Hobby Apps Can Lead to For Profit Enterprises

“When a visually impaired kid starts playing an audio game, he’s now the leader amongst his sighted peers. It’s a new social experience for them.”

“When a visually impaired kid starts playing an audio game, he’s now the leader amongst his sighted peers. It’s a new social experience for them.”

In this episode of In Process Podcast: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century, Trusted Counsel’s John Monahon speaks with Marty Schultz, a successful technology entrepreneur with a background in software engineering, about Blindfold Games, an app development company he founded in 2014. “The idea was a result of the App Club, an after-school program I was teaching at my daughters’ school,” Marty told us. “The kids wanted to build a game. I agreed to do the programming and demonstrate how games are designed. The caveat, since I was programming was that it had to be different and more interesting than other games.” And it was. Today, more than 25,000 visually impaired people of all ages from around the world enjoy the wildly successful Blindfold Games series of games. Perhaps more importantly, Marty leveraged what he learned with building a new for profit enterprise.   

 So, how does a visually impaired kid living in a digital world actually play a game on their smart device? Through sound from the device. The first game in the Blindfold Racer series is car racing game where the players rely on their hearing versus their sight to play. The concept, Marty explained is simple in that the user uses their device like a steering wheel. If you steer too far left, the sound, typically music, increases in your left ear bud as your indicator to adjust the device to the right. And if the music gets too loud in your right ear bud, you need to steer the device more to the left. Scoring is also based on sound.  A winning sound could be popping popcorn while losing sounds could be hearing annoying barking dogs.   

Prior to adding the first game to the app store, the game concept was tested with about fifty volunteer blind testers from around the world. Over the course of eight weeks, the game was updated through various iterations. An aha moment was when one of the testers said that sighted people would think that the device is broken if the screen is black during the game.  As a result, screen animation became a key element. The same child who was behind the aha moment, named the game Blindfold Racer.

Over time, teachers of visually impaired students learned about these games from their students, and as a result, started using the games in their classrooms to teach their students skills since students with vision impairments struggle to get a solid K-12 education. The games provided teachers a tool to focus on skills missing from a solid education. Marty received feedback from teachers with ideas for new educational games. He also received feedback to broaden his games to special needs students that have conditions such as autism, ADD, and Dyslexia. He immediately dove into market research and he and his team soon formed a new company, ObjectiveEd.

This summer, ObjectiveEd (the new company) plans to close their Series A investment round. Marty said, “Even though the blind community is relatively small, all our innovations apply across the board and we realized impairments are not a small problem.” 18.5% of American children under the age of 18 are Special Needs Children. And according to World Report on Disability, approximately one billion people in the world are living with a disability, with at least 1 in 10 being children. ObjectiveEd believes they can provide amazing technology to have a huge impact on visually impaired, special needs, and other disabled children’s education.

What kind of feedback is your business receiving from clients? Is there opportunity to broaden your business services, or how about going through a business transformation? How is the market changing and how is your business filling in the gap? And lastly, can your business have any type of social impact? Food for thought.

During the podcast CEOs, business owners, and C-level executives will learn:

  • How ideas become technology

  • Marty’s process for research and testing

  • How a “hobby” company can identify for profit business ideas

Don’t miss a single episode of our podcast show. Subscribe to our show “In Process Podcast” on Apple iTunes and on Google Play to receive this episode as well as future episodes to your smartphone.

California Here We Come! Preparing for the California Consumer Privacy Act

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In this episode of In Process Podcast: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century, Trusted Counsel’s Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon speak with Michael Jones, Attorney at Trusted Counsel  who has a strong background in business-oriented technology. Michael previously spearheaded Trusted Counsel’s initiative to help clients understand and comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and now he’s at the helm of California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), slated to go into effect on January 1, 2020.

CCPA is the most comprehensive data privacy bill to pass in the United States at a state level. It requires significant transparency for companies regarding customer data and to date, it’s the toughest privacy law in the country. This law is spreading to other states. Michael says, “ultimately there will be federal legislation, or there will be so many states that pass their own laws that businesses will have to comply with the broadest one .”     

Today, businesses in affected sectors face challenges when it comes to privacy and security compliance because of the requirement to establish a process to identify, secure, delete, and/or manage files that pertain to customer personal data. Most organizations who seek to “go at it alone” will not do it well because doing so requires a combination of skills, with legal and compliance analysis leading the way. Businesses should prepare now with the help of legal privacy specialists. We have compiled a best practices list on what activities your business should be doing between now and January 1, 2020. If you are already complying with GDPR, you’re ahead of the game but there is still work to be done. 

Note: your company’s specific situation may vary from these general scenarios and further research may be needed.

