To start with, here are the top 10 ideas from last week:
Hat-helmet: Head protection built into a hat
Knee Sliders: Slide down ski hills, or cover flat ground when snowboarding
Magnetic Fluid Jacket: Changes viscosity (and thus degree of protection) based on acceleration
Two-piece Snowboard: Allows easier maneuverability over flat areas
Adjustable Push Propeller: Propel yourself over flat areas when snowboarding
Flexboard: Has semi-flexible material in the snowboard binding region to enable the user to push himself forward with his feet
Socket Snap Bindings: The bindings become a part of the snowboard, quick attach - detach features
Rotatable Bindings: Easier maneuver over flat areas
Velcro Bindings: Quickly attach - detach from the snowboard (additional bindings probably necessary for regular riding)
Bike-brella: Bicycle attachment that protects from wind, rain and snow
To evaluate the ideas I created 4 surveys. Now, you may be asking yourself: "Why did you create 4 of them?". Well, the survey tool I used only allowed 10 questions per survey, so I had to split the ideas into categories.
The first one had the Hat-Helmet, Knee sliders, and Magnetic fluid jacket. It is worth mentioning that I expanded the Knee slider idea such that you can also use them to slide down regular slopes instead of only using them to cover ground when snowboarding.
The second survey had the Two-piece Snowboard, Adjustable Push Propeller, and Flexboard.
The third survey had the Socket-snap Bindings, Rotatable Bindings, and Velcro Bindings.
Since I had 3 ideas per survey I could only ask 2 questions each because I always included an image which counted towards the 10 question limit. They were: "Could you see yourself buying this?" and "How much would you pay for this in USD ($)?"
The last survey only had the Bike-brella idea, in which case I used the opportunity of asking what people thought of the idea as well.
I explained the categories when I posted this on Facebook so I wouldn't get many responses from people with no snowboarding experience for those ideas. I also specifically asked people to give honest answers and refrain from trying to make me feel good about the ideas :)
I had in total 30 participants for the first survey and 15 for the rest. I was slightly disappointed that people didn't like my Knee Slider idea (only 10% would buy it), but perhaps that is because it would rather be targeted towards kids playing in the snow.
Also, the Bike-brella was not a hit, however this didn't surprise me all that much and now I bring up one of the issues related to surveys. Most of my Facebook friends are Icelandic, though I know there were replies from some of the people I've met in Minneapolis (based on the comments I got). If I were to guess on the viability for marketing the Bike-brella in Iceland, I wouldn't be very optimistic because of various reasons. However, I have a feeling that if I purely had results from people living in Minneapolis, there might be a different story to tell. Some of the comments people had about the idea were: "May cause people to fall in winds", "Good idea for Minnesota", and "I would look like a complete idiot". Since I didn't do any additional "Minnesota only" evaluation for this idea it was eliminated.
I must say that I do believe people were honest in their opinions on the products. For instance the Velcro Bindings results were, well... Take a look for yourself!
I'll now present a graph where the popularity of the ideas is measured by whether people could see themselves buying the product.
Based on the graph, the 5 most marketable products turned out to be: Socket-snap Bindings, Rotatable Bindings, Hat-helmet, Two-piece Snowboard and Magnetic Fluid Jacket. These will be analyzed further in the next sections.
The price points gathered from the data are a little difficult to interpret, because the range is often very broad, in which case one thinks, where do I draw the line between the customers who aren't willing to pay enough from the rest? Are perhaps some people overestimating what they would pay as well?
Therefore I choose to represent the values as: "Pure average" - "25% of the lowest values dropped" - "maximum price" for each product.
Socket Snap Bindings: $250 - $330 - $600
Rotatable Bindings: $78 - $92 - $175
Hat-helmet: $58 - $72 - $170
Two-piece Snowboard: $200 - $255 - $400
Magnetic Fluid Jacket: $136 - $157 - $300
The 2x2 matrix creation was a little more difficult than I anticipated. Perhaps that's because it was hard to distinguish which features to draw out, and what products to use as reference for some of the more novel ideas.
Let's start with the Socket Snap Bindings idea. The easy - difficult axis indicates difficulty (quickness) of fastening the bindings.
Next I looked at Rotatable Bindings. Now the issue here is that I couldn't find any bindings at all that could be rotated. However, I did find a few addons to the snowboard which enable the bindings to be rotated. I didn't know these actually existed until I did a more thorough investigation this week, the product which seems to be most dominating is called "twisted bindings" (I might actually look into buying this for myself :P). The problem was I had no clue on what other feature to use to measure them. I ended up putting in some regular bindings as well, but this didn't really feel right... The horizontal axis is a measure of how easy or difficult it is to cross a large area of flatness. I'm open for suggestions on what I could have done differently.
Then I dived into the Hat-helmet idea. For this I used regular helmets for comparison (and the new "invisible" helmet of course). The measurement I used was how much the helmet stood out, i.e. how much did say "Hey I have a helmet on my head" versus "Hey look at that cool thing on my head".
