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Futuristic Design Era


male speaker: thank you guys forjoining us here at the youtube space at the secondday of i/o. we're so excited to have youand talk about distribute. and basically when wetalk about distribute what we want to talk about isonce you design and develop amazing product, how doyou get it out there? i couldn't be more exciting thanto be joined by aaron grant who is a co-founder of thalmiclabs to talk about how you distribute an amazingnew technology which

is on the forefrontof wearables. and after graduatingy-combinator and coming in all the way fromwaterloo, we're so excited to haveyou here today, aaron. how are you doing? aaron grant: i'm doing great. it's a pleasure to be here. male speaker: awesome. awesome.

so again, my inner starwars fan could come out, because i feel likewhat you're developing with your technologieslike the force. you're able to control things. not with your mind, but withthe power of wearable technology and controlling what's in frontof you around all devices. can you give a little moredetail about what exactly the myo armband isand how it came to be? aaron grant: yes.

so the myo armband is what wecall a gesture control armband. and it's a slim band thatyou wear around your forearm, like you'd wear a sweatband. and it has a couple differenttypes of sensors in it that actually detect themotions and gestures you make with yourhands and fingers. and we allow you to use that tocontrol any of your technology, whether it's your laptop oryour smart tv or your tablet. the possibilities arepretty much endless.

the way it works is thatthere's a couple different types of sensors embeddedin the armband. one of those is amotion sensor that tracks the positionand orientation and movement of your arm. and we combine that with theproprietary muscle activity sensors we've developed,which actually detect the electricalsignals that occur when you contract your muscles.

so if i'm wearing a myoarmband, and i make a fist, just by reading the electricalimpulses from my muscles, it can tell that myhand is making a fast or touching differentfingers together. so that's whatthe technology is. aaron, tell me about whatyour favorite use case is? you guys put togethera lot of materials, a lot of videos aboutyou showing myo in action in the kitchen, amilitary soldier using

it to control robots. what's your favorite, mostmind blowing application of your technology? aaron grant: there's just somany different possibilities, it's tough to pickone as a favorite. one of the reallyinteresting ones to us is being able to use thisto control other wearable technology. so as we see computing shiftingfrom being purely something

that you do sitting ina chair at your desk to interacting with allthese different devices with different form factors. and some have screensand some don't. and all this differentstuff out there now. using the myo to be ableto naturally interact with those devices ina way that makes sense is something that myselfand everyone back at thalmic is super excited about.

let's rewind the clock. how long have you been around,and what was day one like? what was day one when youtried to develop this armband? what were the strugglesthat you got into? let's talk about the earlydays of your project. so thalmic labs has been aroundfor about two years now-- just over two years. it was founded by myselfand two other graduates from the university of waterloo.

and we basically gottogether and decided that we wanted to builda company-- do something together. and so started lookingaround for some things we could work on. and we were actuallythinking about this kind of new wave of wearabletechnology, a new form factors of devices. and what the best way tocontrol those and interact

with those deviceswould be going forward. and that's where the ideafor the myo was born. there are some camera-basedgesture control solutions out there. and there is, as youcan probably imagine, a lot of limitations with havingto be in front of the camera all the time. and so we thought about howwe could overcome those. and from that the myo was born.

so let's talkabout-- you developed and designed the product. what were you thinking aboutin terms of getting out there? obviously, it'ssomething different. people aren't used to it. what did you do differently thanmost other apps or start-ups that are out there toget your technology in the hands of users? aaron grant: yeah.

so one of our biggestchallenges was that if i walked up tosomeone on the street and told them that the myowas a gesture control armband, they'd have no ideawhat i'm talking about. and it's a brand new technology. it's not a new versionof something else that already exists. and so communicating topeople what the technology is, why you would want to useit, what it's good for,

is a difficult challenge. and we knew that going into it. so in terms ofgetting it out there, we thought of all sortsof different things. like kickstarter was anobvious potential avenue that we didn't exactly endup going down that route. but we really feltthat it would come down to how well we couldexplain what the product is, what it can do, and why youwould actually want to use it.

