How to turn an idea into a physical product (Even if that idea has never been done before) – with Gauri Nanda

One of my interviewees is back! Last time Gauri Nanda was on Mixergy she talked about how she created Clocky, a clock that sits on your nightstand, then goes off. Frankly, it goes off your nightstand and you chase it to help you wake up. We talked about how she went from idea to manufacturing, and how she launched related products.

Well, she’s back because that wasn’t her last product. It wasn’t her last business line. Today I want to talk about how she created Toymail, a messaging system for children where you can send messages from your phone to a toy anywhere in the world. She designed these beautiful toys.

She made them into products, and she sold them. I invited her here to tell how she did it.

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About Gauri Nanda

Gauri Nanda is a co-founder at Toymail Co. – toys that send and receive mail from your phone and Clocky, the alarm clock that runs away to get you out of bed on time.

Raw transcript


Mixergy’s audio transcription is done by Speechpad

Hey there freedom fighters, my name it Andrew Warner. I am the Founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. I’ve said that now for over a thousand interviews, and one of my thousand interviewees is back. Last time Gauri Nanda was on here she talked about how she created Clocky, a clock that sits on your nightstand, then goes off. Frankly, it goes off your nightstand and chase it to help you wake up.

We talked about how she went from idea to manufacturing, et cetera and how she launched related products. Well, she’s back because that wasn’t her last product. It wasn’t her last business line. Today I want to invite her back to talk about how she created Toymail, a messaging system for children where you can send messages from your phone to a toy anywhere in the world. She designed these beautiful toys. She made them into products, and she sold them. Gauri Nanda, it’s great to have you back here.

Gauri: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Andrew: Just to catch up, the last time when we talked about making these alarm clocks, you had all these issues. Do you remember the worst of all the issues that you had turning that idea into a physical product that was in people’s hands?

Gauri: Yeah, I would say the biggest challenge with starting a company is just finding the right people to work with, whether those be your employees or your manufacturing partner or your logistics partner. So that has always been the biggest challenge.

Andrew: Yeah, didn’t you have to fly out to your manufacturer to watch them in person to make sure that the whole thing worked out because you were having trouble working remotely?

Gauri: Absolutely. When you come in with a new product idea and something that’s never been done before, you really need to be on the ground there making sure that things are happening to your specifications. I mean, if you’re creating some things, where you’re improving existing product ideas, it’s possible that you can do it remotely. But when it’s a completely new design, there’s just so many variables, and you really want to be there to look at the specifics of all the details.

Andrew: All right. One last question about that business before we get into Toymail, and that is how many overall products did you sell?

Gauri: Well, I don’t know if I have the exact numbers.

Andrew: Roughly.

Gauri: Close to a million units. We have a whole range of clock products now, Clocky, Ticky Tocky, and the new Pop Clocky.

Andrew: Wow, a million physical products in a million people’s hands roughly.

Gauri: That’s correct, yeah.

Andrew: Wow. All right. So then you had an idea that became Toymail. Where did the idea come from?

Gauri: So I was working with my best friend who’s a mother of three on the alarm products on and off, and we would sort of sit together and work on new product ideas, and sort of realized that as we sort of have young kids in our lives that we’re close to. As much as we love work, we feel that the pull of our families and there’s really no good way to get in touch with little children that are too young for phones. So . . .

Andrew: Give me an example of when you or maybe a relative wanted to get in touch with a child and just said, “I’m not about to call them up or Skype them or anything. I need something else.”

Gauri: Yeah, absolutely. We know that there’s been experiences where I’ve been traveling . . . I travel a lot for work, and a 3-year-old is not going to get on the phone with you and have a conversation, but I would think of things that I wanted to say to them. And I thought, why isn’t there an asynchronous way to get in touch with little kids? Skype can be difficult because children will play with the keys on the keyboard or want to watch a movie instead.

And so actually our whole mission with our company, with Toymail, is to create technologies for kids that doesn’t put them in another screen.

Andrew: Yeah.

Gauri: We hear from parents all the time that spending time is a constant struggle, and we believe we can change that. We can create open ended experiential toys that do really exciting things that have evolving content every day. But do it in a way that doesn’t plop a child in front of another screen.

