Saturday, August 31, 2013

To Succeed In The Market, Be Specific

Since I started advising Cube26, I've been paying a lot more attention to gesture-based controls.  The most hyped company in the space has been Leap Motion, which raised over $44 million to bring its 3-D motion control technology to the market.

Quite a number of investors to whom I introduced Cube26 begged off, citing the difficulty of competing with Leap Motion.  So how is Leap Motion doing?  Not so well, according to MIT's Technology Review:
"Hype surrounding Leap Motion, an $80 3-D gesture-control gadget touted for its exceptional finger-tracking accuracy, reached fever pitch in the weeks before its July launch. Hundreds of thousands of people ordered the device ahead of its release, and a flashy demo video on YouTube was viewed millions of times.

Yet after one month and a raft of “meh” product reviews citing problems like difficulty controlling apps and tired arms, the sardine-can-sized gadget—which connects to a computer’s USB port and tracks the movement of your hands and fingers as they move above its sensor—seems to have lost its steam.

Developers say they like the app-creation tools that Leap Motion provides, and that it’s not particularly hard to build apps for the platform. What complicates things is the need to think about building apps in three dimensions, and to invent motion controls that users will understand how to use."
The issue with Leap Motion isn't a failure of technology; it's a failure of marketing.  Leap Motion seems to be using the classic "Field of Dreams" strategy--if a technology is cool enough, the customers will come.

In contrast, Cube26 has raised $0 from outside investors.  Rather than using special hardware to enable Minority Report-style gestures, it uses the built-in cameras on smartphones, tablets, and PCs to provide specific gesture controls like pausing videos when you stop watching, or using a "shush" gesture to mute the volume.

Just this week, Cube26 announced that its has signed up 6 OEM partners that cover 25% of India's entire smartphone market, and will be on millions of phones by the end of the year:

When you have great technology, it's tempting to go broad. In one early team meeting, the Cube26 team laid out 12 different markets for their technology. My advice was to focus on smartphone gesture controls because it was a specific problem domain where they already had some traction.  6 months later, Cube26 has a dominant position in the market (at least in India).

To succeed in the market (and not just the press), be specific.

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