male speaker: of course. i think so many startupsstruggle with that. they have an amazing product. and then when they tryto get to explaining it, they do so many things. let's distill it toa 10-second pitch. let's put together apowerpoint presentation. but i want to talkabout something that you did that justreally, really amazed me.

you guys put together this videothat i checked this morning. you guys have overthree million hits. there's no cats in this video. it's like a viral video. and it's about a product. you guys do such an amazingjob of conveying that. and it was stillin your early days when you were still in theproduct development phases. so aaron, talk to me abouthow the team at thalmic

thought about putting that videotogether, especially when it's so ahead of the productdevelopment curve. i thought that was a reallyingenious move on your part. so backing up alittle before the time when we actually createdthat video, when we were just trying to get thecompany off the ground-- no matter who you'retalking to, whether it's a potential investor,or a potential employee, or anyone else, you'realways pitching your idea.

and you're trying tosell people on your idea whether you're physicallyselling them a product or not. and we found that we hada lot of trouble getting the idea of the myoacross just with words and maybe a few of powerpointslides or diagrams. people would get it,but it it didn't really click just with that verbalexplanation of the technology. and so we realized we neededsomething more than that, especially for when we wantedto go and try and sell this

to millions of people. and so we came up with theidea of putting together this essentiallyconcept video that showcased a bunch of thevery different applications that myo could be used with. and we felt thatwould be a great way to actually get acrosswhat the product is, what you can use itfor, and why there's nothing else thatcan really accomplish

what the myo can do right now. male speaker: that's awesome. so let's go throughthis thought process. so you decided avideo is the best way to communicate our message. and then you said, i'mgoing to pull out my phone, i'm going to record somebuddies in the office. working with myo, you wentafter a more professional agent. i think so fewentrepreneurs even

think about making ayoutube video related to the product in theirearly days, but you did. can you get us into thenitty gritty of how exactly you did that so perhapsanybody in the audience could replicate it if they'retrying to develop something on their own? aaron grant: yeah, for sure. so we thought about a fewdifferent possibilities, different ways ofdoing it, storyboarded

out a few different things. and one of themain decisions was whether to shootsomething ourself and make it obviously ahome video kind of thing and show some ofthe early prototypes and show what a lotof kickstarter videos tend to do showing thedevelopment process and where we had come fromand where we're at today. and that was one optionor make a really polished,

high production value videoshowcasing at its best, what myo could be, andreally make a video that would have a bigimpact on people. and we decided togo the second route, work with a local up andcoming up video production company to go and producesomething just very visually stunning, very high energy, highimpact video that would just grab people's attentionand make them say, wow, this is an awesome product.

and start to think of allof the potential things that they could dowith it as well. it sounds like you put theentire city of waterloo to work. i'm waiting for theday where we're all going to be like,welcome to waterloo, home of aaron grant andthalmic technologies. so i think that's awesome. so talk to me, also,some of the stats

when we were catching up theother day just really, really amazed me. you guys now have40,000 pre-orders. aaron grant: yes, we do. male speaker: is that right? male speaker: and you guysrecently redesigned the armband and put it out there. so how many days hasit been since you announced the redesignand the launch?

aaron grant: so we announcedthe basically final design of the consumerhardware that we'll be shipping to all ofour pre-order customers later this year. and that was abouttwo weeks ago. and the reception for thathas been absolutely fantastic. and we couldn't be morethrilled because we spent six months redesigning,essentially from scratch, the entire myo armbandsto make it something

that we're reallyproud of and that we think our users will love. male speaker: andit's beautiful. if you see that thearmband, you wouldn't tell if it's a basketball-likearmband, sweatband. it looks so seamless. you guys did such a good jobof cutting it down and making it look slim and sleek. so these 40,000 pre-ordershave come in the past two weeks

alone. aaron grant: sothese are pre-orders, all of our pre-orders fromwhen we launched that video. yeah. and so talk to meabout how do you generate so many pre-ordersfor this product? and give us theprice point again? aaron grant: so it's$149 for a pre-order. male speaker: $149for a pre-order.

