Business Development · Business Strategy

How to navigate licensing your idea?

Michael Bramante Cofounder & Domain expert in Figure Skating and Ice sports

May 10th, 2020

Hello,


I would like to introduce myself, I am Michael Bramante, a professional figure skating coach and previous Team USA and Team France athlete. Since starting coaching professionally I have found a few ways in which technology can help improve athlete training; specifically wearable technology and ML.


Currently I am in development of a wearable solution that will pair to a mobile device with the purpose of collecting and tracking figure skating jump metrics. We have completed a POC and are working towards a consumer ready MVP.



I have a few questions in regards to being consumer facing or business facing.


1. Our end goal is to collect as much data as possible so we can train ML event classification algorithms; therefore would it be better to go business facing, license to skate boot companies, or be consumer facing and sell directly to skaters and coaches?


2. The market size is relatively small; coaches - 6,000 U.S. market size, U.S. athletes Ages 10-18- 46,500. How do I go about convincing a company to license this product from us so they can be the only “smart skate” company?


3. How do you come up with a value for licensing something of this nature?



Looking forward to hearing what you all have to say!


Thanks,

Michael



Paul Garcia marketing exec & business advisor

May 14th, 2020

Especially because your total market is so limited, you really need to list and test your assumptions before you proceed further with turning this idea into a business. It may not be a business (in terms of steady revenue), but it may still be useful.

ML is expensive. You have to have the right labels and features defined or you end up with things that are interesting but not particularly useful. It may also not be the most effective way to process the information. It depends on what you're attempting to apply after learning. Collecting and processing the data may simply be a collection issue, not a learning issue. ML is for accelerating some task that a human could do but could make mistakes or fatigue doing.


Prefacing that I don't know a lot about figure skating, it seems collecting skate metrics is a lot like collecting other fitness measurements, for example bicycling power and cadence and heart rate. It doesn't take ML to process that data and make it useful. So what you're trying to do with the data collected is important. There may be a less expensive way to do it.


Back to licensing, I assume the issue here is that you don't want to get into the skate-making business. But, are you going to cut out half your potential customers from your already small pool of customers by only licensing to John Wilson? Is the appeal or advantage of a particular boot going to exclude the use of your technology? That seems short-sighted.


If I were developing a wearable tech, I would want it to fit on any boot, just like a power meter fits on the pedal of any bike brand.


My initial impression is that it's not advantageous enough to get the skate manufacturer to incorporate the device in their boot compared to the freedom of making it an attachment driven by the consumer/skater. Let the skater take the same device and put it on their new skates, their second pair, or move it wherever. If they're expensive, let coaches rent them to students through a leasing program. Find upsells like repair and replacement insurance. Get your durability rock-solid so it doesn't fall off, so banging around in a locker or a duffel bag doesn't hurt it, or skittering across the ice isn't going to break it.


Find something that it does that helps the relationship with the coach, like transmitting practice data to the coach through a subscription web site (think TrainingPeaks) and helping the coach analyze data so they can improve their recommendations for students.


Make charging easy or battery replacement easy. Make them easy to clean, and have water and temperature not be an issue. Make offloading data reliable and fast. People hate when the Bluetooth connection to their monitor conks out. Consider where the skate has to be to offload data (or if the device has to be removed and reattached each time). There are lots of ways to make easy-of-use a benefit.


Good luck!

Mike Whit JavaScript, Data, Automation

May 17th, 2020

I can think of someone to connect you with. Mind reaching out?

Lisa Cutter Marketing Maven

May 14th, 2020

Hi Michael,


Awesome start on your new venture!


These are wonderful questions. But, they are rather loaded questions.


For instance, I have questions to ask you in return before I could answer these with the my best expertise. Sure, I can answer what you asked, but there's possibly more opportunity underlying the surface that might need to be explored first.


With that said, have you had this conversation with a marketing expert? Have you had this conversation with a startup business mentor, such as your local SCORE chapter?


Lisa (please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn too)