Jim interviews the guys from Whiteyboard.com, a simple product with a unique marketing spin.
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I love me a good whiteboard.
And why not? I’m a marketer, a creator, a speaker, an idea guy, and a project manager. I like mockups. I like sketches. I like seeing how a process could flow, and then erasing it with a napkin (can never seem to find that damn eraser) and then sketching it out again. That is what whiteboards are born to do.
The issue is that they are big, they are heavy, and they are expensive. Are those three things contributing to the downfall of creativity as we know it? Well, movies like Fear Dot Com, Year 1, Be Kind Rewind, and Who’s Your Caddy keep getting green lit. Maybe if Hollywood had more whiteboards, people would come to their senses.
Enter Jason Wilk and Sherwin Kim. The two entrepreneurs have founded Whiteyboard.com, a company that does one thing really really well: offer a low-cost whiteboard that can be put on (and removed from) any wall much like a piece of wallpaper. How low-cost? The largest 4′x6′ model tops out at just $30, and two smaller sizes are available for under $15.
In an age where I get pitches from lots of companies with complicated APIs, multilevel social network integration, and sparse business plans, it’s refreshing to see a concept that I understand right out of the box. Or poster tube if you will. What that does is then let me focus on the company’s marketing angle.
As background, Jason has gone through the famous Y Combinator program with another business idea. Y Combinator gives seed money at the earliest stage of venture funding to pay for expenses while companies are getting started. The company that I am most familiar with to have gone through the program is reddit.com, a social news site owned by Conde Nast.
The path for a new internet company is starting to fall into a template:
- A few geeks come up with a great idea (usually there is one CEO-type idea person and one behind the scenes programmer guy)
- Throw up a website and iterate your idea as quickly as possible
- Keep costs low and try to get some money wherever you can
- Use free social media and word of mouth to market and spread the news
- Try to get a story on Tech Crunch
- Drive people to the site, get them to register, try to get to a tipping point of users
- Hope to be the next Twitter or Foursquare, or get bought out by a major media company
The interesting thing about Whiteyboard, is that they did all of the above, but with a physical product.
The downside of this, as Sherwin explains, is that they went through a lot of pain on the product side. You’re dealing with prototypes, shipping costs, storage fees, and a lot of back and forth with overseas manufacturing companies, spanning multiple timezones and throwing in a language barrier.
But once they had their product down, the huge advantage is that when their media coverage hit, and thousands of people were sent to their website, what was waiting for the users wasn’t a quick sign-up form, an email or a video tour, but an offer to buy a product.
And since they were featured in such entrepreneurial, tech-focused, startup-savvy sites such as Think Geek, Lifehacker, and Tech Crunch, they were automatically focusing on their target audience.
Lastly, they are even viewing their office space in a non-traditional way. Is Whiteyboard going to be based in a sprawling industrial park in Newark, New Jersey? Um, no.
Their plan is to have an office on Hollywood Boulevard. But not only will it be an office, but rather an open-to-the-public workspace covered entirely in whiteyboards. Doing so allows the company to almost view this as a marketing expense, rather than a “facilities” expense. And for the people that come in off the street, it becomes a branding experience, allowing them to play some tic tac toe, or who knows, sketch out the screenplay for Who’s Your Caddy 2.
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