Started in 2007, HoodFind offered a new approach to local discovery that set out to answer the question “what are the best things local businesses are offering today?” Finds included things like sales, unique items and standout services. With this approach, HoodFind provided the ability to go beyond general business information and reviews to communicate fresh, actionable content. The underlying magic of the system was that both local businesses and consumers could post a “Find” at any time which could be easily shared, purchased and rated. Although HoodFind met with success in it’s initial live demo phase in Chicago, it was eventually deadpooled for a variety of factors but mostly because of an inability to get the right team together to execute on the vision. Many painful lessons learned of course. Another startup we met with at the time in Chicago called The Point was just beginning to hone in on an idea in local discovery as well. And that idea ended up becoming Groupon – merely the fastest growing company in the history of business despite its well documented troubles.
LeapLoan was an unbiased mortgage tutorial that would pull real-time interest rate, credit and regulation data to recommend actionable solutions tailored to the needs of mortgage applicants BEFORE they approached a lender to buy or refinance a home. This would help save someone needing a loan a substantial amount of time, money and hassle not to mention helping curb predatory lending practices rampant at the time of LeapLoan’s inception. The vision roadmap also included the ability for someone to effectively originate their own loan, bypassing the need for a loan officer. Although incubators such as Paul Graham of Y Combinator expressed an initial interest, LeapLoan failed to get the right momentum and was put on the backburner after the housing market collapse of 2007. There’s still no true equivalent in the marketplace.
Dooba is an interactive clothing accessory focused on customizable sockwear for the tween to early teen market segment. The idea for Dooba originally came through observations when I taught English in Japan on the JET Programme. Socks and sock brands are given great attention for school kids there. This is due to the fact that socks are generally the only article of clothing that students are allowed to choose on their own as part of their school uniform. Dooba provides the ability for students to display a purposely discreet charm on the wall of a sock where one would typically find the brand logo of the manufacturer. Charms developed (internally and crowd-sourced) can represent a multitude of interests and are inherently collectible and tradeable. Ultimately, Dooba provides an opportunity for self-expression and identity association, but one that falls within the constraints of permissibility in countries and schools where school uniforms are required. CAD designed prototypes were developed and tested of the snap system. Unique charms were created (woven nylon). Beyond meeting a level of emotional satisfaction for extremely finicky young people, the design had to meet a series of technical and tactile requirements revealed through the mapping of likely use-cases. These include things such as repeated charm attachment/removal sequences, self-orientation and even the ability to sustain laundering if one forgot to remove the charm. Although the startup was put on hold, a similar concept called Jibbitz designed for Crocs sandals became hugely popular a year or two later, validating the Dooba concept.