Category Archives: Personal

Does Technology Bring More Enjoyment to your Winter Sports?

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High tech has infiltrated the ski resorts near you. If you haven’t held a pass in your hands recently at a wonderful old school mountain, you will notice some changes the next time you venture out. The verification system for getting on the ski lift is now done by RFID at most major resorts. Buy a ticket, put it in your pocket, and the gate will open for you. Once you own a ticket, you can reload it online or at an automatic machine by the lift ticket counter, saving you valuable time on your way to get those first tracks in.

Vail Resorts which owns 10 ski resorts, including Heavenly, Kirkwood, Northstar, Breckenridge, etc., has taken the technology to an even higher level. Purchase one of their re-loadable passes, (with your picture brilliantly displayed on the front), and every time you get on a lift, the system digitally records what lift it was and even calculates the number of runs and vertical feet for the day. Yes, they have gammified the ski pass and setup a simple rewards/incentives system to push yourself farther if you choose.

Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe has free Wi-fi in all of its 6+ lodges spread between California and Nevada. Employees on the mountain can take your picture and upload it to a website for you to purchase, all on a separate wireless network devoted to the mountain photographers. Keep an eye on the social media as Heavenly recently built a new lodge at the top of the gondola which features an après-ski party atmosphere (learn more here), complete with DJ’s and a couple of female dancers performing onstage wearing a cross between a bikini and a snowsuit.

Recon HUD

Is all of this technology starting to drive you nuts yet? Dish out $400-600 for a pair of Recon Goggles (see picture above) that give you a HUD (Head’s Up Display) located right below your line of vision in your right eye. Hit the trails and find out your average speed, top speed, elevation and vertical for the day. (Sidenote: The stats I received in my goggles did not match that of Heavenly’s Epic Pass App, probably due to riding the gondola back down to the village again.)

If you are lost, the Recon HUD shows your location on a live trail map (via the built-in GPS unit). It will also show you where your buddies are if they have the Recon ‘Engage’ App loaded on their smartphone. Imagine retelling the adventure at the end of the day over drinks with people who were actually there in your personal “game”.  Technology enhances the experience. It augments reality.

In my humble opinion, I am so glad that GoPro will not continue to corner the market with their sports video camera. Contour cameras had a bit of a setback financial and leadership wise, but they are back in business and hopefully setting up relationships with the athletes they use to sponsor. If you have a Contour camera or are purchasing one, you can actually view the video that the camera is seeing on your Recon goggles display. You can also see whose calling, or texting, or even pick a music playlist via the simple, gloves-friendly controls strapped to your forearm or on the side of the goggles. Cameras capture the best moments, the worst moments, and of course the unforgettably embarrassing ones… but not just of us, of our crazy friends.

There is some resistance to using HUD’s within the sporting community. Does it give athletes an unfair advantage or cause distraction? Would use of HUD’s lead to more accidents? We don’t think so.  In fact, this argument doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when our own military pilots and race car drivers have been using HUD’s at incredible speeds safely for many years. The amount of time it takes to look at the speedometer in your car is the same amount of time it takes to look at the HUD in your goggles. So obviously some of us fear the unfamiliar. But in time, we adapt. We improve. We accept the ease and enhanced life that technology provides us. I mean where would be without digital voice mail? (I know a few of you still have parents holding out with their answering machines. There’s probably a support group for that.)

Technology has been used to push the physical bounds of what we can do with our bodies. Feeding information to a race car driver visually, or a Tour de France racer getting feedback via an ear-bud is helping to push the athletes to new levels of performance. Winter sports is going to become the next stage for this technology.

Cannondale released a concept computer controlled front shock that used GPS to memorize the race course during your first inspection run. During the race, the computer will adjust the shock according to where you are on the race course. Stiffer shock on the uphill’s and flats, while the microchip loosens up the shock for the bumpy downhill’s, jumps and drops.

This type of course memory can be used for ski jumpers, ski/board racers, snowmobiling and a variety of other winter sports.

We don’t need to look at technology as giving us an edge over others, and many assume that we are moving away from the fundamental roots and nature of the outdoor sports with technology. Humans have always pushed themselves to new limits, whether taking on the first wooly mammoth with a spear, to prove our manliness to the other villagers, or even  Travis Pastrana doing the first double backflip on a motorcycle. We will always push ourselves, and technology can make it safer and give us feedback to help prevent injury, and to make quantitative deductions. The smartphones and gadgets should just be considered as our pets or sidekicks and not a human distraction.

Most winter jackets, pants, boots, goggles and gloves have a Recco chip built in to them. These are to help search and rescue workers to find individuals in case of an avalanche. It’s a technology that 99% of the users will never need, but it’s so inexpensive that it’s worth it for the manufacturers to install it in everything. With the amount of Wi-Fi coverage on the slopes, and the new iBeacons making their debut, I can imagine the location finding systems getting better for snow emergencies and overall fun. But, please don’t try to play football while coming down the slopes; that’s just dangerous.

