Prototype Technique #10: Hack an existing product – Or what made Vibease a success in the sexual wellness industry
This article is part of “The Protoplay Handbook – A Step-by-step Guide to Quickly Finding your Value Proposition”, which will be launched in the Fall of 2016. To stay updated on the launch date and more exclusive prototyping tips such as this one, please sign up for our newsletter at handbook.weprotoplay.com!
The face on Dema Tio’s boss said it all. The Indonesian-born entrepreneur was leaving his position at an investment firm in Boston to pursue his dream to solve a burning issue. Living oceans apart from his wife had taught him one thing that other long-term couples know well: physical intimacy is something you just cannot do on Skype.
With that thought in mind, Vibease was created. The concept was as simple as a smartphone-controlled vibrator, a wellness device for women; the first one of its kind. Over 30,000 happy customers can now achieve what seems like physical intimacy through their smartphones, even living oceans apart.
But creating a smartphone controlled vibrator from scratch is no easy task. It entails knowing how to build the vibrating device, the Bluetooth connection and the casing around it. Dema knew it would require plenty of resources and time. But Dema was more worried about something else: would anyone be prepared to pay for Vibease? His intuition was simple: “hack an existing product and sell it”.
When building a prototype, keep in mind that customers will buy a product even if it does not look perfect, as long as it delivers what is promised. As mentioned earlier in this chapter, having a paying customer is a sure way to know that your value proposition has a market, even if the product your are selling is not yet your finished product.
With limited resources, Dema was sure he could build the connection to work perfectly with a vibrator that was already being sold in the market. And so, the Vibease team started offering customers a vibrator hooked up to a box that could be Bluetooth-controlled via their smartphone. Sure enough, Vibease was able to sell 500 units of this hacked device. This signalled Dema that Vibease was on the right path. But most importantly, he was able to quickly learn some lessons from the prototype that he would implement in his next versions, namely design concerns and the set up process.
Is this prototype for you: are you building hardware? Is there a competitor in the market who is doing what you want to do and think you can do it better by tweaking a few things? Go ahead, buy a few units and resell them to test your market.
Is Google also prototyping with your smartphone?
It seems that Google has also followed such sound advice by hacking a device that they don’t even own: your smartphone. After the Google Glass flop, they instead decided to launch Google Cardboard. It consists of cheap cardboard glasses in which you connect up your smartphone and download the app to experience virtual reality. According to the company’s own data, for the first 19 months since launching it, over 5 million glasses had been shipped and over 1000 compatible applications developed. We do not have any inside knowledge on whether Google decided to consciously launch the Google Cardboard as a prototype. But we do know that instead of spending time and resources pondering on how people will use Google Virtual Reality, they now have enough real data to take a pretty good guess.
What are your thoughts? Do you know of any other cases of a similar prototype? Write them in the comments section or email them to us at email@example.com.