and you didn't spend adollar in paid marketing. aaron grant: that's correct. male speaker: so howelse beyond the video did you distributethis technology? how did you get the word out? aaron grant: yeah, so thevideo was really the key. and then, once we had thatand we were happy with it and we tested it onsome people, made sure that it got the idea across anddid what we wanted it to do,

we reached out to just ahandful of different reporters and journalists, lessthan five, and got them to agree to writea story about it. and from there, itessentially just took off. we put a lot of time andeffort into making sure that the video communicatedwhat we wanted it to and how we wanted it to. and from there, we justgave it a little nudge, and then it went from there.

so talk to me also aboutthe developer community. it sounds like youhave a lot of people working on the myo armband tostart developing your products, apps so people can engagein many different use cases and make it their own. how have you empoweredthe developer community with the myo armband? aaron grant: yes, soright from the beginning, we've had a very, verystrong focus on developers.

and our goal with the myois to essentially make it a platform forcontrolling and interacting with your softwareand hardware devices. and so we have sdks availablefor all the major platforms-- windows, mac, ios, android. we have a very activedeveloper community. and actually, lastdecember, we began shipping what we call ouralpha units to early developers and partners toget them starting

to work onapplications and learn how they can use the technology. and we're reallyexcited to be starting to get the final consumerhardware into the hands of a much bigger developercommunity starting next month. so aaron, let's talk moreabout the early days, and were there any mistakes youmade when you look back like, i wish we didn't distributethe product this way. maybe in hindsight weshould have done something

differently. anything you wouldhave changed in terms of getting the myotechnology out there? aaron grant: everyonemakes mistakes, for sure. just because we had a fairlysuccessful pre-order campaign doesn't mean that wedid everything right. this is our firsttime doing this. we learned a lot along the way. i think, looking back, theroute that we went down

in terms of producing the videoand selling these pre-orders through our ownwebsite, i still believe that was the right decision. there are obviouslylittle things we could have done differently. maybe the timing wasn't perfect. some would say we should havewaited a bit longer to do this so that our pre-ordercustomers wouldn't be waiting for so long.

but as you say,hindsight is 20/20. male speaker: andso were you thinking about developing on othersites or doing other ecommerce storefronts to takethe pre-orders? and what ultimatelyled you guys to want to just post it yourselves? aaron grant: sowe're big believers in controlling the wholeproduct experience. and that starts whenyou watch the video

or go to the sitefor the first time and basically the first time youhear about or see the product. and so, the only waythat we could really do that and make sure thatpeople have the experience we want them to is to buildthat all ourselves. so that was a naturalway for us to go. male speaker: so let'sthrow aside any cliches. let's not talkabout oh, the work it takes todistribute a product.

obviously, you put alot of heart and sweat in putting myo out there. what would you say to anentrepreneur developer today that's just trying toget their product out there? what advice, whatlittle nugget of insight can you give themthat maybe you didn't realize when you'restarting out? aaron grant: yeah, i thinkthis applies to more than just distributing theproduct, as well.

but when you'rejust starting out and you have veryfew people, you have way more things todo than you have time. you really, really have tofocus 100% on finding ways to be resourcefuland get things done that maybe seemed kindof impossible at first. or figure out how to open doorsthat seemed like maybe they're a bit out of reach for now. it comes down toa lot of things.

one of them isbeing very creative. one of them is justbeing gutsy enough to go out and talk to people whomaybe you would think would not want to talk to you at thispoint, but you just try and see what happens. there's no harm in doing that. and, yeah, just being verycreative and resourceful in trying to findways, new, better ways to do things that eithersave time or save money or both

is really what's going to makeor break you in the early days. male speaker: and i guessto bring this full circle, talking about being resourcefuland saving money, how much did that video that had over3 million hits, what was a ballpark figure ofhow much that video cost? aaron grant: so i can't disclosethe actual amount there. male speaker: oh,yeah, of course. aaron grant: onething we did there was we found a local upand coming video production

company who thepublicity generated would be equally valuablefor them as it would for us. and by doing that,we were able to avoid some of the sky highprices that would usually be associated with producingsomething like this. male speaker: absolutely. yeah, and if youlook at the video, it's just soprofessionally made. it's worth every ounceof those 3 million views.