To close here… I have to share one of my current pet peeves. Why is it that hardly any of the finish huts at the race courses have Internet access? They may advertise Wi-Fi, but seriously.  Are we living in the stone-age? Resorts will have to work harder to keep up with demand. This should be a no-brainer as most finish huts are in close proximity to a chair lift so that the wire can be strung up the mountain to whatever location. The Banzai App (see my past blog post) is one of the first of its kinds to give quick results to the racers, but ‘Live’ results are nearly impossible due to lack of local Wi-Fi, cellphone based Wi-Fi, or a hard-wire to the finish lines. Hopefully all of your major resorts will start to push the cellphone providers for another antenna or at least purchase another DSL or Fiber Internet Line for the thousands of alpine customers that are posting their epic sunny days or tricks to Facebook and other social media.

Don’t forget to send us your outdoor play pictures to @genzplay!

BanzaiApp

Cheers, Steve

p.s. My Recon goggles showed me that my average comfort speed on the slopes is between 33 & 38 mph. My fastest speed for one of my days was 52mph. This would have been faster, but its early season and I had the short skis on. 😉

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BT Assistants Allow You to Find Lost Items and Create New Types of Play for Children.

The Bluetooth (BT) assistants are new technologies with a very bright future. Their uses are limitless. Do you want to know how many steps you’ve taken today, or have you ever lost your car in a parking lot? Take it a step further and you can create treasure hunts for your children in your own backyard. These small, non-intrusive BT device’s consist of a small computer chip with electro-mechanical components and a battery (watch battery or rechargeable).

Fitbit Flex and Fitbit One Activity Monitors.

Fitbit Flex and Fitbit One Activity Monitors.

There are 2 types of BT assistants. Location trackers and activity monitors. Activity monitors, or also called wearable computing, are the most common. They use components such as a gyroscope, accelerometer and sometimes an altimeter. These devices can track number of steps, calories burned and track your sleep patterns. They use data mining to store information such as steps taken, stairs climbed, distance traveled, hours slept, and even mood swings. The more advanced units have heart rate monitoring, blood oxygen levels and glucose levels. Zamzee is the first company to focus on using the monitors to get kids moving. (@fitbit, @zamzee@nikefuel, @mybasis, @misfitwearables, @jawbone, @motoactv, @striiv, @ourlark, @bodymedia, @withings, @goamiigo, @fitbug_ltd). Wikipedia defines activity tracking as the Quantified Self.  “The Quantified Self[1] is a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person’s daily life in terms of inputs (e.g. food consumed, quality of surrounding air), states (e.g. mood, arousalblood oxygen levels), and performance (mental and physical).”

Stick N Find Location Tracking Device.

Stick N Find Location Tracking Device.

The other device is RTLS (Real-time Location Systems), that focus on location tracking of lost items or keeping track of moving objects (i.e. kids, pets). These devices work via Bluetooth and have a range of 30-150 feet. (@sticknfind, @audiovox_corp, @thetileapp, @hippih, @phonehalo) We will see many more of these devices being released from large manufacturers, such as Kensington which has a device called the Proximo. Nokia is creating a device called the Treasure Tag, and Texas Instruments has a device called the SensorTag. See website links at the bottom of the page.

Currently, the BT tracking devices only use 2D directional location services. Meaning that its kind of like the Marco Polo swimming game, when you are looking for your lost item. “Marco”,…. “Polo”. The app gives you a hot or cold evaluation, usually with a percentage scale, of the distance that the BT tracker is from your smart phone. You sometimes have to walk in circles to figure out which direction to go. The apps also have a feature, called ‘virtual leash’2, where your smart phone will beep should the BT tracker wander outside of a selected distance. The manufacturers will someday use multiple BT trackers and smartphones to set up triangulation to create a 3D directional mode for more accurate searches. I truly hope that these devices will only need a firmware upgrade when they switch from 2D to 3D tracking.

At GenZPlay, we are focusing on the future of these devices for children. The activity monitoring devices can help with medical issue’s such as obesity and diabetes, but they can also create a new style of outdoor gaming that we haven’t seen before. Treasure hunt apps, where you attach a BT tracker to a toy and hide it in the yard. Adventure and fitness apps can use the activity monitors to move the gaming out of the living room; think Wii outdoors. These types of apps create gamification of fitness activities. “Gamification seeks to harness human motivation through the observation of why humans play games, playing on the idea that humans play games because they are intrinsically rewarding and entertaining.”1

The BT trackers could be used to help with bio-mechanical motion analysis as seen below. Tape BT trackers to various points on the body and find out if your tennis serve is properly performed or why your golf swing constantly shanks. GenZPlay is working on a virtual frisbee golf app that uses a BT tracker mounted to the center of a frisbee. Many of the BT device’s offer SDK’s so that you can design your own application and integrate with the data being transmitted from the device.