Andrew: You told me before we started that this idea of asynchronous communication with children could be expressed in lots of different ways. What are some of the different ways that you thought of before you hit on the product that I’m looking up here at my screen and seeing?

Gauri: Yeah, actually the product that you see now, there are various mailbox characters and, of course, we stuck with animals because children love animals. They always have their favorite animals. And we decided on not just to really get across the message of mail, that this is mail going to toys. And, you know, for us less is always more. We need a simple design esthetic for branding purposes, but the technology we’ve created we can put into any form factor. So we believe that we can put this into characters beyond the mailbox characters. We can put them into characters that might already be popularized by other brands.

And so our whole mission is we’ve got this technology, and we can put it into millions of toys and have toys be sort of living and breathing almost in a child’s bedroom. Besides messaging we can do content, like stories and songs. Take children on adventures every day. So . . .

Andrew: So why the mailbox form factor? I can understand how in the future you might say, “Hey, our software just works. Our idea works beyond mailbox toy, toys that look like mailboxes. Why don’t we put it into an Elmo and have Andrew’s mother send a message via Elmo to Andrew’s son or that kind of idea?” I can see how you’d go to that. Then start out with a mailbox and have something to do with any market research, with your ability to produce these things, or was it just what you fell in love with?

Gauri: A little bit of both. I think what we realized is that what we’ve created is Wi-Fi technology where we can send out any content, but we wanted to start with a specific application and messaging because we believe that parents who go to work every day, grandparents who are living in another state. There’s just so much opportunity to stay connected to kids through toys. So that was really just basically the first application of the use of this technology.

Andrew: Okay.

Gauri: But, you know.

Andrew: So we asked you this before this interview what’s the first step that you take to create a product like this, and you said, “Well, the first thing is to just actually sit down and draw it so you can get feedback from people.” What did that original drawing look like, and how did it change with the feedback that you got?

Gauri: Oh, I mean, there wasn’t just one original drawing. We had hundreds and hundreds of sketches that we put together and, you know, it was everything from characters that maybe are more conventional to figuring out how do we get the idea of mail across with the toy. And really just sort of running the gamut of what this could be which could be so many different things.

Andrew: Do you remember an example of an original design that you created that after showing it to some kids or showing it to parents, you said, “Ooh, this is clearly wrong. I’m glad I showed it to them.” What’s an original design that did that?

Gauri: Well, definitely we had some cube-like characters that I would say they were smaller and were just really children weren’t grasping them because of the size. So, you know, form factor can be a study in many things from shape, size, materials, colors, all of those things.

Andrew: I see. So where I would think hey, they’re children, the smaller the better. And frankly the technology in general unless we’re talking about phones or computer screens you want the smaller the better. And in this case you showed it to kids, and it just wasn’t the right fit in their hands. So you actually did more than sketches, you actually started to create prototypes too.

Gauri: Absolutely, yes. We had to do that, and that was mainly for the sizing and proportions.

Andrew: Before you got to that, you had to create 3D models. You used something called 3D Studio Max.

Gauri: Yes.

Andrew: How was that?

Gauri: We used plenty of different 3D software. We have a bunch of people on our team that just kind of go at it and try to visualize this in 3D. It’s certainly the second step after sketching, and then we go directly to just printing them in a 3D printer.

Andrew: Who is it on your team who does this? I didn’t even realize you had a team at this point.

Gauri: Oh yes, so we worked. It was myself and my co-founder. We started the company. We brought on extra help, contractors as well as interns, and now we have a team of about four people for sales and marketing as well.

Andrew: So when it comes to 3D modeling, who does that? That’s not an intern’s job, is it?

Gauri: Oh sometimes, yes it is.

Andrew: Really? You’ve got an intern who could 3D model for you?

Gauri: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, there’s many great interns out there that are looking for experience and . . .

Andrew: If I found an intern like that, I could use an intern like that.

Gauri: Reach out to any of the big universities.

Andrew: Okay. All right. I remember, I think, after our interview I had another interviewee who asked for an introduction to someone who created hardware. You’re open to stuff like that. Did you go in the other direction? Now that you’re building a new product, did you say, “Who can I go out there and get as a mentor, get as a supporter?”

Gauri: For Toymail, yes. I mean the new thing about Toymail is it’s not just hardware for me. There’s an app involved, and there’s a back end server. It’s all about creating this platform that we want to build and grow from. It’s a lot more. It’s a much bigger learning curve actually for me.

