OK, we have to admit that this Insider was a little tough to write. Not because we didn’t have anything to write about, but because this thing seems so trivial compared to everything else going on in the world. We’ll continue to press on though.
Remember the cash position that we were in a couple of months ago? Well, we were saved by the UK!! In addition to collecting on our outstanding debt (we still have $10k to collect on) shortly after the last Insider, we received a couple of really significant orders from some of our UK distributors. The beauty of selling overseas for us…everything is done by wire transfer, so the cash was in our bank account within several days of the actual order. Now, we’re still in a pretty tight cash position and the economy, combined with recent tragic events isn’t going to change anything. But what the UK sales did do was give us enough money to hang-on until the Fall selling season and give us hope that we could continue pushing MouseDrivers and building out Platinum Concepts without the fear of having to find other sources of income. We don’t know how relevant this lesson learned will be in the immediate future, but one thing we found out: When the US economy seems to be weakening somewhat, other countries seem to be more willing to purchase our product. So, in a sense, go global if you’re not selling enough in the US. It worked for us…sort of.
We’re being knocked-off! Yep, after planning on getting knocked-off for so long, we found out in August that a $60m gift distribution company is planning on selling their own version of MouseDriver to retailers. Now normally, you don’t find out you’ve been knocked-off until you see your competitor’s product on the shelves. But we were very fortunate to find out way in advance. Turns out that the American guy who heads up our manufacturing effort in China also does business with this company. In a meeting in August, a representative from the company pulled out a Brookstone MouseDriver and says “this is going to be our big product for next year.” Thankfully, our manufacturing guy was loyal enough to fill us in on the future knock-off plans of MouseDriver. So what do we do here? Good question. There are a number of different ways we could respond and many different strategic angles to take. But here’s what we’ve decided for the time being: We’re going to wait and see if this company actually knocks us off before making our next serious move. In the meantime though, we are having our lawyers draft and send a letter to the company basically saying that we’ve heard they’re knocking us off, that they should cease and desist all knock-off efforts of our product and if they don’t, really, really bad legal things will happen. This should be a fun one to watch.
And what about our new product? We’re starting to gain momentum for our golf ball locator idea. Turns out that the technology that we’re looking at developing for this product can be used in a bunch of other applications and industries as well. We’ve officially kicked-off our fundraising process and have spent most of the last month meeting with private investors, venture-capitalists, potential advisors, etc. Everybody is intrigued, but most of them keep bringing up the same two questions. Will you own the technology (i.e. through patents or exclusive licensing) and how big are the potential markets for this technology (golf and non-golf related markets). We realize that we might be on to something here, but truth be known, we’re still working on the technology question above. We’re hoping to have more solid answers within the next month, but the bottom line is that if we can’t “protect” the technology, we really don’t have much of a case for raising money. We’re giving ourselves until the end of the year to figure out everything and raise money. If it turns out that this idea has to be shelved, our book tour next year might turn into a personal plea for people to give us salaried jobs!
Speaking of a book tour, this whole “book” thing is starting to get kind of exciting. Knowing that we are going to have a book on shelves in January, 2002 is not only somewhat surreal, we find it downright comical. But apparently, everybody seems to think that we’ve got a great story to tell and we’re certainly not going to argue. From a marketing perspective, the book will be pretty cool. We’re tentatively scheduled to go on a five city media tour (beginning next year) and Perseus is planning on marketing the book on airport billboards and in major business publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company and even The New Yorker. Now, all of this is very tentative and depends on how well the book actually does when it’s officially released, but we’re hoping that all of this marketing not only helps to sell the book, but also helps to sell more MouseDrivers. We’ll give all of you the real skinny on what’s going on (i.e. sales expectations, initial feedback, etc.) in the next Insider and will probably ask your help in letting others know about the book as well. Again, our biggest fear with the book: It comes out, it gets terrible reviews, people absolutely hate it and we end up looking like a couple of huge jackasses. Not likely, we know, but still possible.
What We’ve Done
- Started to reposition Platinum Concepts as a technology consumer products company rather than just the manufacturer of MouseDriver. So, we’ve got new business cards.
- Sold MD’s to most of the department stores under the May Company umbrella (we are praying that these guys actually pay us).
- Began talks with a major book publisher in the UK who wants to obtain the publishing rights to sell the book in all the commonwealth countries (England, Scotland, Australia, Ireland, etc.)
- Refined our “pitch” and executive summary for our new product and met with a number of VC’s, private investors and advisors.
- Develop a viral marketing campaign around the book that will help to increase sales once it’s released in January.
- Start to approach buyers in Q4 of this year in hopes that they will purchase large quantities of MouseDrivers for Q1 and Q2 on next year.
- Determine within the next three months whether we will continue to build-out Platinum Concepts or seek other avenues of entrepreneurial excitement.
- Pay-off the majority of our company owned debt associated with our personal accounts so that we never have to go through the “margin-calling” process again. Last week’s plummeting Dow was certainly a wake up call.
Our mood goes beyond general “business” issues this time. It’s interesting how something so tragic can put a little perspective on what’s really important in life. A little Styx below best describes our mood:
I’m sailing away, set an open course for the virgin sea
I’ve got to be free, free to face the life that’s ahead of me
On board, I’m the captain, so climb aboard
We’ll search for tomorrow on every shore
And I’ll try, oh Lord, I’ll try to carry on
(“Come Sail Away”, Grand Illusion album)