Photo by www.athleticedge.net/

Biomechanical analysis can help increase both pitching velocity and accuracy. Photo by athleticedge.net

If you are looking for reviews on activity trackers, check out these two:

http://goo.gl/DfVpw1

http://goo.gl/Ni6Oi

Bluetooth activity monitor website links:

Bluetooth tracker website links:

Sources:

1http://www.edudemic.com/2013/05/25-things-teachers-should-know-about-gamification/

2www.sticknfind.com

Part 3.. How to become an App creating entrepreneur.. in 700 days or less.

Fry from Futurama?

Read Part One

Read Part Two

GET YOUR DUCKS IN A ROW.

  • Figure out the path of your business and start to create the necessary items that are needed for this venture. Find and buy your domain names. Create your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts. Make sure you take the time to sync up the links between these web pages. Get a logo, it helps to keep you inspired and looks good on your business cards. Create a couple of t-shirts with the logo to wear to events.
  • Figure out your market and find others who are willing to share their experiences with you. You’d be amazed at the number of app creators that are just people who did it on their own. They are very open about their experiences and are a great source of advice.
  • Make a list of all the App reviewing services and technology news sites. Many of the review services want $30-200 to review your app. I’ve found many Mommy Blogsites that are creating their own source of revenue. There are a few review sites that are free. These reviews need to be posted to your websites, and your app description page on the stores, immediately. Use the momentum of the reviews to gain more followers on Twitter or Facebook.
  • Make a list of all Apps that are similar to yours. List their Pros and Cons. Keep a spreadsheet of other important data about each app, including release date, number of revisions, etc.
  • Make sure you update the app, and release a press release, at least once every 2 months. People will not buy your App if the stores show that your latest update was over 2 months ago. They might think that you’ve given up on your idea or they will not be able to look forward to new features.

It was after the failure of my Kickstarter campaign that I took my, very much, unfinished business plan and emailed it to the Angel that I spoke about earlier, and another client who is a VC in San Francisco. I was hoping that they would see the future in my ideas, with the small amount of information that I had put on to paper already. I never even received a reply from either of them. I assume that they thought it was a joke, and definitely a waste of their time.

I was ready to take the app out of demo stage and create a version to sell on the app stores. I felt uncomfortable about having the Texas team continue on, as they seemed to have spent too much time figuring out how to program the accelerometer. At one point they were concerned about its accuracy, so I did some research on the Internet and found what others had come up with for formulas to track steps, like a pedometer. I emailed them this information and and they finished the demo, but not without my loss of faith in their experience.

I had subscribed to many websites, where customers were getting bids on having their apps built. I wanted to make sure I would see any apps that were similar to mine, being thought of by others. One of these sites was a group of many developers who were looking for exposure for their new business’. One particular development group was asking for help in choosing their logo for the new company, and was offering 5 free hours of programming in return. I voted on one of their logo concepts, and then approached one of the partners about my app. The company had a group of 20 & 30 somethings that had just graduated from tech schools, and I like their portfolio.

I was very lucky that the partner was a father, and had the same concerns about children and indoor video gaming that I had. I explained my ideas, my background, and my connections, and my small budget. Because he liked the idea, he accepted my offer of building the first paid version of the app for only $4,000. It took a long time to get the app built, but I was patient, as I understood the fantastic deal they were giving me. He mentioned that they would typically charge over $15,000 for this amount of work. I was lucky that I had the graphics files from the Texas team.

The Android version was ready many weeks before the iOS version, so it went live on Google Play. We had a ‘lite’ version and a $2.99 paid version. The free version started downloading like crazy, from countries all over the world. I’m not sure how the word got out, but I assumed because it was a new FREE app, and those apps usually appeared first, when people were browsing Google Play. (Learn how to use analytics). I had 2,000 downloads of the free version in the first month, and only about 5 of the paid version. The reviews were disappointing as it was a new style of app and I didn’t have detailed instructions. The customers didn’t realize that you had to actually run to get the app to work. Many customers were upset because the screen turned black. The screen turned black, as I didn’t want the children looking at the screen, and tripping over something. I learned the lesson and we added a ‘Race in Progress’ text to the black screen.

I haven’t said much about my wife during this whole process, but she has been somewhat patient, but also very upset that things have not been progressing faster. I told her over and over, “one more month, one more month, let the app get to the stores and we will start raking in the money”. The iTunes version was a huge disappointment. I figured since we had so many downloads of the free Android version, and because app statistics said that iPhone users were most likely to pay for new technology, the iOS version would sell at least at 20-30% of what the free Android version had done. I had 30 iOS downloads the first day. Mainly friends and family. 20 the next day, and then its been 0-5 downloads per day of the paid iOS version, ever since. Failure….., or not. I learned.

