Time really flies when you’re working at a startup. It’s already the second week of April, and it’s hard to believe our SXSW demo was a month ago today. While much has changed since we started at the Accelerator in November, some things – like our passion for the technology, our aspirations for the company, and our core mission – remain the same.
Not long after arriving at the Accelerator, Casey, Skylar and Preston sat down with the R/GA Digital Studio Team to talk Footmarks’ origins, their goals for the Accelerator, and the team’s vision for the company’s future.
Click here to watch the video interview in its entirety.
Or skip through to see the highlights below:
Apple’s validation of the market: 07:30.
By now the story of the beacons’ stealth emergence is well known: Apple released the iBeacon as an unaddressed footnote at last year’s WWDC keynote. Fast forward a few months, and the technology has become one of the biggest tech stories of 2014.
For the Footmarks team, who’d been working with beacons for more than a year before iBeacon’s release, Apple’s announcement was bittersweet. Apple’s technology, embedded in iOS7, was significant validation of Footmarks’ mission, but changed the industry ecosystem overnight. As developers and startups scrambled to get in the game, the pace of beacon-related innovations and developments increased dramatically.
Preston explains, however, that his anticipation of Apple’s market entrance prepared him well for the challenges to come. Indeed, Footmarks welcomes the competition: “Now everyone is involved,” he says. “And that’s a good thing actually.”
He goes on, “So in this perfect world we see this ecosystem where there’s multiple players working together delivering the best experiences possible for everyone involved… [it’s] just about having a different kind of engagement when you’re out in the physical world.”
It’s not actually about the beacon: 12:19 & 21:42 (& 22:38).
Footmarks is first and foremost an experience platform, says Preston. “The value added is in the service layer and in the software. The beacon is just a means of delivery.” Indeed, it’s the platform in its entirety – and most especially Footmarks’ user analytics and its customizable experience templates – that comprise the tools retailers need to fight back against ecommerce: “The ammunition,” as Preston calls it, “to get ahead.”
Moreover, he says, “If it’s done right, the consumer won’t even know they’re using our technology… Brands [will be using] our technology to enhance the experience they’re already providing their customers.” As a customer, “you’ll have our technology on your handset without even realizing. You’ll just start to have better experiences while you’re shopping, which will then convert you [towards purchase] and lead to more sales for the retailer.”
The Design Paradox: 19.17.
Indeed, this idealized invisibility of the Footmarks product is a paradox fully embraced by the team. Asked in the interview about a company Footmarks most admires, the answer is unequivocally Nest (and not just because of its recent $3 billion sale!)
Says Preston, “Nest did it right. They built a beautiful product that worked really well.* Their attention to detail is something that’s ingrained in us. Our product [is also] meant to be hidden. But we still want it to be beautiful and function as its meant to.”
* Recent sales suspension of their smart thermostat notwithstanding.
The Impact of New York City on Footmarks’ Vision: 14:43.
Although Preston admits the Accelerator “dragged” him to New York, the team recognized upon arrival the value of as urban a laboratory as NYC. For one, New York’s a shopping destination. Says Preston, “It doesn’t get much more retail oriented than NYC…Everywhere I turn I meet someone from the retail industry.”
Skylar, meanwhile, noticed immediately the insufficiencies and shortcomings of GPS in a city as vertically dense as New York — a circumstance that makes Footmarks’ bluetooth technology all the more attractive. Indeed, the City’s physical density and massive (smartphone-wielding) population encouraged Preston to extend his vision for beacon technology far beyond the walls of the city’s retailers: Of the density, he says, “that’s where I got the idea – to blanket NYC with beacons, to put them on every street corner….” (It’s a vision Footmarks has since fully embraced: Click here to read our “Beacon State of Mind: Imagining a Digital Infrastructure for NYC” series in its entirety).
And five years from now? 17:49.
Says Preston, speaking for the team, “I’m passionate about what were doing. It excites me to be on the verge of something that is possibly just very revolutionary. The mobile industry when it was just coming out really changed people’s lives, and I feel in the long term our technology will [also] change peoples lives.” He adds, “It’s really exciting to be just on the cusp. It can feel like everyone is doing this [building beacons], but that’s not true. We’re just on the cusp of it. We’re still in the beginning of a new industry thats just coming about.” And five years from now? “Footmarks will be an industry leader,” Preston asserts. Here’s hoping.
And some assorted fun Footmarks facts from the video, if you’ve made it this far:
– Preston, Skylar and Casey are all from Alaska*, but met in Seattle. For the three founders, it was love at first sight.
– For Skylar, the Accelerator grind is no different from the pressures of collegiate wrestling: sleepless nights at the office in the run up to SXSW are no different to “running in plastic” and making weight right before big wrestling events.
– Skylar and Casey were born in Valdez, Alaska – a town of just 4,000 people.
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