Tech Day 2016 Part 1: Who Needs This?
I was a Tech Day virgin until yesterday.
The experience of waiting on line to get in felt sort of cool. There I stood, with investors, New York City high school students interested in entrepreneurship, the media (which I am now, I suppose), and random consumers who just want to see “what’s new.”
That’s why I was there. I’m always on the look-out for blog fodder, potential collaborators, and inventions that will make my job and my life simpler and happier. The better mousetrap, as it were.
The event itself was like a high school science fair on steroids — 500 exhibitors eager to show their wares and engage in conversation (although some of them sat at their tables like sullen 7-11 employees, staring at their phones…trade show etiquette is always spotty).
I discovered some pretty amazing inventions that had real utility (which will be detailed in Part 2), I also found that many people are trying to better mousetraps when nothing was wrong with the original trap. Or, maybe the place they are building for doesn’t even have a mouse problem. Or, rather than adding some cheese or peanut butter to the trap, someone just decided to “disrupt the mouse…just because.
In the old days (as in the 1980s), we began product development by asking the question, “What is the problem we need to solve?” Or “Who is our target audience and what are their pain points?” We may have even did a little research.
That type of process seems to still exist in some inventors’ minds. For example, one genius Cornell grad student was showcasing a device that enables disabled people to communicate via a mouth-activated device that looked like a bite plate. A woman had created a donation site and infrastructure for non-profits based on giving products rather than cash. Some of my faves like Spot Hero and my friends from LeafLink (ahead of the curve on a $35 billion industry) were there.
But, for every one of those companies, I spotted three that probably began with the questions, “Wouldn’t it be really cool if…?” Or, “Do you think we could get funded if we invented an app that [fill in the blanks]“?
Inventors used to live up in attics, living on toast scraps, tinkering with their brainchildren and being told they were nuts by their friends, families, and neighbors. The rest of workers toiled in factories and at desk jobs.
Somehow that model has shifted. Entrepreneurs are the new rock stars, buzzing away in co-working spaces, drinking free beer, and boasting to each other about their pitch decks and funding rounds.
Don’t get me wrong…I think this new wave of innovation is fantastic. The optimism and passion and imagination of this generation of inventors is encouraging.
I have a few mousetraps of my own in reserve.
But I don’t think we really need a mousetrap app. I can almost imagine someone saying, “It’s like the Uber of rodent control!“