Its been 7 months since the first release to the stores, and I’ve had 6,000 downloads of the free version on Android. I’ve had 200 downloads of the paid iOS version, and when I offered it for free a few times, I’ve manged to rack up 1000 iOS downloads from the free-loaders… How come people wont pay for my hard work? Another reality of this world.

I started to look for partners in my network of previous co-workers and friends. Finding partners can be exhausting if they don’t believe in you, or they think they can do it better. I lost my lifelong best friend in this pursuit as I go to that phrase, “I’m not delusional, I’m an entrepreneur”. He was vital at the beginning of my process, as he helped to form some of the major ideas in my head. His mother passed away, and he was looking for a way to invest his inheritance, and I suggested that we become 50/50 partners with GenZPlay. I needed money for the last payment of the Big Cat Race app. In hindsight, a business plan might have been helpful for him to feel secure about the future of the company. I pushed too hard for the money, and he felt that I was taking advantage of his mother’s passing. If you are reading this Jason, I sincerely wanted you as my business partner and nothing more. I pray that my company will become successful soon, so that you will realize I wasn’t delusional, and we can start to repair our friendship.

I only have the money to cover my bills, because of Technical Visionaries, so my developers won’t release the latest version of the App. I owe them for the last upgrade. My next step was time to focus on marketing to further the brand of GenZPlay and let people know how passionate I was about this industry. I’ve since started volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club of Sonoma, where I’m teaching the kids to build their own app. One that will keep the parents informed of coming events, and happenings that are going on within the club. The kids have also been invaluable to my inspiration and understanding of what technology will work. Its been over 2 years since the night I took my wife out to dinner, and excitedly announced, we were going to make some great money. About once a month I would focus on the business plan and 2 years had rolled around with only about 20 pages done. I’m now finally and absolutely passionate about writing my business plan, as all the failure, and all the minor successes have given me the confidence to realize what needs to be done. I’m also giving my mentors advice these days.

I was incredibly busy, for many months, with Technical Visionaries and realized how much effort it would take to get GenZPlay off of the ground, if i didn’t work on it full time. I was granted more free time by the way of normal, cyclical swings in business. I haven’t had any large projects lately, just many smaller bill-paying jobs, but I’m excited to have plenty of time to work on the business plan now. Its been a long, hard, educational process, but I’m glad its gone the way it has. I’ve failed, I’ve learned, I’ve set new goals and created new focuses. I’m now finishing the plan because I feel that my journey is now entering the next stage, funding. Think of your goals as a walking trip across the United States. You start your journey in California and you are walking to Maine. It will be a long trek, but of course, you will get there!! You will have many sidetracks and obstacles along your way. The 1st year of GenZPlay, was trying to find a path through the Sierra’s and then the Rocky Mountains. I’m now standing on the edge of the Mississippi and looking for a barge full of money to carry me across.

Why am I so confident that I’ll find funding? Because I’ve learned that if you try hard enough, dream big enough, those dreams do come true. Every small success is a further reminder of working smarter, not harder, and will allow you to accomplish your goals. My focus is so laser small, and I’m so devoted to this project, that failing is not an option. I’m very lucky to have worked for the rich (see personal post here), for most of my life. I saw how they have created their business’ and realized that they are no different than most working Joe’s. They had a vision, and they pursued it with all of their being. Yes, quite a few of them were trust fund babies as well. If I keep pursuing my list of past and current connections, the right one will make itself known.

Conclusion

Failing is part of the process. I just read a quote today, that said “I’m not delusional, I’m an entrepreneur”. That statement couldn’t be any closer to the truth as your ideas are visions in YOUR mind and getting them on to paper in such a way that others will fall for your idea, is one of the toughest challenges of creating an app. Being able to take your visions from thoughts to fruition is what makes an entrepreneur.

Deodatta Shenai-Khatkhate wrote this blog post on January 31, 2013. Her favorite quote is “The Fringe Benefits of Failure” By J. K. Rowling. ” ‘The Fringe Benefits of Failure and Importance of Imagination; is the most famous Commencement Speech by one of the outstanding and exceptionally talented writers of our times, Ms. J. K. Rowling. It was delivered at Harvard College, at the 2008 Graduation Ceremony. I have selected this except where Ms. Rowling eloquently illuminates how even the failure can become the primary precursor to solid success, exemplifying with her personal experiences in life. Undoubtedly the failure can be frustrating, and there is surely nothing to be either glorified or romanticized about failure; and yet the failure can lead one to the sweetest success – if confronted with courage, strong determination, undivided focus and unsurpassing hard work. It’s not how many times one falls, but how often one gets up makes the big difference in reality.” I consider this speech, by Ms. J. K. Rowling, as highly inspirational and thought-provoking; and hence would like to share the following excerpt with the readers of my blog.’