Andrew: Who’d you go to?

Gauri: Everybody from people in the toy industry to app developers, just people who had sort of done it on both sides.

Andrew: Okay. Do you have anyone specific you can tell us about? I want to get a sense of who you talked to.

Gauri: Well, let me see. Let me think. Actually, I talked to some of the guys… Let’s see. I talked to a lot of different entrepreneurs, some of them just at smaller startups like Debbie from GoldieBlox. Let’s see. Let me think about more names that you would know. The folks at Tiggly. I really reached out just to all different…

Andrew: It’s just cold emails to them? I’m an entrepreneur, here’s what I built, I’m about to build something else, can I get on a call with you.

Or, do you do coffee? What’s your thing?

Gauri: Yeah, absolutely, coffee usually, or a phone call. Sometimes I meet them at trade shows. Actually, I’m in New York. We have the Toy Fair every year here and a bunch of us toy entrepreneurs get together every year.

Andrew: Okay.

Gauri: It’s really about setting up those opportunities for all these people to meet.

Andrew: Who is Rick Champlin? I just noticed nandahome.com, your site, the Twitter feed on the bottom. I was going to click on it while we were talking to get some feedback on what your day was like, and I see that it links to his Twitter feed.

Gauri: He’s working on our website right now.

Andrew: I see. Your site is down as we speak. Is that a bit of a frustrating distraction for you, or at this point you say you know what, the team is going to handle it?

Gauri: It’s down on purpose actually. We are just transitioning over to some new things. Yeah, it’s sort of a long story, but it’s down on purpose.

Andrew: What’s going on with you today? I’m trying to get a read on you because we’re talking remotely. I’ve known you now for a while. We did our first interview which was so fantastic I hired a writer, April Dykeman actually, on the team, to turn it into a guide so that other people can learn how to take their ideas and make them into physical products. I’m trying to get a sense of how your day is going today and I can’t pick up on it. What’s up today?

Gauri: Today we are launching the Android version of the Toymail app. It’s all about sales and marketing right now. It’s about thinking about how we’re going to grow, how we’re going to get investment money. There’s just so much for building our team up. The interesting thing about the toy market is I think it’s been more complicated than just sort of selling a gadget to adults. I mean we’re dealing with children, so there are many more complexities. There’s a lot to learn and that’s what we’ve been doing…

Andrew: Is it stressful right now?

Gauri: Is it stressful?

Andrew: Yeah.

Gauri: I’m pretty good at managing stress, I think.

Andrew: You are. What do you do to manage stress?

Gauri: I’ve done that for ten years now.

Andrew: Okay.

Gauri: How? I’m sorry?

Andrew: Yeah, how?

Gauri: You know, it’s a psychological thing where you know that any stressful situation is going to pass, and you’re going to learn from it, and you’re going to be better for it. I also exercise regularly, make sure to feel like I’m in control of my life, whether that be health or diet or just spending time socially with friends and family.

Andrew: Okay. Wow, ten years of stress, though. That’s a lot of time.

Gauri: Yeah, yeah, but, you know, I used to put in 80 hour weeks, and I did all that for a long, long time with Clocky. I don’t really do that as much anymore. Life has to be a balance for me now.

Andrew: All right. You get to 3D modeling. It’s time to actually start talking to engineers to get the prototype made. Where do you find the engineers?

Gauri: Networking. Almost everything is through networking – getting referrals, and those referrals sometimes lead to other referrals, and you try things out. You might get a good referral, but you might realize that that person isn’t quite right for you. Sometimes that takes a little bit of time with actually working with that person before you realize that.

Andrew: What makes a good connection for you? How do you know that the engineer who’s going to take your 3D model that an intern or someone else internally built and turn it into a real physical prototype?

Gauri: I don’t know that you really know, but you have a gut feeling…

Andrew: Okay.

Gauri: …when you speak to a few different people about who’s going to communicate with you the best and who seems to really know their stuff. If you interview enough people, they will often sort of say the same things, and so you kind of go with the ones that are hopefully telling you what other people are telling you, but are also telling you things in addition to that. So, it’s about communication as well as skill set.

