ZoomSuit – How I Dumped A Business Idea Before It Became An Expensive Failure
The following story is a testimonial about my 4×4 Innovation Strategy book applied.
I consider it a success story, although I did not yet derive any money from it, at least not directly.
This is where my business idea started: I found myself in an albatross Corona-Virus lock-down in Singapore, on 07 April 2020.
I very soon found out that I can continue to do my patent attorney business over video conferences. And this is what I did. I rolled out from my bed every morning, then went to my desk, switched on the computer, and I worked until late after midnight. Some of us still do so today.
You probably feel the same: when you do your video conferences with clients, you feel that your clients deserve more than just a wall as a background, and they deserve no echo on your audio signal.
This is when I started to improve: I got a semi-professional USB microphone, a semi-professional lighting system, and I started to experiment with the background.
What was finally lacking was my attire: just a T-shirt in front of a webcam, that is not acceptable.
So I started to look around. Putting on a suit with a white shirt and a tie does not work if you receive an unexpected call. It takes minutes to put that on. Plus: the average temperature in Singapore is 32°C/90°F. A proper office attire makes you sweat even under the aircon.
Below comes the “Idea” stage of my “4×4 Innovation Strategy” matrix applied to my above business idea.
The Idea Stage
Step 1. Reaearch & Development (R&D): the idea was to just wear a shirt collar with a tie segment under a cut-out jacket.
And all this by converting one of my existing business suits by a local tailor.
Plus: turn this into a little business. Get it done by professional tailors and charge a commission.
Here is the business model: create a local agency for outsourcing alteration works to jobless tailors. Develop a good trademark and then do pure online business, focusing on marketing for these tailors.
The trademark could be “ZoomSuit”. “Zoom” because this was at the time the main video conferencing software. And “Suit” because it is a suit.
Step 2. Freedom-to-Operate (FTO): “Zoom” was not registered as a trademark in the relevant class 40 for “services of a tailor”: ZoomSuit similar mark search in class 40
“Zoom” was also not registered for telecommunication services, which I found quite surprising: Zoom similar mark search in class 38
Step 3. Intellectual-Property (IP): I did not think that this business idea was worth a patent application. The prior art from Google and Youtube was too close, see below.
Step 4. Testing the Market Response: I have done pure research at this stage, I found a few videos on Youtube that talked about a similar idea. Great, so I am not alone.
I found this must-see “ZoomSuit” video on Youtube, but this one is about something else: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-M19ZuN5yI
Fake collars were also available on Google, see here:
This is how these fake collars were described: “just wear a simple tee shirt under your blazer, then just clip on the fake collar to the shirt. But I guess this is just to avoid wearing the long-sleeved white collared shirt. still need the blazer.”
My idea is therefore not too far away from what is already there. Yes, this can become a serious business.
The Conceptual Model Stage
Just follow my “4×4 Innovation Strategy” book.
Step 1. R&D: I talked with a tailor and asked her to do a detachable suit for me. She agreed.
Costs were SGD 120, plus a used suit, and a used shirt, and a used tie.
And I have registered a free email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Step 2. FTO: “Zoom” was still not registered as a trademark, and the trademark “ZoomSuit” became a descriptive term.
This is what an official trademark examiner told me: “the term “Zoom” can clearly be seen as a synonym for `online webcam communcation`, whereas the term “Suit” clearly stands for a type of clothing that is clearly used in front of a camera. So the combined term is a clear description of the intended purpose of the “tailoring services” that the mark “ZoomSuit” is applied for”.
Step 3. IP: On 05 May 2020 I have filed a trademark “ZoomSuit” with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) in class 40. Costs are only SGD 240.00. Explained here: https://ip-lawyer-tools.com/be-your-own-dentist-file-a-trademark-application-yourself/
My ZoomSuit trademark was much later registered, despite the objections raised, see here 2SGP 488 – Certificate of Registration 191120
Step 4. Market response:
I have then recorded a short video that shows how my ZoomSuit is used in practice, and I have put this video on Youtube
I have then blasted out this video to about 12,000 contacts on LinkedIn, to about 4,500 contacts on Facebook, and to about 1,000 Whatsapp contacts.
A total of about 750 people have watched my Youtube video, and still zero email response. And the feedback of my friends was mostly indicating that they thought that this is not a serious product. At least they did not want to spend money on that idea. In fact, nobody wanted a ZoomSuit for themselves.
The STOP Decision
This was when I have decided to stop that product idea.
In the language of my book, this “STOP” decision looks like that:
Further investments could have been made for a better marketing video, for a better email address, for a landing page, etc. etc.
But I could save all these useless expenses.
There are a few other ZoomSuit videos up on Youtube, check out this link: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=zoom+Suit
None of these other Youtube videos is very successful, maybe except this one: a Mr. Neil Griffiths explains how to pretend that he is working, while drinking beer. His video got 65k views (click here)
Count The Costs
Total costs were about S$ 360. That is affordable, right?
And I had my own ZoomSuit. I use it frequently today.
And I had generated some publicity with it.
I count this as a success: stop that business idea before it becomes an expensive failure.
The above is a good example of how to proceed with a new business idea.
The key concept I want you to remember is the 4×4 matrix at the heart of my innovation strategy. It sets the order of what you should do, through specific tactics that you apply at specific points over the course of your product development cycle.
Note that time is also crucial; you should aim to complete the cycle within a year.
Please download my book for free (click here) before you see someone starting a new product or business.
Martin “Innovation” Schweiger