Sharknado: Admit it, you watched it too.

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Sharknado picture with tara reidOK, I admit it, I watched Sharknado the other day after listening to Howard Stern talk about it. I was watching Sharknado with my daughter Zoe and my wife Marguerite. For the first 5 minutes, nothing but complaints about turning off this awful, almost laughable movie. But, they something happened. What was at one time laughable became a movie to laugh with. Suddenly, we were participating in the beginning of what surely will become a cult film.  I can picture myself years back sitting in my fraternity house at Drexel with everyone and playing a Sharknada game. That’s what a cult film is all about. People develop social engagements around a subject, without always taking the content seriously.

This is similar to what helps make videos on youtube go viral.

For those of you who have sen Sharknado, I am sorry to report that Tara Reid will not be participating in the sequel… yes, the sequel.

Sharknado 2 Invades NYC

The Death of Amar Bose. The Loss of a Sound Visionary.

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Amar Bose Picture

The death of Amar Bose, the founder and chief executive of the audio company Bose is a sad day for consumers and lovers of Bose products.

Bose was an amazing leader and visionary who created an entire new category of speakers for the common man and audiophile as well. He was a believer in producing high-quality products, while making them approachable. It’s amazing that Bose has been able to turn the $25 clock radio into a $400 purchase. It’s amazing that Bose got us to want $299 headphones for our flights.

Bose and Vocollect have many things in common. Both organizations have created new categories of products based upon meeting a unique need, while focusing on engineering excellence. Both organizations continued to change the perceptions and uses of their growing product lines. Both organizations believed that a vertically integrated approach to product design would allow them to create the premier user experience. And finally, both organizations made products that people wanted and that the users were proud to tell others that they were using their products. Yes, the products had “status”.

Bose and Vocollect both have taken many similar approaches to achieving market excellence.

It is rare to find people such as Amar Bose. Thank you.

Dinner with Distribution Center Thought Leaders

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Deutsch_Scott_07aI was fortunate enough to attend a dinner the other night with a couple of supply chain industry luminaries who were celebrating the recent publishing of their book, The Talking Warehouse: (The-Talking-Warehouse).

Attending the evening event were the two authors, David Maloney, Senior Editor, Special Projects & eContent of DC Velocity Magazine and Roger Byford, a co-founder of Vocollect.  Also in attendance were Larry Sweeney, a co-founder of Vocollect and its Senior Vice President, Strategic Markets, Asia and Ron Kubera, Vocollect’s General Manager.  Taken together, these thought leaders represent more than a hundred years’ worth of supply chain experience.

The exciting part for me was to have Roger and Larry recall the early days of Vocollect. Having started and run a software company for many years, it’s always intriguing to hear about the experiences of others during their “start-up years”.  While Vocollect may have almost a million users around the globe of its voice solutions, it took a while for success to really happen. Not that there isn’t a certain amount of stress we all participate in daily, but the levels of stress during the early days of the forming of a technology company are exhilarating, but quite challenging.  It was no different for Roger and Larry.

Together they reminisced about the day they informed Westinghouse management of their intent to start their own company with voice technology applications.  Apparently, Westinghouse was not exactly keen to see some of their best talent walk away from them, even if Westinghouse had shown limited interest in voice technology as a business stream.

The day you take the formal leap to depart your relatively secure job is both the scariest and most exciting day of your business life. Entrepreneurs who have taken this step know well this exact feeling and its associated terror. Day Two, though, ushers in a period where unimagined focus begins (no matter how much funding you have raised to realize your dream).

Together Larry and Roger put the key pieces in place and located enough thought-leading businesses willing to take a risk on this small Pittsburgh-based technology company. The company was able to show an almost immediate benefit to its early customers. After all, voice technology was something we all were exposed to, but just not in a business environment, and especially not in noisy and often challenging temperature-controlled warehouse facilities.

One of the keys to their success was when they decided to put all the pieces together for a customer. They really focused on optimizing the user experience during the early design decisions.  While the company began to have some voice competition (success does draw competition…), they all fell short when compared to the solution the team at Vocollect was engineering.  User ergonomics, seamless data integration and providing the industry’s leading voice recognition software offering were prime harbingers for their success.

It was the desire to excel at providing a superior worker experience that lead Roger and the engineering team to finally design their own headsets. This was after many years of using the “best available” headsets. They began to realize that the main weakness with worker acceptance always seemed to revolve around the headset cords breaking, because too often they were getting caught, as they moved through their demanding tasks in the warehouse.

The introduction of the TCO breakaway connector with Teflon from Vocollect and the offering of the groundbreaking Talkman T2 device (which was 30 percent of the size of a traditional handheld computer) helped Vocollect explode with wild success. Their market share worldwide grew to more than 75 percent – a previously unheard-of market share, except for maybe Intel or Microsoft.

As Larry and Roger talked about each major step in the evolution of the company they started, they made it clear that, by focusing on building repeatable and scalable technology solutions that helped the customer obtain greater business value every year, they would be able to leverage happy and successful customers for referrals and grow the business faster. And that’s exactly what they were able to achieve. Today the company has more users than all of its direct competitors combined.

David Maloney of DC Velocity Magazine has been a real-time witness to many of these evolutions from Roger, Larry and the entire Vocollect team. The three reminisced about various customers that Dave interviewed and met with over the years. It was because of that appreciation for the history and understanding of Vocollect that we initially approached Gary Master, Publisher at DC Velocity, about a project to help educate the broader industry about voice technology and how businesses were obtaining excellent business payback. And we wanted to do this without making the ebook a commercial.

The final product that Dave and Roger have provided has honored that commitment. The celebration of crafting the first book by these thought leaders was long overdue. It’s a journey with many twists and turns, but a journey that I have enjoyed participating in for now more than four years.

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