I’m finally working hard on the plan and I’m almost finished. I wanted to finish this blog post first, as it seems like reading the story to myself will help me to finalize my thoughts. I did have another epiphany last night, and it was that I’ve spent too much time in my head, analyzing every last detail down to the atomic level. There comes a point when you’ve tried to get your business to succeed for so long, that you’ve tried many ways, you’ve failed, and you just have to face the fact that all of this hard work WILL pay off. I’ve put so much pressure on myself, that I was trying to put too much into the business plan. I was so worried that this last step of using the plan, to get funded, would fail unless the plan was perfect. The plan is 60 pages long (without financials), and my newest recommendations from other entrepreneurs is to compact it down to about 5-10 pages of the most important information. I plan to do that, but have the full plan attached to the end so they can read the full details if they wish. This compact plan is sort of a Cliff Notes, and investors are tired of reading lengthy plans with tons of details. They just want the specifics.

Part 2.. How to become an App creating entrepreneur.. in 700 days or less.

Fry from Futurama?

Read Part One

Let’s start this post by stating the most important items that you should be working on. What should you do and in what order, to pursue your App building dreams:

  • Always believe in yourself. If you do not dream about the future of your business, your passion and your wealth, you will lose inspiration.
  • Constantly work on your Brain Map. I’m so glad one of my mentor’s told me about this. Take a whiteboard or large piece of paper, and get all of your ideas out of your head and in writing. Do it like a flowchart and connect the ideas that have to happen in a certain order. You always seem to take up too much time going back to something that you already thought of. We only have so many seconds in the day to think so you need a laser focus on what needs to be accomplished. The beauty of failing at certain aspects of your pursuit, is that your focus will become smaller as you learn which of your ideas are most important.
  • Work on your business plan constantly. Take your ideas and put them into details that others will understand. Get out of your office, take a walk, or take your writing to a coffee shop where you mind is clear of other projects you are working on.
  • Get involved with local events and learn from others.
  • Read, read, read. Follow Twitter as its a fantastic resource of current technology and concepts pertaining to your field. Many people have inspiring quotes, helpful business practices and will also engage with you on a personal level if you have questions. Keep your focus narrow though.
  • Make sure you take time off, especially if you have a family. If you are passionate about your business, you will spend every waking moment thinking about your ideas. You will burn out though. Stick to a 40-50 hour work week.
  • This will sound trite, but always surround yourself with people who believe in you, and learn to not care about the disconcerting ideas of those people who are not visionaries.
  • If you are starting out by yourself or with one other partner, find a co-working location, as being among other entrepreneurs will give you the spark to continue on, and they also have fantastic advice or hints to move your project to the next level.
  • Do not rely on your family and large network of Facebook friends to launch your app into stardom. Most of them will not believe in your idea or be jealous of you working for yourself.
  • Get customer reviews! Offer incentives if you have to, but those rating stars and those words on your review section of the App stores are vitally important.

It took me a few days, actually a week, before I wrote Part 2 of this blog post. I run two companies. My primary pursuit use to be my Technical Visionaries company, where I designed, engineered, wired, installed and programmed homes for whole house audio & video, home climate & lighting control, and theater. This has payed the bills so far, but that success, of creating Technical Visionaries, has given me the confidence and knowledge to continue with GenZPlay. Passion may give you the tools to visualize and pursue your ideas, but its commitment, desire and structure that will help you create a great company. All of your experience in life and all of your education will be your most valuable asset.

If my ego is a bit out of touch, it is because I spent most of my life believing that my constantly changing jobs was a hindrance to my future. I now realize I was wrong and my desire to move past the negativity that consumed my life for so long is the biggest drive I have. Yes, it is a hindrance if you don’t focus on anything in particular, but I always focused on technology and I truly believe that the 62 jobs is the core of my ability to put together various technologies and business concepts. Read more here: 62 Jobs in 30 Years

I started out with an idea and presented it to parents at a family Fair in Sebastopol, CA. I received incredible interest. This is one of the steps that needs to be completed when creating a concept; discuss with potential customers. Kevin Johnson, @bizwizkevin, wrote this post about creating business plans.

“Experience has taught me that when I get a new business idea, working on the business plan is one of the last things to do. The three crucial steps I follow before even thinking of writing a business plan will work for you, too. First, examine the competitive landscape to see what companies are already there. What do they do poorly? What can you do differently to create a competitive advantage? Second, discuss the idea with potential customers, asking basic questions that determine how much they would value your product or service, which is perhaps the most important preliminary step to writing the business plan. Third, develop a sketch or basic prototype of the product. If it’s a service, map out vital steps and describe customer experiences.”

