In the past year, we have seen a huge shift in how the tech industry, investors, and the public perceive, and act upon, hardware products. In large part, this shift has been led by the impressive growth of wearables, which contain the popular FitBit, Jawbone UP, and now the Apple Watch and are inherently health products.
In addition, top acquirers like Google (Boston Dynamics, Nest) and Facebook (Oculus Rift) have made aggressive moves in robotics, drones, and the internet of things. Perhaps the two coolest companies on the planet right now are Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Tesla Motors.
Beam has been sitting at the intersection of the internet of things and health tech for over 2 years now, in what I view as a particularly interesting situation. On one hand, Beam’s vision to disrupt the dental industry requires bending the ear (and wallet) of notoriously slow moving giants, which we have experienced first-hand. On the other, Beam is fundamentally a consumer product, and in one of the most ubiquitous categories in society. The opportunity is clearly to first create an experience around a universally detested daily activity; one that simply does not exist today.
Here are the key tenets with which we are developing the second generation Beam Brush:
1. Nail the experience.
Achieving a beautiful and passive experience built around this mundane activity of brushing teeth is critical. Our experience must be tasteful, subtle and unobtrusive. Companies like FiftyThree and their connected Pencil have shown the whole industry how to do experience correctly by creating amazing functionality between their stylus and tablet app. As Adam Macbeth at FiftyThree put it recently: ‘great industrial design is just table stakes today; you have to create a seamless experience across software and hardware.’
2. …and tastefully bridge physical and digital.
To return to Macbeth: “The best new ideas live at the boundary between the real world and software.” One of our team’s discoveries has certainly been that people don’t want to work to get a great experience with a piece of hardware. They want to bridge the gap between the physical and digital…the essence of interaction. It should just work.
3. Low Upfront Cost.
Beam aims to make a tremendous impact on the dental field with an array of products and services, so being able to create users in large numbers is extremely important to drive engagement in our ecosystem. Some of our core demographics are young people and middle class families who have very little disposable income to try out new tech products, even ones that they believe can help them. The initial investment is too exclusionary.
Essentially, we must remove the cost barrier for the initial purchase and drive engagement by building off the huge user base of people brushing their teeth everyday already.
We depend on people that have been buying the $3 toothbrushes at the drug store to want to level up by making a slightly larger investment with Beam. It is much less likely that the premium market is a better fit, since premium users have likely already made a $100+ investment in a at some point.
Come for the experience, stay for the value. After overcoming the sales barrier, keeping users engaged is a must to really build a business. One of the keys is to be unobtrusive. No one wants to think about brushing their teeth, even while they are doing it. Trying to force social sharing, or incessant reminders to brush, are annoying and work over time to push your own users away from you.
Creating long term engagement means delighting your users by continuously offering fun challenges and compelling rewards. Uber is doing a great job of this type of variable rewards system right now. Making rewards based on your dental engagement creates a relationship between health and incentives…without making it an overt, invasive experience.
Early on, thoughts on beam tended to revolve around a theme of the brush ‘tattling’ on your dentist, divulging just how bad you are at upkeep on your chompers. This is exactly not the point. Not only does it pit the user against the dentist like they are opposing forces, it serves to also reinforce that brushing your teeth = no fun. Beam’s opportunity is to tell the consumer that while brushing your teeth may not be fun, it can still be made into an amazing experience.