Founders: Nitin Jain & Tao Ni
Pitch: SproutUp is building a large community of product enthusiasts that help emerging products grow.
I’ve always found it interesting to think about the process by which products are presented to the consumer. Historically, it’s been less than democratic. Buyers at Macy’s or Best Buy determined what to put on the shelf, and then based on what sold off the shelf, they repositioned products and focused their marketing efforts on accelerating sales of the more popular products. Consumers have played a role in determining the success or failure of a product, but only after the initial validation from the powerful store buyers who act as gatekeepers to whether or not anyone sees the product in the first place.
That’s why was Quirky was so interesting when it launched. Notwithstanding Quirky’s bankruptcy, the concept of allowing contributors to propose products and allowing the community to decide whether there is sufficient demand to develop the product is visionary when it comes to democratizing what products should be developed and ultimately promoted.
In a similar vein, SproutUp aims to democratize the product sales and promotional process. Once a product is produced, they try to put it in the hands of influencers, largely measured by their social media presence and audience engagement. By getting influencers to taste the product first, they’re also trying to democratize the distribution trajectory based on what the influencers think rather than leaving that decision up to a single buyer at a big-box store.
Similar to how the collective voice of blogs is shaping public opinion in lieu of all-powerful newspapers, it appears a safe bet that community-based platforms will determine the visibility and ultimate popularity of newly-developed products. Ultimately, this trend is predicated on the notion that consumers are better able to curate the products that they want to purchase than big-box store buyers.
To build a large community of product enthusiasts that help emerging products grow.
The innovation around consumer products is turning, and 3 factors that are key to their acceleration are: first, the availability of open technology; second, accessibility to capital through crowdfunding; and third, intense collaboration between product creators and consumers.
Believing in this trend, I’m going to make one very specific forecast: within 5 years, small and niche brands will overtake big brands in bringing innovative consumer products to the market. We’re going to see more and more emerging products in technology, fashion, home and toys coming from young entrepreneurs. Consumers are going to make buying decisions on these emerging products based on bite-sized content, visual storytelling and short videos produced by the people they trust. This means there will be less of a focus on commercial marketing and PR agencies that many brands use now.
So, why is this going to happen? There are two main reasons. The first is that mobile apps such as Vine, Periscope, Instagram and YouTube have made content creation more accessible for common people to unleash their creativity. The second is that millennials are far more influenced by real-time conversations with their 1st and 2nd-degree network of friends.
At SproutUp, we are directly targeting the digital content marketing and advertising vertical for emerging products. The total media market size in 2014 was approximately $180 billion, of which digital content comprised of approximately $50 billion. Within digital content marketing, our primary focus is video marketing on social channels that is poised to become 80-90% of internet traffic by 2018 and that currently accounts for roughly $8 billion.
Product or Service:
SproutUp is a platform for influencers to discover, try and evangelize the best innovative and new products. Content creators such as social influencers request product trials, capture their experience in the form of short videos, photos and blogs, and then share content within their large network of followers. The fun part for content creators is to get early access to new, innovative products of their choice. For product creators, they can promote their brand genuinely to a very large consumer base and save tons of marketing money. Putting these pieces together, imagine us to be a community of innovators and early adopters that further innovation.
Real and Vaporware:
We’ve successfully brought our idea from napkin sketch to an MVP in four months. Our MVP was launched on June 29th, 2015 and is focused on promoting emerging tech products that successfully raised funding on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. When using our platform, emerging products such as a 3D mouse that you can wear, or a smart device that helps improve your indoor air quality, or a bike light that greatly enhances your visibility at night can all amplify their marketing efforts.
Since our beta launch, we have received over 300 product trial requests from 100+ social influencers on 30 emerging products. Our total influencer network outreach as of now is over 5 million followers.
Our future vision is to expand our service beyond emerging hardware tech products to other sectors such as mobile apps, home utilities, fashion and cosmetics brands. We also see ourselves providing personal-touch shopping experiences using virtual reality or even partnering with retail stores.
The SproutUp team is committed towards its mission and customer success. Our team of five are all generalists and entrepreneurial-minded – all of us have done startups and want to own companies of our own at some point. We all can code, manage customer service and operationalize business processes. I have every confidence that my team is well positioned in meeting the challenges that it takes to successfully build SproutUp.
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