Andrew: Okay3D. You found the right engineer. Is it not a matter of just at this point in time saying, “I have the 3D model, I’ll hit print on that the way I hit print on a report?” We’re not at that point, are we?

Gauri: No, no. [laughs]

Andrew: So what does an engineer do to take a 3D model and make it into something that you can’t hit print on?

Gauri: Well, the 3D model is of course just the casing, and it is the internal parts, but the process we’re talking about after sketching is really just the aesthetics, the outside casing, and then from there you’re working with the mechanics and the electronics. You’re looking at how to size all the parts inside the product and where they’re going to go. And then you test it out and you might find that if you move the speaker in a certain way it’s going to be louder.

Andrew: Mm.

Gauri: So, there’s just a lot of back-and-forth between the engineering team and the design team as well as the factory to make sure the design is manufacturable, which is something very different than just creating a prototype.

Andrew: All right. So, once you have that made up you still have to take it to a manufacturer and say, “What do we need to change on this to make it so we can produce a lot of them?” How much does it cost to have this engineer take the 3D model and turn it into something that is ready to go to a manufacturer?

Gauri: Well, it depends on the product you’re building.

Andrew: How about for you, roughly?

Gauri: [laughs] You’re probably going to want a budget. We always try to do things inexpensively, but you’re probably going to want to budget hundreds of thousands.

Andrew: Hundreds of thousands just for that engineer? Or for the whole process?

Gauri: Well, it really depends on the product. What we’re creating here is a Wi-Fi based product that has an app, and it has a back-end server. It doesn’t have mechanical parts like Clocky does, but it’s very different technology. Clocky was actually much more inexpensive to build than Toymail.

Andrew: Wow.

Gauri: Well, Clocky was basically a clock and hooked to a couple of motors. We had to do a lot of testing on the durability factor. So, it’s very much a mechanical product.

Andrew: Okay.

Gauri: And mechanical products tend to be a bit cheaper than Wi-Fi, app- based products, which are comparatively new technology. Connected devices, in general, it’s something that we’re all sort of learning and all the companies out there that build this technology are start-ups, too.

Andrew: Sometimes I feel like why would anyone get into hardware, especially when you’re talking about hundreds of thousands dollars just to get this going. And then I think, “Well, on the other hand, there’s a real moat here.” As soon as you said, “Hundreds of thousands of dollars,” I know a few people just hit stop on this and said, “You know what, I’m going to go listen to another interview. This is just too much. I can’t do it.” This creates a barrier to entry that I think will keep a lot of competition away. But, going back to the engineering part, that’s not $100,000. Is that $10,000? Is that $20,000 to take that model and turn into something that’s ready to go to the manufacturer?

Gauri: Yeah, you’re looking at somewhere probably around $50,000. But again, it really depends on the product and the complexity of it. It depends on what you’re trying to do.

Andrew: All right.

Gauri: [laughs]

Andrew: Next up then is . . . Wow, so you’re already $50,000 in? This is your money though, right?

Gauri: [laughs] Well, we are funded by friends and family.

Andrew: You did.

Gauri: Yeah.

Andrew: Okay. Did you become a millionaire from Clocky?

Gauri: [laughs] I don’t know if I feel comfortable discussing that.

Andrew: Really? All right.

Gauri: [laughs]

Andrew: You know what? I’m actually surprised when people are so comfortable discussing that with me.

Gauri: Really? [laughs]

Andrew: Yeah, you have to throw questions out there is what I’ve learned in life. A lot of times answers that I think people would be really shocked by, it’s like nothing for them.

Gauri: Mm.

Andrew: And then sometimes, frankly, I tell you, Gauri, the other day I was talking to an entrepreneur. I said, “I see here in the notes you’re not willing to talk about your revenue, but I’m going to ask you anyway. I want you to feel comfortable saying that you don’t want to talk about it, but you should know my job is to ask questions. That’s what I do for a living.” And he said, “OK, Adam. I’m comfortable in not saying anything about it.” So, I start asking him a question, and then the guy just answers it like nothing. It’s the same thing that he said before the interview started that he knows how not to answer, and he’s going for it.

Gauri: [laughs]

Andrew: You really have to ask questions in life.

Gauri: Yeah. [laughs]

Andrew: Right? All right. Next step then is to create two- How are you feeling right now? I’m sensing something. Are you tense? Are you feeling, like-

Gauri: No, not at all.

