Transcript of the interview:
Dana Barrett: Hi Robb. Welcome and thanks for coming in today. So, tell us about your new device, Smashmouse. It's for your computer?
Robb Dillon: Yeah, I call it a universal pedal for hands-free control. We're trying to revolutionize hands-free control because it's not just made for music - it can be used for gaming, manufacturing, medical, dental. There's all these special needs. If you think about it we're using the same technology to control our computers that was invented in the 50s.
You've got two hands - one for your keyboard and one for your mouse, so you're already inefficient. If you think about anyone who's doing a task using two hands they're having to take focus away from that task to control their technology. Smashmouse solves that problem.
DB: You know it's funny. As a musician you can appreciate this. It's funny that it took all this time for someone to come up with this because the piano has always had pedals.
RD: Guitarists use pedals every day. It's ingrained in their minds.
DB: There you go. And drummers also have their hands and their feet.
RD: And they're actually good at doing it. They could do it in time.
But you know what's interesting about Smashmouse? There are already products out there that can be used as a foot mouse, but they're not very good. There are also products that can be switches, if you will. Smashmouse has what I call "one-click technology". It's a cross -shaped platform that you put your foot on and click in a certain direction to control playback options, for example. I call that "one-kick control." And then you can also do expression control.
What's different about Smashmouse is we can do all of those things. And it's interesting because it is a piece of hardware. Although we'll talk about this I'm sure, hardware is a bad word in the startup ecosystem when you're trying to go raise capital.
RD: What I like to say is that we are is a software company built on top of a piece of hardware.
There's a really good example of a company that's been really successful doing that. It's a little company that has a fruit for a logo. But Smashmouse is basically a piece of hardware you can buy now, and then in the future you can download low-cost apps with other functionality. So that's really the big-picture business model.
DB: I mean Tesla is the same thing. It's hardware with software.
RD: Great point, yes! And you can even vote when you drive by your polling place in a Tesla!
DB: You know what, you really should be able to do that. Rob Dillon hanging out with us this morning. He's the founder and CEO of Smashmouse. You can vote with your feet. Vote for Smashmouse!
RD: And we have even talked about using the product with automated vehicles. Smashmouse could be used for driver assist. You could eliminate the steering wheel.
DB: Oh. That would be freaky. So I could like, fix my hair, put my mascara on, and drive the car all at the same time. Bam. OK, so you know I'm curious about? Why hardware is not popular with investors? Because there are companies like Apple and Tesla that are doing amazing things. So why are you struggling? Why is that a struggle?
RD: Well I think there's a couple of things. I mean, God love Atlanta, but we have a very formulaic investor community in Atlanta. I think if you look at a lot of the incubators, there's a lot of B2B. There's a lot of software / recurring revenue model-type business, which makes sense. They're great businesses. They're very likely to be highly successful exits.
Hardware is more challenging. And when you think about it, think of Facebook right. A couple of guys in a dorm room create Facebook. Google - a couple of guys in a dorm room. It's great because they can write code and there's really no cost. Hardware costs money. You have to manufacture. It's what I call the "hardware conundrum". You have to build it to sell it and building it is expensive. So how does a, early stage, pre-revenue company validate a business model in the hardware space? It's very challenging.
DB: Yeah well I'm hoping you're figuring out because what a cool product!
RD: Yes. Well and that's that's been the fun part is going to shows like The National Association of Music merchandisers, which is the world's largest gathering of music retail industry. Having USA Today Tech call us "one of the seven coolest things at the show". Getting hundreds of people to support us in various ways. And actually, we're going to the old standby in today's world soon. We'll be launching the Kickstarter campaign soon.
DB: Today, right?
RD: Actually no. We actually had to delay it - a technical challenge of an entrepreneur startup.