and again, i encourageyou guys to check it out. just blows you away. sounds like itinspired a lot of users as well as yourteam to just move towards the visionof your product. so it's amazing howyou got that out there. i just wanted to leave thelast few seconds here to you in case there'sanything else you want to talk about interms of the myo technology

and getting it outthere before we open up to the audiencefor you guys to ask any questions youmay have to aaron. so any final closingwords about the struggles you had or just adviceto developers and entrepreneurs in the audience today? aaron grant: yeah, i'lljust reiterate what i just said about being resourceful. you can't say that enough.

it's absolutely the key thing. i'll give a littleanecdote for something we did in our early days. so one thing that'straditionally a lot more difficult withhardware than software is actually iteratingand making changes and seeing those resultsin a short amount of time. because you have toactually build the thing. and so something that wedid when we were still

funding the company onour personal credit cards was we scoured all thelocal buy and sell websites like craigslist andeverything there, and we found a guyselling a 3d printer. he had it in his basement. it was a big industrialgrade 3d printer that would cost around$30,000, and we got it for about an eighth ofthe price from him there. and using that, we were ableto make new prototypes in a day

rather than waiting twoweeks to get them back. and so it enabled us toiterate on the design much, much, much faster, almost asfast as we do with software. and so, doingthings like that is what really makes a difference. male speaker: craigslistsaving the day again, i see. awesome, awesome. so with that, we'regoing to open up to you guys for questions.

audience: thanks. i was wondering whatdistribute 2.0 looks like, now that you really hit it bigwith word of mouth marketing. what's your plan to spendyour first actual dollar or is this the plan for now? aaron grant: yeah,so right now, we're focused on fulfilling the ordersto the pre-order customers that we have right now. and we'll be startingto do that next month.

and once we'veshipped all those, we'll be moving out intoretail, and with that, the wider availability of the myo,we'll have more marketing and everything around there. i can't really talkabout exactly what that will look like atthis time, but you can expect that later this year. male speaker: in the back. audience 2 : justhad two questions.

so the first was when youlook for team members, what did you look for inputting a team together? i think that'sprobably the hardest part of a start-upin any company. and then the secondis, how did you come up with the ideafor the myo band? aaron grant: ok, so toanswer the first question. the founding team, myselfand the two other founders, we had been classmatesfor five years.

and i think that was, asidefrom being resourceful, probably the secondkey thing that has helped us get towhere we are today because we had thatinitial core team. we had had experienceworking together, we had pulled allnighters together, we had gone on tripstogether, lived together. and more so thananything else, we knew that we could trust eachother, no matter what happened.

and that's really,really, really important. especially when it'sjust the three of you. and especially when you haveto make a decision when, say, two of the other foundersare traveling around the world and something comes up, youhave to decide immediately, we can trust that they're goingto make the correct decision. and i think we were fortunate inthat sense that the three of us already knew each other andwe were in that position. we already had the team.

that's what i wouldlook for if you're building a team from scratch is,don't just go and find someone on the street that you just met. you definitely want peoplethat you know you can trust, you have some sortof past history with. ideally you've done projectsor worked together before or something like that. sorry. what was the second question?

audience 2: how did you comeup with the idea for the myo? aaron grant: right. yes. so we came up with theidea, we were thinking about these new formfactors of computing and where wearabletech is going, where the smartphone's goingto be five years from now. and we realized thatthere's another opportunity for the way we interactwith and control devices.

and so people use theirhands to naturally interact with things already. people are very familiar withgesturing with their hands and controlling things. even if it's just pickingsomething up and putting it down or opening a door. you control things and interactwith things with your hands already. and so, we wanted to find away that you could do that

without having to usea vision-based method. and so that's wherethe idea came from was, how can we control thingsnaturally with our hands without being in frontof a camera all the time. male speaker: cool. well, if there'sno other questions, i just want to saythank you to aaron for joining us here at i/oand i really [inaudible]. aaron grant: oh, thank you.

it's been great. i appreciate it. male speaker: thank you. great.

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