BEST PRACTICES FOR COMPLIANCE

Data

  • Understand what personal information your business collects

  • Update your data inventories (the database to track your database processing activities) in order to prepare for data access, deletion, portability requests, and to comply with opt-out requests

Privacy Notices and Policies

  • Draft the required notices and disclosures “at or before the point of collection” informing customers of the categories of personal information that is being collected and for what purpose.

  • Determine if your business will maintain one privacy notice for California residents, one for other consumers, or have one universal policy.

Consumer Rights

  • Consumers have the right to know, right to request, right to opt out, delete, and the right to not to be discriminated against.

  • Implement protocols to ensure new consumers rights. Are you building out the process, training and have new systems for responding to consumer demands? What does your roll-out look like?

Third Party Service Provider

  • To comply, if you have a third-party vendor that processes your data you need to update and negotiate your contracts

Systems, Training, and Process

  • Increase your budgets for IT reprogramming costs and build process around responding to consumer demands, including protocols for deleting data.

  • Due to penalties involved, take the time to train your employees on handling customer inquires

During the course of the podcast CEOs, business owners, and C-level executives will learn:

  • The definition of the CCPA

  • Recommendations for best practices for your business on compliance

  • Understand what is meant by “intentional data privacy”

  • Final thoughts from Trusted Counsel on why every business should comply

How We Can Help

Contact us at 404.898.2900 or email us at info@trusted-counsel.com to set up a consultation to discuss your company’s situation.

Don’t miss a single episode of our podcast show. Subscribe to our show “In Process Podcast” on Apple iTunes and on Google Play to receive this episode as well as future episodes to your smartphone.

Read the Transcription

Be sure to check out Michael Jones on another podcast episode where he discussed General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and answers questions about it and data privacy.

The Nuts and Bolts of Selling your Business: Due Diligence

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In this episode of In Process Podcast: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century, Trusted Counsel’s John Monahon and Valerie Barton (filling in for Evelyn Ashley) speak to Dan Bradbary, Founder and Managing Partner of PMI Advisors. An accomplished entrepreneur, speaker and author, Bradbary has extensive experience with founding and selling various businesses. He founded PMI Advisors in 2017 upon recognizing the under-served needs of mid-market companies regarding post-merger integration. Since its founding, PMI Advisors has expanded practice to other phases of business management and operations, ranging from business continuity planning, sale preparation, business process optimization and divestiture and carve out.  

According to Bradbary and PMI Advisors, when preparing a business for sale, the Owner/CEO needs to approach the exit strategy with the same focus and drive that helped to build the business. Hence, an Owner/CEO who is “ready” with an attractive business will greatly improve their probability of a successful business exit.

PMI Advisors recommends the following key steps for a successful exit:

Hire a consultant who specializes in M&A
Selling a business is a complex process. A consultant will guide business owners through the steps that often include some sort of readiness assessment, plan development, implementation and value optimization.

Have a transition team
Having a transition team is favorable because they will work alongside you to address all issues involved with selling a business. There will be tax planning needs, legal compliance and succession plans that might need to be put into place. Once you have your transition team in place, schedule an introduction “kick off” meeting. 

Structure your advisory board
An advisory board does not have the legal tethering like a board of directors has – it’s more informal and easier to assemble. It’s comprised of qualified subject matter experts that have knowledge of your industry and specialties in areas such as technology, marketing, sales, operations or human resources. They offer suggestions and non-binding recommendations about key elements to make sure your business is attractive to buyers.

If you receive an unsolicited offer - engage with your legal counsel right away
It is very exciting to receive an offer, but Bradbary warns, “you don’t need to rush into signing a letter of intent.” The main area of concern is that once the letter of intent is signed, the business is taken off the market for several months. You need to be prepared to be locked in during that time period.

By taking these key steps you will be well on your way to drastically improve your probability of a successful exit. Be sure to listen to the entire interview below.

During the course of the podcast CEOs, business owners, and C-level executives will learn:

  • The PMI Advisors process when assisting business owners looking to sell

  • What is meant by having an emergency operations plan

  • The difference between an advisory board versus a board of directors

  • Post-sale final thoughts

Don’t miss a single episode of our podcast show. Subscribe to our show “In Process Podcast” on Apple iTunes and on Google Play to receive this episode as well as future episodes to your smartphone.

New Podcast Series: Episode Four

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In this fourth episode of our podcast series titled “Pithy Conversations with CEOs,” Trusted Counsel’s Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon speak to Erik Bush, CEO and Founder of Demand Driven Technologies (DD Tech). Founded in 2011, DD Tech specializes in cloud-based supply chain software solutions. With over 80 enterprises, today DD Tech has a global presence and a deep channel partner network.

