It's great to have an awesome tech idea. It's also awesome to have education, background in the industry, years of experience, and perseverance... Uh, by the way, none of which guarantee you have a snowball's chance in a very-hot-place of selling a successful product. So, how do you turn your game-changing tech idea into reality in the already overcrowded iOS/Android accessory market? I had a chat with Jason Fass, CEO of Zepp Labs, and co-creator of the amazing GolfSense
swing analyzer appcessory ($129.99)
to find out.
I have to admit up front, I made an embarrassing faux pas in the middle of our interview. Er, I got my tech products confused... You see, I review a bit of gear here at iPhone Life, and it sort of runs together in my brain. I confused the GolfSense swing analyzer gadget with another device, which is similar in function (but very different in form). Fass smoothly turned it into a teachable and somewhat humorous moment... Let's jump into the Q‡A., and (despite my confusion) find out how Fass and his team created a superior golf swing visualization product:
iPhone Life: "So, I noted in your bio that you spent some time at Apple as the MacBook Pro product manager. What can you tell me about your time there? Did you learn anything specific that helped to make GolfSense a success?"
Fass: "Yeah, we worked on fielding several of the aluminum Macbook Pro models, to include the Retina display version. I picked up a lot of experience managing and observing what went into the design and fielding of a truly superior computing device on that scale."
iPL: "Did you start Zepp yourself? How exactly did you go from working at big safe companies like Apple and Cisco, to a much more focused and risky venture like a golf swing sensor startup?"
Fass: "Though I have a business degree and MBA from the University of Florida, and Pepperdine respectively, I did undergraduate work in sports medicine. With that background, I set out to create a true game-changing product for golf swing analysis specifically. A couple of years ago I co-founded Zepp Labs with that intention. We designed the app, the motion engine, and the hardware system from scratch to be unlike anything else on the market."
iPL: "Wow, so tell me a bit about the company today, and the product itself. Sounds like you did not farm any of this out, then?"
Fass: "We are still small and scrappy from the standpoint of staff, and facilities. We have a site in Silicon valley, and two others in China. The bulk of our 32 employees work in engineering and R&D. To create an accurate golf swing simulation experience [outside of a radar-based professional system], is not trivial. The GolfSense sensor brings together a gyro and 2 accelerometers, and can process a stream of over 1000 datapoints per second on an iPhone!"
Note: Here comes my blunder...
iPL: "So I noted in my own review that the device did not always stay snugly attached/aligned to my club during initial setup and extended use. What kind of problems did you guys foresee and design for..."
Fass: "Actually our product does not have to be attached to your club..."
...A bit of awkward silence... yikes!
iPL: "Jason, I think I owe you an apology... I have confused your product with another I reviewed on our blog some time ago. Please continue..."
Fass: "Actually I am glad you brought this up, because attaching a sensor to the club is probably the worst way to gather swing data. Even a tiny amount of weight added to the shaft or club head can throw off a normal golf swing markedly. We specifically designed our sensor [which is attached to the Velcro flap of the typical golf glove on the golfer's hand] to be super light (just 17 grams), easy to use, and unobtrusive in every way."
I felt pretty stupid at this point, but soldiered on anyway...
iPL: "Wow, so... I am glad you corrected me [and not just because I took my stupid pills today].. Yes, that is also a great product discriminator I did not previously consider! What else can you tell me about GolfSense that sets it apart?"
School was not out of session yet...
Fass: "Attaching something to the club is also a hassle when switching between clubs. With GolfSense, you attach the sensor to your glove, play your game and view your swing results, save them to the cloud, compare your performance, etc. It's designed to be easy, accurate, and unnoticeable to the golfer."
Tried to ask at least one redeeming question at this point...
iPL: "Did you guys bring in PGA golf professionals as consultants for the app or to gather meaningful analysis from the sensor output?"
Fass: "Actually we did, several in fact, to include Brenden Steele, James Kelly and Nicole Smith, and famous PGA golf coach and partner Rick Smith!"
iPL: "Okay, so to wrap up, what future coolness is Zepp working on? Anything you can share with our readers?"
Jason: "Well, I can't say specifically, but let's say that in the area of sports telemetry and device integration a lot is possible, and we will be creating more game-changing products in the future!"
And with that, the interview concluded, and therein you have a recipe on how to envision, design, market, and produce a great product (and how not to research for an interview). It basically boils down to the following:
1. Go to school and get an education;
2. Work in the industry and learn all you can;
3. Bring together the right people, and keep your company lean;
4. Have a background, understanding and focus on the tech you are trying to market, and then drive that to success;
5. Get input and buy-in to your product from experts when needed.
I want to thank Jason Fass from Zepp Labs for agreeing to have a phone interview with our magazine (and I again apologize for the product screw-up on my part). I could have redacted that section, of course, but it was a key component to his explanation of the product, and a good lesson for me (really anyone). Know your product area, and stay focused on your goals, and you might one day have a success like GolfSense on your hands (pun intended)! Check it out at the links above.