For those of you who are new to this blog, my topic this semester is winter driving.
Before diving into this particular assignment, I decided to spend a little more time developing my list of ten ideas. One of the pieces of feedback that I'd received from classmates on Assignment #5 was that I should only include feasible ideas in my final list. It seemed like good advice, so I wanted to replace a few of those unfeasible ideas with more practical ones before I sent out the survey.
These are the ones I kept from Assignment #4:
- Wintershield 9000/stretchable windshield cover
- Glow-in-the-dark windshield cover
- User-friendly windshield cover
- Easy application windshield cover
- Ice scraper/vinegar mister
- Umbrella-style windshield cover - I know I'd identified this one as unfeasible, but I think there still might be hope for it. More research to come if it passes the marketability test.
Here's what I added:
- Hat with chap stick holder (from Assignment #2)
- Jacket with expandable winter shelter (from in class brainstorming session)
- Winter street parking app (based on Assignment #3) - Basically Waze but for parking. As you pulled out of a space, you could get points for broadcasting open spaces to other users. It would also use a combination of Minneapolis winter parking rules, the location of other users, and machine learning to predict where you might be able to find an open spot at a given time.
- Snowstorm command center app (based on Assignment #3) - This app would be targeted towards busy, working parents who might not have time to sit down and watch the news/weather every night. If inclement weather was approaching the next day, it would send the user a smartphone notification to help them plan for the storm in advance (preparing dinner the night before, planning a babysitter if necessary, etc.). With the correct permissions, the app could automatically adjust your phone alarm to wake you up earlier and help you get to work on time. If you were at work when a snowstorm hit, the app could help you communicate with family members, plan childcare pick-ups, and even help you get dinner on the table by ordering your family's favorite Domino's pizza with the press of a button.
With these ideas in hand, I went to SurveyMonkey for a little help figuring out which ones were keepers.
I posted the survey on my Facebook wall and also to the Class of 2014 group for my degree program. After about a week, I had a sample size of 62. Here are the key results:
The clear winners were the hat with the chap stick holder, the glow-in-the-dark windshield cover, the easy application windshield cover, the parking app, and the jacket with expandable shelter. There was a wide range of what people were willing to pay for these products.
Hat with chap stick holder - Hat with retractable accessory attachments
Glow-in-the-dark windshield cover - Method and apparatus for applying a coating to a surface (While that patent may not seem related to the proposed product, it's ultimately the process that allows this to happen)
Easy application windshield cover - Instant car cover
Parking app - Street parking availability estimation
Jacket with expandable shelter - Convertible jacket systems
Hat with chap stick holder
Biggest concern - The biggest concern with this idea is that the winter hat market is fairly crowded, and a chap stick holder may not be enough to differentiate the product.
Cost estimate - I was able to find wholesale merino wool/acrylic blended yarn at $0.28 per ounce. With most winter hats (at least the style I'm looking at) coming in at around 4 oz., a hat could be made for $1.12 in raw materials. The 10x multiplier rule of thumb means this hat would probably need to sell for around $11.20
Assessment - My respondents' willingness to pay for this hat was $9.54, so it looks like this hat is really close to where it needs to be. I'll either need to find a slightly cheaper material, or be willing to sell it to wholesale/retail with a smaller markup.
Glow-in-the-dark windshield cover
Biggest concern - With how long winter nights are during winter, is there an existing glow-in-the-dark technology that could hold its glow until morning?
Cost estimate - Assuming the average windshield is 24" x 48", a windshield cover would need to cover approximately 8 square feet. I priced out polyester (common material in other windshield covers), and it looks like it comes out to about 99 cents per square foot. That would put me at $7.92 already, without factoring in magnets/fasteners, glow-in-the-dark material, and manufacturing.
Assessment - This already seems unfeasible at the current prices for polyester. Research may need to be done into other suppliers or materials.
Easy application windshield cover
Biggest concern - I think the biggest challenge with this idea is still the engineering and design aspect of it. How could it be designed so it was convenient (users didn't have to take off the side "holsters" every time they wanted to drive) while also practical (product doesn't dramatically affect the aerodynamics of the vehicle)?
Cost estimate - Same issue with the glow-in-the-dark cover. Looking at just the cost of polyester with the 10x manufacturing rule, it would already be a $79.20 product.
Assessment - Will need to find another material or a more competitive price. 10x rule might also not apply in this situation, as there's minimal manufacturing. It's really just cutting the material.
Biggest concern - This app has a catch-22. Without users, the algorithm behind the app won't have the data it needs to be effective. Without a strong algorithm, the app won't be useful to users. A beta program may help to overcome the network externality effect.
Cost estimate - I visited http://howmuchtomakeanapp.com/, and it looks like the total cost would be $23,500 (android app + new custom interface + social login + user profiles + ratings/reviews + custom icon + at the idea stage). That's assuming that all production would be outsourced to external programmers and I wouldn't be doing any work myself.
Assessment - Considering the production cost, this app would need over 8,000 paying users at $2.87 to recoup its production costs. The majority of free Android apps are downloaded fewer than 1,000 times, so I would most likely need to look into ad banners or releasing it as an iPhone app instead (more red tape to get the app released, but iPhone users spend significantly more money than Android users on apps).
Jacket with expandable shelter
Biggest concern - Finding a way for this product to be flexible and comfortable to wear with a mini-shelter on the back could be a challenge.
Cost estimate - A single jacket will require a coat lining, interlining, outer shell, shelter fabric, and a shelter frame. Estimated cost: $65. Selling price: $650
Assessment - The price and feasibility of this jacket depends on a lot of unknowns with technology. Just putting collapsible aluminum poles on someone's back is less than ideal, but I haven't been able to find an alternate material to substitute in its place.