile and proximity based application that helps facilitate face-to-face introductions between two individuals with the same interests. While this idea isn't new; the simplicity and feasibility of the project made it attractive to me. Additionally, I learned that a technology called Bluetooth Low Energy, available in the latest generation of iPhone and Android hardware, improves on devices' ability to communicate on the peer-to-peer level without the associate battery drain – making this idea, just now, more feasible than ever. After the pitch, I thought it appropriate to warn the group that such a product could easily be used to facilitate illegal activity, which has moral and legal ramifications.
The final pitch I want to mention (and the the team that went home with a bag of Quick Left branded goodies) was for a product called Chomp: a mobile solution for finding and communicating with Food Trucks. Like the previous pitch, the idea isn't new or revolutionary – but the team was able to shine in areas where other teams had missed the opportunity. They were right on the target when discussing how their business plan, product features, and marketing approach would differentiate their product in this emerging market. They also had the most common-sense, subscription-based, monetization strategy (which was refreshing).
Overall it was a fun night! I'm glad I was given the opportunity to offer my technical and business expertise during BDW's pitch night. The quality of the pitches was a testament to BWD program and its role in Boulder's start-up community. For more information on BDW, head over to http://bdw.colorado.edu.