On March 28 at Red Rock Coffee in Mountain View, Jonathan Wang talked about his experiences starting, scaling, and selling Jaio Sports. Jaio Sports developed and sold a wearable device for professional golfers. Just as they were making sales to early adopters and getting qualified for tournament play the iPhone shipped: apps on that platform, and later Android as well, came to dominate the recreational golf market.
The three lessons I took away:
- Selling to experts does not prepare you for the support questions you will get from “average” consumers. It’s 10-100X the support burden.
- Physical distribution and inventory management require someone on the team who understands supply chain and logistics. It’s a very different set of challenges from selling software.
- Jaio solved several hard problems, e.g. the design of a low cost GPS-enabled wearable device pre-iPhone, getting qualified for use by professional golfers in tournament play, and mapping hundreds of golf courses very accurately. But the goal of casual consumer adoption was frustrated by the unanticipated arrival of a GPS equipped iPhone so that the golf functionality was essentially free with the phone.
If the iPhone had shipped while they were in the concept or design phase I suspect they would have changed plans. Hindsight is always 20-20 but there might have been a small but profitable business selling to professional golfers. But this might not have garnered investment or satisfied their investors as a pivot.
Jonathan Wang blogs at Start-Up Black Ops, a website started on the belief:
Every entrepreneur will, at some point along their journey, find themselves at the bottom of a big, dark pit–seemingly alone, surrounded by nothing, and without a way out. That is the unavoidable norm when it comes to starting and running your own business. It is only at the bottom of this hole where you can learn and develop the skills to get out…and in doing so, you learn just how difficult entrepreneurship is and what it requires of your will and patience to succeed.
- You are not alone – the process is equally difficult and sucks just as much to the next person
- You can be creative – desperation will force you to try things you have never done before
- You don’t give up – you always ensure yourself a fighting chance when you at least try
- You will fail (not once, but many times) – you are better for it and will emerge smarter and stronger
For some observations on the Start-Up Black Ops Creed see “Four Principles From Jonathan Wang’s Start-Up Black Ops Creed“
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