Andrew: No? This is a comfortable conversation for you?

Gauri: Yeah, absolutely. I just hope that you’re getting something that you can use. It seemed like there was a lot of back and forth on what you really wanted out of this. I hope I’m…

Andrew: It’s true. You know what? …

Gauri: [??]

Andrew: …I wanted to make sure that this interview worked for you and worked for the audience. Yeah, the team did go back and forth. We thought what if we could spend some time with you really breaking down this process of taking an idea to market or taking an idea from concept to a physical product. You tell me, actually. I kind of feel like maybe we asked too much of you. You said the first step is to take drawings, and we said well, show us the drawings. You said I don’t have those drawings. Or, were you just not able to get them?

Gauri: What do you mean? I sent a bunch of stuff actually.

Andrew: You did?

Gauri: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew: I never got it. We didn’t get it. We thought that maybe we were overburdening you, so it didn’t go in here.

Gauri: That’s really strange. Yeah, I sent it. No, actually… Yeah, I think I sent them, but then I think someone on your team said that you wanted to change the whole interview. But, no, I have tons of drawings I can share. That’s no big deal.

Andrew: If you sent them, do you mind if we include them with this post, allow people to see it?

Gauri: Oh, I would love that. Yeah, absolutely.

Andrew: All right, good. I would love that, too. All right. Maybe, then, I was being overly protective. I feel like not that we have a super close friendship, but your last interview was fantastic. You allowed me, like I said, to turn it into a guide for the audience which they freaking loved. Frankly, no one knew how to pronounce your name, but they all loved it. They all said that one was good.

Gauri: That’s great.

Andrew: I’ve got to make the second one just as good.

Gauri: Yeah, that’s great to hear. I mean I know this is maybe similar to the Clocky stuff, but that is sort of what I do. The difference here is that there’s a little bit more complexity involved with an app. I’m sure people could use a reminder on manufacturing.

Andrew: I saw the app, by the way. You know what? Let’s take a detour and talk about the app, because the app is really simple, right? From what I remember you just pick a child that you want to send a message to. You record the message by hitting a button. When it’s done it goes out to the child. Who designed it?

Gauri: Audrey and I, Audrey is my co-founder, designed it.

Andrew: Audrey Hill.

Gauri: Yeah. We designed it together, and that was another major iterative process. I can’t tell you how many app designs we went through, and it took us about a year just to decide on the thing that we took to the app developers.

Andrew: Okay. When you say you spend a year iterating, how does that work? How do you know that what you’re doing needs changing and what to change in it throughout that year before the product is launched?

Gauri: You start with a bunch of ideas. Usually when you have a product idea it’s very simple. We want to send messages to toys. But, then from there you kind of take it and explore everything that it could be, and it becomes cumbersome really. That’s part of the process, because you have to explore everything that this thing could be.

Then, from there it was like we were stripping down all the layers and making it simple again. That happened through our gut feeling thinking it through, living with it for a while, and also showing it to other people, showing it to the app developers that we were about to work with who are very experienced at these kinds of things. We got more and more feedback learning how the app market has changed.

What we like out of apps is it has to be super quick. You pick up an app. You have to be able to do something with it right away. Otherwise, people will lose interest. That’s something that is really complicated to achieve, but if you spend enough hard work and energy on it you can get there.

Andrew: Do you have an example of something that was in the app that you had to remove and only in retrospect did it feel unnecessary?

Gauri: Yeah, absolutely. We started out thinking about this wondering who is going to use it. We were building it for parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles to send messages to kids, to their family, but we also thought older kids might use this. We wanted it to be playful but at the same time be something that adults would use. That’s a very difficult thing to achieve, to achieve something that is for both demographics.

We started out with this very playful idea that toys would be in this mail center, and there would be like a post office, and there would be all these tools that you could use. It was like if you’ve played with children’s games you have all of these tools and things that you can choose to build things. That’s what we started with, and we realized this needs to be a very simple messaging…

Andrew: Just send a message, no other tools.

Gauri: Exactly.

Andrew: What other tools did you have in mind for it?

Gauri: The first version of the app, the Beta version of the app that we launched with, had a post card that you were basically putting together. Sort of like an old-school post card, you know? It looked great, it was super-cute. Some of the users really loved it. But then other feedback we got was that it need to be stripped down and be very fast.

