One of the neat things about attending Bootstrapper Breakfasts is that you get to watch companies go from concept to launch to growth. Assistyx is one of our successes for 2009, what follows is a brief write-up by Dan Smucker, another regular Breakfast attendee who has been helping the Assistyx team with their marketing.
A brief history of Assistyx LLC and TapToTalkIn the late summer of 2008, Phil Bookman came upon an interesting product while serving on the board of a special needs school. It was software designed for non-verbal children with autism or other delays. The software ran on a hobbyist handheld game system and had the capabilities of products that cost thousands of dollars. This product cost around $250. However, the “owner” had moved on to another project and no longer had interest. Phil saw the potential of this product and tried to get the owner to get back in the business to help the special needs school and other children. Having no desire to stay in the business, the owner agreed to sell the IP to Phil.
Phil was no novice at this having founded successful software start-ups in new markets in the past. He immediately called Lenny Greenberg, a fellow experienced entrepreneur and co-founder of Phil’s last successful venture. The two experienced and like-minded software entrepreneurs quickly decided to bootstrap another company, Assistyx LLC. Assistyx’s mission would be to develop affordable assistive technology products to a market dominated by very expensive custom hardware. Phil and Lenny both thought that this product could be sold directly to parents and professionals through the Internet as a subscription service. Parents and schools would no longer need to wait months (and sometimes years) for insurance companies or state agencies to approve the purchase. A child could be served immediately.
In his role as CTO, Lenny led the effort to convert the original software to the Nintendo DS, the most popular game platform in the world. The Windows app used to individualize the Nintendo software was substantially enhanced and converted to the Web. As CEO and CMO, Phil developed the Web site and ecommerce strategy for selling direct to consumers, speech professionals and schools. Phil and Lenny worked toward their vision with focus on the first product, TapToTalk, and their target market, non-verbal special needs kids. Within 5 months after launching, they had a prototype. After 7 months, they had a special education school as a initial beta site actively using the product. In 12 months they launched the product to the world.
In its first 3 months since launch, TapToTalk has customers in 28 states of the US and has opened its virtual doors to Canada, the UK, Australia and Ireland. Phil and Lenny are working on moving beyond the Nintendo in 2010. TapToTalk is truly a viral marketing success in its niche.
Lenny frequently attends Bootstrappers Breakfast and has spoken there on the importance of focus and having a long term product vision. He enjoys the back and forth with fellow bootstrappers who have provided good ideas and lessons learned. He spoke in October 2009 on strategic planning, for the slides see “Great Talk on Strategic Planning by Lenny Greenberg.“