PROJECT: Data Gathering Tool for Canada's Slalom Kayak Athletes (1999)
Employer: Humber College of Applied Arts & Technology, Toronto, ON, Canada
- Benchmark project in my graduating year.
- Market/Surveying Analysis kept as teaching tool.
The original concept was a dryland training machine with novel mechanical design (a 4-bar linkage).
- BUT THERE IS A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE between:
- What prospects say they need
- What they actually want,
- and, What they believe will work.
My goal is to make a profitable business case. I couldn't see a great business growing out of the design. Consider these challenges:
- Customer Psychographics: My mechanical advisor approved the design, but then I came to realize prospects did not believe ANY dryland machine would work, having tried the 11 other failing pseudo-machines already available (one gathers dust in a back corner at Madawaska Kanu Centre in Barry's Bay, Ontario). In retrospect, this was not surprising--the time it took to pull the insight out of the market was a surprise though. Mostly, inventors took a rowing machine and added two paired pulleys to them.
- Manufacturers' Suggested Retail Price (MSRP): Approximately $C1,600 after computing manufacturing cost and markup through the supply chain. In 1998-99, Canadian paddling athletes were spending about 16% of their annual income on gear (boats, paddles, wearables) and use the rest for living and transport expenses. Nationally carded athletes get a tiny amount of assistance. If you are not nationally carded, financial endurance becomes a challenge. They could afford a price point in the $C400 range.
- Quantifying the actual market: My rough global market was 5,000 amateur athletes. But this did not include all athletes, only the ones who did not have sufficient income to travel to mild climates for winter season practice (for Canada, that's the training centre at Tamihi Rapids in Chilliwack, BC, or anywhere else that is warm--usually Latin America or the southern US).
So I went to my advisor and told him the discovery:
Every athlete prefers to be on the water. And NO prospect in my Canadian segment was able to. My market was the segment with the lowest income of one of the smallest athletic markets anywhere!
Meaning...I had to scrap the entire design and business model, 7 weeks before the end of term and the program. And pivot, to:
- Find a hidden opportunity in my mass of data
- Propose a workable solution
- Find new business mentors and a different industrial design mentor/expert
- Ensure the concept met the price point range while satisfying design criteria
- Re-write the thesis (Market analysis, and R&D record)
- Design the product and service from scratch
- Work through numerous iterations
- Prepare a display quality model, graphics board and display
This was an exciting time.
- The winning clue was in the common desire to be on the water. After intense brainstorming, I developed a data gathering monitor designed to be worn in the boat; tracking the movement of the paddler in 3D space.
The solution shocked and excited paddlers.
- It met the price point
- Got paddlers where they wanted to be
- Enlarged the segment to all paddlers
- Expanded the opportunity for line extensions to other sports, and
- Created a foundation for other interesting markets.
** In 2007, Beurer introduced the PM100 Heart Rate Monitor, a glove-mounted unit that closely matched my 1999 version.