Andrew: I see. When you show it to people, how are you showing it to them? Is it just sketches on paper? Or, are you creating something in Kenotopia so that it looks and feels like it’s working and gives people a real sense of it? Or is it something else?

Gauri: We do sketches. We try to put to into its final form of screen shots that we can show people. And then eventually we did a Beta test. So it’s really not until our customers used the product, people who aren’t involved in app design, that we got a ton of feedback.

Andrew: Just putting it on a phone like this, putting it in people’s hands, and saying, “Here, can you play with it and see what you think of it?” That was it?

Gauri: Absolutely.

Andrew: You launched on an iPhone first. How did you decide to go with an iPhone and not Android?

Gauri: Just a lot of feedback that we had gotten that iOS is where you want to launch first. Android devices can be a little complicated because there’s so many of them. So we want to get iOS right first, and then go into Android. And, also, our product is a little bit higher price point and I think we’re reaching a specific demographic with iOS first.

Andrew: I get that. One of the frustrations I had when I was using Android exclusively for a while there was that everything was on iPhone. And so every guest that came on here I’d have to go and get the iPhone out just so I could see the app and play with it. Even if the Android was my daily phone. All right. Then it’s time to actually create the inexpensive prototypes. Is that where you go to China and you start to actually talk to the manufacturers and have them create it?

Gauri: Yes. We’re still working alongside our engineers in the U.S. at this point, but it’s a lot of back and forth between the factory and our engineers. I tend to go out there and spend a lot of time just making sure that all the details are nailed down.

Andrew: And how long did it take you to go through that process? Giving them something that your engineers put together and then having them give you prototypes that give you an example of what would actually come off the line once you work with them?

Gauri: Well, as far as going overseas, in this case I took a couple trips at first just to source different factories. I think I did that twice. And then I went back to the factory that I’d chosen and just stayed there for a few weeks working with them.

Andrew: Okay. So a few weeks. And then, how much does it cost to get the actual first prototype?

Gauri: Generally making a prototype overseas isn’t too expensive. It’s really just putting together the parts and the 3D printing and all of that. But the real cost is in the engineering.

Andrew: The engineering ahead of time. Boy, I wouldn’t have expected that. And then the next step is that you need to get some investment money so you can start manufacturing it. Is that where you went to Kickstarter?

Gauri: Yes. We did our Kickstarter campaign. We Crowd Sourced it. That was a great way to go. Of course there are pros and cons to doing a Kickstarter campaign.

Andrew: What’s a con to doing a Kickstarter?

Gauri: It’s something that is very time consuming. People think that they can put the product up there and sit back and hope that Kickstarter enthusiasts will find it. But you really need to do a lot of reaching out to your own network and to the press.

Andrew: So getting it on there is not hard but, getting people to pay attention to it is.

Gauri: Yes. There are so many Kickstarter projects these days. It may have been a little different when Kickstarter first launched. So, just getting noticed, and people not being just, “Oh, this is just another Kickstarter project.” Unfortunately, there have been a lot of Kickstarter projects that, perhaps, didn’t really fulfill their promises. So you want to make sure that you’re not grouped in with that. That people know that you’re actually going to put this out on the market.

Andrew: I remember John from HiddenRadio did a course on Mixergy on how to get press for a Kickstarter campaign and he said that little things that you wouldn’t have expected trip you up. For example, he went to a blogger, I think it was in Gadget, and he said, “I have this project. It already exceeded its goal, so you know it’s legit and it’s going to actually happen. Would you cover it?” And the blog said, “You know what, we don’t cover campaigns that succeed. We only cover the ones that are getting started. We want to introduce the world to a product, not tell the world about a product that everyone already knows and funded.” Little things like that.

Gauri: Yeah and then I also heard from some that said that they weren’t Kickstarter projects because they don’t know if they are going to come out on the market. So yeah it’s, it’s, there is good and bad to it as there is with most things.

Andrew: I’ve been following this one Kickstarter campaign, for Jorno, the foldable, collapsible keyboard. Boy, this guy who put it up on Kickstarter raised his money and he must be in hell right now trying to make it work because I see from time to time he’ll send out an update, but disappear on people. And then the comments rip into him. And he’ll send out another update a few months later, well got this bug and I’m working on it. He must be having so much trouble.