Bush attributes his company success to be the first in the industry to adopt Demand Driven Material Requirements Planning (MRP) when it was introduced to the marketplace in 2011. The new methodology goes into their replenishment solution. With the new MRP model, the logic addresses the needs of manufacturers to plan both their inventories and materials out in a time phased manner. The old MRP model was much more dependent on forecasts. Bush said, “This Demand Driven MRP movement has really taken the market by storm. Clients get real value out of it and they find that they’re far less dependent on things like Microsoft Excel, which believe it or not a lot of the big companies around the world are still using as their inventory planning tool. So as a result, we’re giving clients much better results.” Today, DD Tech is the leading provider of the compliant supply chain solutions. Last year, the company was selected as a Venture Atlanta Presenting Company, the Southeast’s premier event for connecting technology innovation and investment capital.

Prior to founding DD Tech, Bush retired from IBM (2010) after 31 years with the company, the majority in executive management roles. He told us during the podcast, “When I retired, I thought I might do something entrepreneurial, because I’ve always had the itch to go out and try my luck at that.” A year later, he started DD Tech. Bush stressed over and over in the interview that the company really takes a lot of pride in delivering real value to the customer and that they solve problems for the customer.

During the course of the podcast CEOs, business owners, and C-level executives will learn:

  • What led Bush to form DD Tech after he retired from IBM

  • DD Techs process for raising venture capital

  • Bush’s sales lessons

  • KPI’s Bush follows closely every month

  • Pithy advice to new CEOs

    Don’t miss a single episode of our podcast show. Subscribe to our show “In Process Podcast” on Apple iTunes and on Google Play to receive this episode as well as future episodes to your smartphone.

Happy New Year! Your Business Guide to Speed up Innovation and Dump the Junk

This podcast originally aired in July 2017

This podcast originally aired in July 2017

In this episode of In Process: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century, hosts Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon of Trusted Counsel speak with strategist Susan Reed about innovation. Reed is the founder and CEO of EdgeDweller, which for 30 years has transformed organizations and individuals through front-end innovation practices that are powerful, practical and proven. She and the team at EdgeDweller have helped launch more than 150 products and services for 122 brands representing more than 25 industries. EdgeDweller specializes in creating high impact programs for corporations, strategic business units, nonprofits, individuals and small groups. Reed is passionately committed to driving up profitability while sustaining high growth through insightful analytics and intentional creativity.

Disruptive thinking and making it safe
According to Reed, there is a love-hate relationship about disruptive innovation. She believes the key is actually about learning how to make the planning process and the ultimate launch safe. Businesses can reduce the risks and better develop the ideas by working within the organization, or with consultants such as EdgeDweller, to better formulate those ideas and develop very incremental paths to get to the launch. Reed says, “We create those ideas but show organizations a very incremental path to get there from where they are today. So if you can prove it in step one, you move to step two. That’s the only way, until you see it through.”

In one of our most popular podcasts to date, Reed discusses how to reach innovation faster. In essence, one needs to get rid of bad innovation habits. Check out her guide for innovation don’ts to effectively speed up your innovation success.

Innovation Don’ts (according to Susan Reed):

1. Never, ever start with ideation
Starting with ideation is the least effective path to implementation of innovation. And this is very often where we start. “Really?” you ask. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t have success decision metrics in place, hence, there is no agreement on what equals true innovation if you start off with ideation. As a result, little if anything will get implemented.

2. No more one offs
As we all know, things move very quickly in this day and age. So if you believe that you can create an innovation and then give it an incremental upgrade, it’s going to be out of date before it even launches. It’s important to realize that you’ve got to have that long-term plan that requires a series of actions that need to happen behind the first innovation.

3. Forget skills-based or cross-function based teams
The idea behind this statement is that if you use these types of teams, you will only receive incremental ideas, versus real innovative ideas. These teams are working in this space daily; hence they know the rules and boundaries.

4. No more fun fest creative extravaganzas
While clearly not intentional, you are setting up your organization for failure if you don’t have a way to capture ideas and implement the really good ones that are suggested. Having an idea party or meeting will lead to frustration. You’ll end up in a worse place than you were when you started. Reed also refers to this don’t as “the rise and fall of excitement” - it is just that.

5. Never tell people that the innovation project starts with R&D or customer insights
Companies are beginning to realize this. A recent study showed that these practices are actually limiting growth and innovation. So while experts agree that organizations need R&D and customer insights, they recommend that you wait until future states are created, then use it for the feasibility of those ideas, to support them.

So are you ready to innovate or do more of it? Susan Reed recommends the following: Have a serious conversation on how you define innovation, what you’re willing to do and really understand that and communicate it very clearly to your team. Everything is based on that. When you articulate what it is you’re going to do, make sure that it’s going to work. Also remember that most initiatives don’t have a chance of working. “That’s crazy too.”

Want to get the full conversation on “Speed up Innovation. Dump the Junk?” Stream this episode in the player below. You can also subscribe on iTunes to receive new episodes of In Process Podcast directly on your smartphone.