Talkboard Feedback – I’m sorry to say t…

Talkboard Feedback – I’m sorry to say that I really struggled to get through your elevator pitch. I don’t think that a text medium (granted animated on slides) was the right way to sell a product that is advocating for the use of multi-sensory education and business especially with such an emphasis on voice and relationships. I think you could have chosen a better medium using at least voiceover but potentially using an actual live video that would show in the real world the pain point you’re talking about with a person speaking from the front of the room. On average you had 18 words per slide (21 if you drop the first and last title slides) with one slide over 50 words. It was too much for me. I thought the arguments were clear and thought through, however, and that the graphic to represent the talkboard was clear and I liked your tagline. I also thought you did a good job of communicating what your goals were for the project and the use of the word envision in particular was inspiriting. I have to say that while the differentiation is clear, I’m not sure it’s enough to be viable. You mentioned that other types of boards connect you to the front of the room and don’t allow you to move around which is of course not the case with Bluetooth enabled or wireless devices (clickers or wireless mouses for example or tablets that allow you to use the interactivity from a distance). You mention these peripherals later on in your venture pitch saying that with talkboard you won’t have to carry around these devices but your diagram clearly includes the need for a microphone that while not carried would have to be worn by the presenter and presumably has a wireless receiver that can be lost easily in a classroom setting unless you are working with an all-in-one device which will price it out of most educational markets without substantial subsidy. Also, if the mic is worn by the presenter rather than carried, it makes it impossible for students to drive the voice interaction without the presenter removing the mic each time. It also doesn’t acknowledge one of the joys of SMARTboards which is that they allow students to come to the front rather than moving the teacher to the back. It allows students to be hands on with the device and empowers them to move forward. It also doesn’t acknowledge a key competitor in the market to the SMARTboard in general and to this device specifically which is the increased use of tablets and mobile devices in classrooms which gets rid of the “front of the class” paradigm all together. How will talkboard compete with this technology? I wonder about the logistics of the device. For example, if it requires voice recognition training to operate, what happens when you have a substitute teacher or another presenter? What happens if you want one of your students to give a presentation at the front? The voice commands were also one of the most disliked features of both Bluetooth and GoogleGlass when they first came out. People felt very silly having to talk to their device out loud and other options are being added to them so that they can omit the command “OK Glass” for example. The added distraction of the voice commands in a busy classroom may also be difficult compared with the unobtrusive push of a mouse button. My children often have fun messing with the Bluetooth voice recognition in our car that constantly screws up the names of musicians and bands which is often a problem with auto-readers. How will the device distinguish between the voice of the teacher and those of students near by? As an investor, I am also concerned by the finances in this venture pitch. I don’t know how much you are asking from me as an investor and what I can expect to get out of it. You mention $500 000 to employ 6 people which seems a bit steep for contract work depending on where you are doing your development. None of these people are project managers to oversee the big picture and this cost does not include a prototype or any overhead or marketing that your sales people would need to be effective. You will clearly need substantially more capital beyond the first phase so I know I am not going to see a return on investment for quite some time. This is a high risk venture in a market that I already see as saturated. I’m not convinced you will be able to convince schools or boards who have just committed huge amounts of money to install SMARTboards to change over so quickly for one added feature that I’m sure SMARTboard can add quickly as a peripheral to compete once it comes to market. I applaud you for mentioning this challenge in your venture pitch up front, but I’m afraid you have not convinced me it is surmountable. Maybe I’m just a stingy investor, but I am not sure I would see good profitability on my money based on what I have to go on here. Josh Ballem brings up some interesting alternatives that might be worth considering.

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