I’m dying to hear what’s going on behind the scenes with him. His name is Scott Starrett, and the reason I’m saying it in the interview is because someone out there must know Scott. I’m dying to know his story. I love the idea that he has. He raised $104,609, over $100,000 and even that’s not enough right, because he still needs to now find a way to make it work. Looks like his last update was May 6, 2014. You don’t know Scott, do you? Gauri: I don’t. No, sorry I can’t help you out there.

Andrew: You could’ve manufactured this on your own. You decided to go to Kickstarter. It allowed you to give something to the press to go and talk about. Do you have an example of something that worked when you went to the press and said I’ve got this? This is coming out? What worked for you when it comes to getting press? You are clearly did well, you exceeded your goal. You got, what, 83,000?

Gauri: Yeah [cough], We did a super short Kickstarter campaign, actually only two weeks because we wanted to actually, be able to ship in time for the holidays and so. Yeah, I mean, we, I guess in terms of what works for the press I mean, you really want to let them know that this is going to come out, sort of reassure them. Especially if it is a Kickstarter thing. But you know it’s about sort of relaying a story to the press. I mean, people want to be able to understand how this fits into their lives or their families lives, especially if it is a product based thing. So it’s about those user stories, what people tell us. [??]

Andrew: What did you do to make it sound relevant to the press? What’s an example of something you did?

Gauri: I mean for us, the simplest message that we try to get across is that, as a company, we create technology that isn’t about more screentime. And you can stay connected without more screentime, and that’s [??]

Andrew: You know that phrase, no more screen time, that was the big for you.

Gauri: Yeah I mean it’s big just because kids spend an average of eight hours a day in front of a screen and that’s not good. [laugh]. I mean anybody sort of with common sense can know that’s not good. But of course there is a lot of studies to suggest the problems with that.

Andrew: What is the problem with that?

Gauri: So that was a big thing, but also, you know having, giving families a way to stay connected is huge and essentially what we have created is global walkie talkies. It’s a fun way to stay connected but also it’s about this new technology that we can drive so much interesting content through.

Andrew: Where did you come up with that phrase, the screentime, no more screentime? I can see that being out there in the either and I’ve noticed parents complain about it. Frankly I was on vacation. My mother in law, first thing she did was showed us, me, my wife’s brother. She said, “Here’s a basket where everyone is going to put their phones because I don’t want your faces in the phone the whole time that we are here on the beach.” So I can see that issue but it never occurred to me that I could use it and I don’t know that it would occur to you. What do you do to collect that information and make it into a message that explains to people why they should care about your product?

Gauri: Well, the basis for the product was that we wanted to put technology into physical toys and we as children grew up playing with physical toys, not with our faces in tablets and phones. So it’s just something that came out of our own personal life and as we talked to more and more parents in our demographic we hear it constantly. Screentime is a constant struggle. You know if you try to give a child a phone and you might say you can play with this for half an hour, which is fine, but then when you try to take it away they are going to have a tantrum. And then they get addicted to it really quickly and it’s something that is on everybody’s sort of radar if you are a parent. And it’s sort of a problem today that we’re all trying to figure out how do you deal with it.

Andrew: Yeah.

Gauri: But at the same time you don’t want your child to sort of fall behind and not use technology that’s available. I think it’s something that we’re all in this together figuring it out, and hopefully this message resonates with people so that we can continue to build products that are not harming children, not creating a lifestyle for children that isn’t completely healthy. You know what, Andrew? I have to plug in my computer. Do you…

Andrew: Oh, sure…

Gauri: [??]

Andrew: …go for it. While you do that I will tell everyone that this interview is sponsored by andrewswelcomegate.com. You’ve probably heard me talk about this, and the reason I’m talking about it is it works so well.

You know that as an entrepreneur you need a way of collecting email addresses from the people who come to your site. You don’t just want them to hit and disappear. You want them to stay connected to you so you can start a dialogue, so you can get to know them, and, frankly, I hate to say it, but it’s important, so you can market to them. How do you do it?

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You know, the other thing that as I was researching you seems to have helped you out is this whole idea of Internet of things. When people talk about Internet of things being the future, you’re somehow included. Is that because you have… Do you have a PR company that helps you do that?