I was fortunate to have done his 3 crucial steps naturally in the pursuit of my startup. My mentor, Sheung Li, was adamant about writing a business plan as my ideas progressed and my desire to get my company, and my app in the limelight. I read many Twitter posts and the book iPhone and iPad Apps Marketing, by Jeffrey Hughes. The book was very informative and gave me hope that my venture would take off as soon as I released my app. I have to admit that I did not take the time to write out my marketing plan, and that was probably the reason my App failed at its release. In the book, Jeffrey said there are 3 types of app developers. Those who created an app but don’t take the time to market it at all. Those who create an app and consistently take ‘some’ time to market it, and those who have significant funds to market it to all the avenues that are available to get your app noticed.

I figured I was in the middle group, but did not realize that just marketing a little bit was not going to make any significant impact on sales. An important lesson to be learned, is that you have to take the time to write a blog post every day, or at least 4 times per week. If I had made that commitment to focus more on my blogging and social marketing, I would probably have seen a significant impact in the acceleration of my app sales. If you are going to be in that middle group, you have to spend at least 10 hours per week focusing on your social media marketing.

I read many books to educate myself in starting a new technology business and to find insights through the great business minds of the 21st century. (See list at end of this post) The books might have made me a bit delusional as these great authors with their success stories made me think that I would be successful right away. I’m glad I wasn’t. My app failed because of the lack of content in the app, lack of marketing skills, and not being able  to program on my own. One of the greatest strengths that I got from my previous careers is User Interface design. I have designed countless custom control systems for my residential clients. I have used countless programs in my 30+ years, and I’ve purchased or downloaded for free, at least 500 apps from iTunes. I know how to program a basic app, example being the app that I created for Olympian, Daron Rahlves, and his pro sports skiing race here in California, but when it comes to the advanced programming, using the accelerometer or GPS, I needed to hire more experienced individuals.

When I first came up with my ideas for GenZPlay, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I did want to create interactive outdoor games, using Bluetooth tracking and apps with fun story lines, where the children could learn about nature, nutrition and have fun outside of the house. I even researched becoming a playground equipment designer to pursue my goals. I did find a computer repair guy in town that helped me with my laptop and I enjoyed speaking with him about technology. Tony and I started meeting once a week to think about outdoor gaming, as he had an 8-year-old who loves technology. In hindsight, attending more tech and start-up conferences might have been helpful in building my network of programmers and mentors, but I’ve always been stubborn. I never believe what anybody says until I figure it out on my own. I didn’t want to be flooded with other people’s ideas or theories. However, I will always make sure that the people who have helped me along the way are given some sort of tribute, including Tony.

As I pursued my interests, and checked out many, many apps by other developers, I realized that there weren’t any apps that tracked the children’s movement and then showed them their progress in an animated fashion. One of my clients has been a VC and Angel investor in technology since the 70’s. I approached him about my ideas one afternoon, while working on the music systems in his new house. He asked me how much I needed and if I had a marketing plan. No, I didn’t have a plan and I didn’t know how much I would need. I told him that I had just sold my favorite mountain bike that morning and I was going to use that money toward creating my first app.

As it turned out, I didn’t have the money nor the ability to create this complex app. I learned about bootstrapping and seed money, but I didn’t want to take the time to continue the business plan, which investors would need. I felt that I could create the software technology on my own. The other hindrance was that my mentor also told me it usually costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to create hardware, so I started out by searching for app developers and found a company in Texas that seemed like the right fit. I gave them the specifics of what I was looking for, and they sent me some quick sketches to see if it would be a good fit. I loved the sketches, but the quote for $13,000 blew my mind. I didn’t have that kind of money, but I knew that if I didn’t have some sort of demonstration version, I couldn’t test the concepts with the kids and no investor was going to take me seriously with such a new concept.

You have to remember, in late 2010, there were practically no fitness apps, and there was hardly anything on the Internet pertaining to gammification, as it was just gaining momentum. I had the developers work me up a new bid for a demo version that would have a static background and the characters would run across one screen length, comparatively to a full motion 3D version. The new bid was $1800. I gave them a down payment and 5 weeks later I finally had something to show people. That first app allowed my friends and family to see that the idea in my head was starting to become a reality. I figured I was finally on my way and bought myself a new expensive office chair.

However, I got stuck trying to figure out my next steps, and I decided that going with Kickstarter would be my next approach to get the app fully funded. I’m not sure how I missed the idea, but many weeks after I had the demo version on my iPhone, it was obvious that I had to get some children using the app on video. Not only would it prove that the children enjoyed it, but it would get my thought processes flowing again. I tested the app with 4 boys, ages 3-9. There were no girls available at the daycare my son attended. I was awed and inspired by how much they all enjoyed it. I got some great video of them running as fast as they could, finishing their race and watching their cartoon character run on the screen. They loved the app and had great ideas for me, as well as asking when they could play it again. I had one father tell his child to take a rest, as he would run, watch the replay, and immediately run again. His heart was coming out of his chest. Great observation, as I needed to make sure I added rest time.

