Half way through the PIE class and everything is well underway. While some companies are working on their brand visuals, others are working on strategy. We had a stacks session yesterday and a 404 session coming up later today. It’s all heads down (exaggerated), learning from mentors, and bouncing ideas back and forth with investors.
Seating is clustered and arranged by company, and the solo founders cluster sits to my left. So I’ve rolled over to Bob from XOBXOB, to catch up with him, hear his story, and get his take on this whole PIE thing.
Bob, are you a Portland native?
I’ve always been in the Northwest. I grew up in Seattle and spent most of my life there. I was in Portland for a couple of years in the 80’s and actually loved it, but I ended up moving back to Seattle. It was like a game of ping-pong because I returned to Portland three years ago. (Don’t worry, I have no immediate plans to move back to Seattle.)
What got you started on XOBXOB?
I came down to Portland for a job, and there was a startup weekend—I had always wanted to do that. So I participated in a team that was in a similar space to XOBXOB. We ended up being one of the top teams in the end. The rest of the team decided to go their separate ways, but I realized that I had found my calling—that I should’ve been in the startup world decades ago.
I’ve really been fascinated with the Internet of Things space, even though that’s wildly hyped right now. I think it’s inevitable that our world is going to be fully connected. Just to be part of that emerging technology is fascinating, so I decided to continue on the same theme and created XOBXOB shortly after that.
How has coming into the PIE space impacted the way you work?
The biggest change is the availability of casual interaction with people. There have been lots of interesting serendipitous conversations. Even in co-working spaces they tend to be a little bit insular, but this space is so interactive, it’s a chance to be inspired by what other people are doing. It truly helps pull a solo founder out of themselves.
Tell me more about your PIE experience. Takeaways so far?
Any talk that has to do with messaging has been having a big impact on me. Because of my background, I tend to strive for clarity and brevity, but I was realizing after Jeff’s presentation that that is not compelling. A dry, concise description of my product is not going to make listeners enthusiastic about the potential in XOBXOB. That’s not what usually excites people about a product.
It’s like the difference between–”Stainless Steel Kitchen Knife” vs “Samurai Tomato Cutter.” You’ve got to give it a name and a personality.
If you think about it, you’re not buying a product, but you’re buying an experience with that product. So in my world, which is kind of technical, it’s really not about the features of my product, it’s about the experience they’re going to get. I keep hammering my head against that wall because that’s the real learning I need to take away from this. I know how to develop a product, and I know how to do design, but creating a compelling story is something I need to work on—and that’s great!
It’s kind of like you’re juggling, because at any given time—it’s all in the air. You just have to keep working on technology, domain names, how would you position this to a consumer right now—
Oh, pardon me. I should let you get back to juggling, then.