Gauri: [??] I mean, we are an Internet of things company and we’re a connected toy, which there are few of us out there right now. There’s nobody doing exactly what we’re doing. It’s a story that people like to talk about. To think Internet of things it’s not just a home automation system, some things like that. I think people want to talk about sort of the other side of it, which if it’s toys it can be very playful.

Andrew: Yeah. I do remember, though. I had a friend who did P.R. for Clearstone Venture Partners, a V.C. in LA, and she said you know, sometimes what all entrepreneurs think they want is constant feature stories about their business, but if you try to get that it’s really not going to happen for most businesses. What you want is when there’s a story done on a topic that you’d be included, even if it’s talk mostly about your competition.

What you want is something that you got for Toymail which is when they’re talking about the Internet of things to have you mentioned in the article all the time, or in this case, the case of Quartz, to have your photo in there, one of the cute little girl holding up the two toys.

All right. I think we’ve covered everything. Is there anything I missed, anything that entrepreneurs need to know about how you built your business so that they can go out there and build a successful product based business, Internet of things based business, too?

Gauri: Obviously, we always focus on the manufacturing and design part which is really the first phase of it. Then, it becomes sales and marketing. You really want to sort of think about how you’re going to execute that as much as you possibly can. Of course, if you don’t have experience there you want to reach out to others who have done it, but there’s a lot to learn there as well…

Andrew: Do you have one tip you can give us about marketing a new product, something that someone who’s listening to us right now can say I listened to this whole interview and now I have one thing I could use tomorrow?

Gauri: Well, I wish I could. It really depends on the type of product. For us it’s something that people like to see in action, so we’ve sort of identified the social networks that are best for us which are Instagram and Twitter and YouTube. But, for another product it might be Pinterest or Facebook or one of those. Of course, connecting with your customers through those channels is important. There’s a lot more to it than that. Marketing is a huge subject.

Andrew: Okay.

Gauri: It’s really identifying, I think, looking at all of the opportunities that are out there instead of picking of just picking the top 20% that’s really going to get you and focusing on those things is what’s really going to get you there. Because, of course, you can’t do it all and I think a lot of entrepreneurs get tripped up trying to do it all. I know I struggle with that as well, so.

Andrew: All right. Let me give people a way to follow up and of course, tell them where they can find your site. The follow-up is, if you’re interested at all in manufacturing and you want a more in-depth conversation that we have right now, listen to the first shout-out, especially if you’re a first time entrepreneur, a first time thing maker. Someone who is making something tangible for the first time. Go back to Mixergy and type into the search bar the word Clocky, you’re going to get an in-depth conversation between me and Gauri Nanda about how she did the first product in her advice for you, step by step, really in-depth.

If you want to get into marketing I mentioned early HiddenRadio, the founder John, came on here and he talked about how he marketed his product on Kickstarter. He did a few things that will work for anyone out there who’s listening. If you do a search on the site right now for the word “HiddenRadio”, one word, you’re going to come up with the course where we walk you through step by step, what he did and what you can use for yourself. And I would be remiss, I don’t even like saying the word remiss. Doesn’t feel like me. I would be a bad interview if I didn’t end this interview by telling you where you can see the product that we’ve been talking about and it’s easy. Here’s where you go, go to toymail.co. T-O-Y-M- A-I-L.CO. Didn’t you have a dot.com domain? You did. What was it?

Gauri: We did. We had toymailco.com.

Andrew: Oh, toymailco.com or toymail.co. Cool. Congratulations on all your success. It’s good to have you back on here.

Gauri: Thanks a lot, Andrew.

Andrew: You bet. Thank you for being a part it. Bye.

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  • JonKragh

    As a software developer interested in learning more about physical goods – this interview touched on a lot to give me an overview of what it takes.

    Thank you Andrew and Gauri.

    Gauri you’re clearly brilliant and good work making life balance a priority as well!

  • James Ashenhurst

    As a new parent, I think the product is a fabulous idea and I like the notion of remotely contacting your child without using a screen. This is truly a difficult technical challenge to implement. As far as the interview is concerned, the spice of any interview is specific details and stories. Despite many opportunities and much prompting, the interviewee repeatedly answered specific questions with vague generalities instead of diving into details, which made the interview less compelling for me. Just my 0.02 .