Daniel Friedman is a Co-Founder and CEO of Ninja Blocks, a company which provides a platform that securely turns the physical world into software.
Focus on our community. From the beginning we wanted our community (via our forums) to play a part in shaping the product/platform. We invited them into our offices, consistently talked with them one-on-one, and ensured they were part of the conversation around where the product should go.
We launched via Kickstarter, and so had an initial base of willing (and forgiving) individuals who believed in the idea.
During the process of developing our Kickstarter product we realized that part of what we had promised, namely wired sensors and actuators was, for lack of a better word, fail. We would still ship what we had promised to, but decided to integrate a cheap and readily available wireless tech into the product (including several wireless sensors), and give this to our backers at no cost. We, in my view rightly decided that we valued our backers’ experience of our product over minimizing the cost of developing the product.
Take a step back and consider exactly what problem we are trying to solve. It’s easy to loose sight of the problem when you’re bogged down in the details, and often easily drawn toward irrelevant distractions. This is especially true of the problem space Ninja Blocks is playing in, so it’s important to try and maintain perspective.
The determination to go to war. Admittedly a bit hyperbolic, but there are many battles to fight when trying to have an impact on an issue. You’ll likely loose quite a few, but if you’ve found a real pain point you have to be willing to ‘go to the mattresses’.
Kickstarter was a really interesting experience for everybody in the company. Our backers were incredibly supportive, and the momentum we got from Kickstarter allowed us to raise our Seed round. Kickstarter allowed us to express our vision for the product, and demonstrate traction behind the idea to investors. However, we learned that Kickstarter is the start of a journey, and not the destination. We learnt so much in the process of developing the product we had promised, and had to navigate delivering what we had promised with what we had learnt in the process of developing it.
I have pretty strong opinions about how technology should play a part in my life. I don’t believe we should have to learn how to use tech, but rather should just use it. I joined initially as the technical Co-Founder, relishing the opportunity to try and learn how to overcome my own perceived failings of technology.
Before Ninja Blocks I was working in another startup. After working in my first startup at the age of 20 I was hooked on the passion and, truthfully, uncertainty than comes with working in a new and untested company. Big rewards come with big risks, and that is part of the genetics of every startup.
Upon reflection I would have iterated and spoken with our customers more. No founder has ever seriously said, “I wish I spoke to my customers less”.
Early on we sponsored a small hackathon in Australia. At the time we were relatively unknown, had no real prizes to offer, and so had no strong interest from the participants. I decided to have a bit of fun and built an app that turned the audiences’ phones into Ninja Blocks. We played a game that tested the audience’s knowledge of local bars. The losers were shot with automated Nerf guns. If you’re not having fun, then what’s the point?