I taught myself how to use iMovie on the Mac. I added some music, and I now had a video of children using it. I had a better idea of how much it would cost to build, so I created my Kickstarter campaign page. I asked for $30,000. I got the approval from Kickstarter and the page went live. My parents were the first to donate, and then there was nothing. I posted the campaign on Facebook, my website and sent out personal emails to many friends and family. Nothing,… frustrating. I decided to cancel the campaign as it was causing me too much anxiety, and that after just 5 days, I could tell that my ideas needed more work, and the video needed better editing.

Continue with Part 3

List of books that inspired me:

iWoz by Steve Wozniak.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.

How to Win at the sport of business by Mark Cuban.

The future of gammification could be scary. Is this where it’s going? [video]

How to become an app creating entrepreneur.. in 700 days or less.

Fry from Futurama?I was on the back porch feeding my 6 month old boy, when I came up with a fantastic, new technology idea to help get children get out of the house, but I never realized how difficult a start-up can be on your own.

There are lots of ‘How to create your own app’ articles on blogging sites and found via Twitter. Here’s my experience with launching a new app business over the last 2 years.

I’ve been searching for a new technology idea for over 10 years. Since I’ve been working with computers for 30+ years, and I have an engineering background, I’ve always been on the lookout for the next greatest idea, as I love creating and I love technology, and I’ve had a pretty good knack for predicting the future of technology.

I have a business plan, with a rusty staple, that I wrote in 2000 for a company like servicemagic.com. I didn’t follow through on that dream, as I had no self-confidence in finding backers or partners. In 2001, I started a company to create software for the niche market of mega-yachts. There is incredible money to be made there, and they were sorely missing a way to organize all the business processes on board. We had an angel investor interested in setting us up with an office on the water. My partner ended up leaving me behind on that one, and we didn’t have any contracts signed…. definitely learned from that mistake, but I’m happy that my partner made it a success, and its still operating today. I was also asked to be a 50/50 partner in an architectural firm, but I didn’t want to live in Florida.

What have I learned in the past 30 months from this experience?.. An incredible wealth of information about “What not to do”, and “What works”.  I know many VC’s and Angel’s, that are clients for my home technology business, Technical Visionaries. I’m glad that  that I’ve never approached them about investing. If I had been given the money for the start-up early on, I would have been amiss about being able to solve a problem, should the app be immediately successful, but then full into a rut. I’ve created this new business from the ground up with minimal expenses and minimal help. I’m glad I started in the trenches, as I know how to prepare for the snags that come with launching an app company.

Have you ever tried to learn how to social market on your own? Its daunting, frustrating and requires lots of reading to educate yourself on the intricacies of this new style of marketing.

I’m very envious of the college students who are creating their start-ups  Chances are your college roommate or best friend is a programmer, another one is a business major, and you are a computer science major. These young teams have the time and resources to create something amazing, but without the funds that are needed by most starting entrepreneurs. Funding is required to launch the product, but at least they have a polished product to present to possible investors.

1st lesson for my readers. Keep your blog posts reasonably short, as a lot of readers will become dis-enchanted at the sight of a really long story.

Please come back tomorrow for Part 2.

In Part 2, I’ll finish up and discuss what I’ve learned about marketing, looking for funding and finding experienced programmers and business partners.

Cheers, Steve.

Disclaimer: All posts are based upon my perceptions. If any of the parties in the post have a different viewpoint, please contact me or comment below. These are just my thoughts and memories.

Working for the rich…

I’ve been working for incredibly rich people for the last 20 years. I was either a deckhand on their mega-yacht or I’ve worked on the entertainment systems in their homes. A few of the kids at the Boys & Girls club dropped their jaws when I was talking about a movie-star and how frequently I visit their home to update or troubleshoot a system. I had forgotten that feeling I had, while growing up in Maine as a young’un, when I would watch movies or Beverly Hills 90210, and dream of what that life would be like. Now I’m with an amazing woman who grew up in that lifestyle (and actually wishes she didn’t), and I just want to share with other young’uns that YOU TOO can Achieve WHATEVER you Dream!!!

Will there be an Apple TV TV?… Yes

I have no doubt that Apple is working on a flat panel TV with Apple innards. I’ve been playing and programming on Apple since the Apple II, and the story of Apple’s success has been the same since 1979.

Steve Jobs created amazing products and I have no doubt that Apple will continue to do so. Come on, was the iPod such a brilliant creation? Yes it was!, but its just a Sony Walkman digified or computerized. It was just the obvious direction to go in the digital future. Steve saw the future. In that regard, we definitely can call him brilliant.

Steve had an incredible story of creating the personal computer age, and he kept pushing his dreams forward, even after he was fired from the company he created. Steve was just a man who found his calling early in life. It was his passion, his desire, and his gift to others.