Alright, let's look at the Two-piece snowboard. I did find something called Dual Snowboard. It's not exactly what I had in mind, but very interesting nevertheless. Then something called a "Twistboard" turned up, which is VERY similar to what I had in mind... Well, there's that. Might still be a market for a new brand, especially if these snowboards are selling :) The low - high axis is based on maneuverability of the snowboard. Unfortunately I was unable to find a price for the Twistboard.
Last idea on the list, the Magnetic Fluid Jacket (this is indeed a long assignment). Based on a comment I got in my survey, looking into non-newtonian fluids might be beneficial to get rid of the electronics necessary to make the magnetic fluid work. Anyway, the products I looked at for comparison were protective jackets, where degree of protection (based on looks and description) was evaluated.
I found a relevant patent for each of the five products (though some are more relevant than others). The format I use to present these is "Idea name - Name of patent - Patent Number" and then a link to the full patent.
Socket Snap Bindings - Step-in snowboard binding - EP 0844902 B2
Rotatable Bindings - Rotating device for a snowboard binding - EP 2550999 A1
Hat-helmet - Flexible Helmet - EP 0921734 B1
Two-piece Snowboard - Articulated two-piece snowboard with rigid, flexible connector - EP 1993683 B1
Magnetic Fluid Jacket - Magnetorheological fluid damper - EP 1270988 B1
The rotatable binding patent is effectively the same idea, the two-piece snowboard is similar, but the other three patents deviate quite a bit from the proposed products (though they are to some extent still relevant).
The Socket-snap Bindings as describe require a specific snowboard with holes for the Socket-snap. Perhaps a better description for this product would be Socket-snap Snowboard, because the change is effectively made to the snowboard, and any conventional type of binding could be used (though it could be expanded to the bindings as well).The biggest concern with this idea is whether this intrusion to the snowboard reduces the performance of the board, and the need to prove that it doesn't.
The material cost for this would therefore be in the same as that of a regular snowboard on the market, except with the added fastening method between the Socket Binding and the snowboard. Because snowboards are made in a very large price range, my analysis will estimate the added cost to the snowboard. In the snowboarding industry there is significant focus on keeping the boards and gear lightweight. Therefore, I'm assuming the use of Aluminum 7075 alloy (high strength) at a price of $43,000/m^3 (based on Discount Steel prices). The estimated amount of material needed for the mechanical attachments is about 100cm^3 which leads to an added material price cost of $4.3 or $43 retail price.
The Rotatable Binding has the embedded question of whether to manufacture a whole binding that does the job, or an addon such as the two products that were found on the market. The way I've currently described it is a binding that does the job, so I'll continue with that. My feeling for this one, since I already know this has been made, would be to enter the market. I only found two products. People seemed significantly more aware of one over the other. Finishing a product like this at acceptable standards would take time, at which point the other product might be too dominant, UNLESS I was able to drive the price down.
I based the material requirement on the image of the Twisted Bindings (at least if I had much more material I wouldn't be doing a very good design job). I used 20cm diameter disc of 5mm thickness This lead to a total cost of $6.75 per binding or $67.5 retail price. That makes $135 if wanted for both bindings (which is not really necessary). Note that this price is slightly lower than the $90 current retail price of the product, but calculations may also be off.
The Hat-helmet has a lot of unknowns in terms of what specific materials to use, and how much is required to give adequate safety, and how much safety to compromise to make encourage non-helmet users to use the product on the basis that it looks better than a helmet. Determining the correct level of safety, including significant amount of testing is the biggest concern about this product.
For an estimation of cost I assumed two layers of thick fleece material (at $4/m^2) and an 11mm thick Ultra-Strength Neoprene Rubber sheet for protection (at $105/m^2) with assuming the head to be a 20cm hemisphere. The price came down to $14 material cost, or $140 retail price.
For the Two-piece Snowboard , this product is practically a normal snowboard with the added feature of being in two pieces which can (and should) be mechanically attached together. As for the Socket-snap Bindings, the biggest concern would be proving the same performance after breaking the board up in two pieces.
To estimate the cost of this product, again I will look at the added cost to a typical snowboard. The locking mechanism would require lightweight material so I'll use the 7075 Aluminum alloy again. Estimated amount of required material is roughly 300cm^3 for a material cost of $12.9 or $129 retail price.
Finally, the Magnetic Fluid Jacket. There are two main concerns with this idea. One, it will require A LOT of testing and may not be a feasible approach at all. Two, keeping the cost down. If you look back at the cost analysis from the survey, throwing away the lowest 25% values gave a dollar amount of $157.
Therefore, let's move for pricing. It turns out that a liter of the Magneto-Rheological fluid (MR fluid) costs $750 and the density is 2280g/liter. Let's start by assuming that the fluid would be placed locally so the jacket is not filled with expensive fluid. Even then, it is my feeling that it would require at least 500mL of fluid, probably much more. This yields a raw material price, EXCLUDING any fabric and electronics, of $375. Assuming the rest of the material cost will be roughly $25 this sums up to $400, so I daresay, things aren't looking too bright for this product