Apple has constantly taken the most common technology products that we use and has put the most user friendly and highest quality spin on them. I believe Apple TV TV is going to be the next big thing that Apple will launch. Steve took the laptop and simplified it for everyone by creating the iPad, which appealed to millions, and made computer users out of many that didn’t even own a computer. He created iTunes and the App Store. All of these technologies were essential to the progression of Apple and his vision to have a pocket sized handheld computer.

I can’t wait to see how Apple puts the spin on the Apple TV TV. Will it have a built in SSD drive to record internally? Will you be able to choose your individual favorite channels to purchase instead of buying a package of channels that you don’t even watch? It will be simple to use and it will be beautiful. We all know that!

Steve Calhoun

Steve Calhoun

About the author:

Based in Sonoma Valley, California, GenZPlay was founded in August 2011 by Steve Calhoun to make video games a physically active part of his son’s outdoor life. The company is focused on integrating gaming mechanics with everyday activities, especially those that need a mixture of fun and adventure to motivate and inspire. Steve has a degree in Architecture and is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. He also has a 100ton US Coast Guard Captains License, is a proud papa, and he’s an extreme sports fanatic. Follow Steve on Twitter. @genzplay or follow GenZPlay on Facebook

Technical Visionaries and GenZPlay Newsletter

Greetings and Happy New Year:

I’d like to thank you for your support over the past few years. Starting a new company in this economy was difficult, but I’ve made it past the hump, and incredible things are on the horizon. Technical Visionaries has a solid clientele base, and my new company, GenZPlay is doing well.

The future is very bright, and you will see the middle class entrepreneur rise greatly this year. The rapid growth in crowd-funding on websites like kickstarter.com and indiegogo, has funded many individuals to create wonderful inventions and make their dreams come true. This will pull many dollars away from the big corporations and create many smaller and more efficient companies. Another dot.com boom is on the horizon, but it will be with a much more stable economy.

I’m writing you today to let you know about my end of the year special. My rates will be rising from $80 per hour to $100 per hour starting in March. Schedule some time before then, and get last years rates.

If you’d like to update any of your equipment or the software/firmware on any of your equipment, please schedule an appointment as soon as you can. If you are looking to upgrade your theater or save 20-30% on your electrical bill by installing a smart lighting and heating system, its the right time to do it. Most controlled lighting systems pay for themselves within 12-24 months. There are also some great new thermostats that save money and adjust to your lifestyle automatically. You can even buy an LED light bulb and connect it to an app on your iPhone or Android within minutes. Let me show you how to make your home more efficient.

Many of you already know that I created a children’s outdoor fitness app company in 2010 after the birth of my son, Alex. GenZPlay released the first children’s app in October and we are getting ready to release our 3rd update to the app in a few weeks.

I’ve taken on more than just kids apps, by building the 1st App designed for the competitors and spectators of a professional sports event. The Rahlves Banzai Tour (rahlvesbanzai.com) features some of the best skiers and snowboarders in the country, on the most challenging and confidence-requiring terrain, at 4 major ski resorts around Lake Tahoe. The purse is valued at $80,000 this year. I will be competing in the race, and you can download the app for any smartphone, free, at banzai.genzplay.com. Daron Rahlves is the most decorated Downhill and SuperG skier in the country, and competed in multiple Olympics. I’m proud to have worked with him and Bank of the West to create the first app of this type. Combining information technology with real-time statistics is a passion of mine, and it is the future of outdoor sports.

I’m also in the process of creating an app for Sort Your Story LLC (SYS). SYS is a genealogy app that is being designed for the iPad. We don’t like to call it a family tree app, but an app that lets your learn about the stories of various members of your family. We are using a fantastic marketing team and will be introducing the app to many teachers and school systems. The children will not only have first hand experience at researching their family, but also have the ability to be part of the app design process. You will be able to share your stories with others that own the app, making it easy to start your genealogy, if another family member has already done some of the research. The app will be available in April and we will be presenting the beta version at a genealogical convention, taking place in Utah, at the end of March.

Thanks for reading, and if you have an idea for an app, please just run it by me, as with my experience and wisdom, I’ll let you know if it can be the next Pandora or Angry Birds. 😉

Email or call me if you need any of these services. Thanks again for your support. I’ve attached some pictures below. The 1st is of my partner, Jennifer, Alex and myself. The 2nd is of three generations (GenZ) of technology wizards. By the way, GenZPlay, is also a play on Jennifer’s name, JennZPlay. I couldn’t have done it without her.

Cheers, Steve.

 

Alex, Steve, Jenn Doug, Steve, Alex

 

My father, my tech mentor. Now he’s a sailor.

My father is writing his first blog about a 14 day trip down the Intercoastal waterway on the east coast. Keep in mind that he’s doing this with his wife’s ex-husband on a 40′ sailboat. A funny and adventurous tale.

http://dcamaine.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/rebmeced-4-2102/