Seeing a Goliath Enter Your Market
“What if Apple does it?” the VC asked.
“This is outside of their core business and we’re creating a system network effect” I replied.
2 years later and clearly I was wrong about both. Apple switched to a service focused model so my previous business involving a tracking item service was in Apple’s sweet spot.
It’s interesting to see a business I helped start face a behemoth. While I do see companies succeed in competing with Apple in a core part of their business (Major applause to the Dropbox team), I think that this is the exception rather than the rule. Apple like many monopolistic businesses have developed many sustainable competitive advantages such as owning their retail distribution vs competitors having to work with retailers and owning the operating system that 3rd party apps work on top of.
I feel like this is the final chapter for the item tracking startup market that Christian, Tyler, and I helped kick off back in 2008 at Carrillo Dining Commons. We were just students at the time looking to have some fun, learn a lot, and avoid a *gulp* real job. We lost the first new venture competition. The app store released that summer and we came back next year with a refined idea to take first place. This experience of pushing through failure was how the business started and defined how we operated.
It was the bottom of the financial crisis and Sequoia’s letter resounded through the halls of every VC in the valley. VC’s didn’t call hardware hard but labeled it as impossible & too cash intensive for the VC model to work. With our life savings totaling up to $15k, we started working in a garage on Cota St. We hacked together one of the first bluetooth devices that worked with an App on a phone (couldn’t do it on iOS at the time so the first prototype worked on Blackberry). Raised some friends and family $$ (Love you Mom & Dad), built 1,000 devices that we couldn’t sell, licensed to Cobra, and we were officially on our way.
Fast forward to 2017, TrackR had shipped over 8 million devices all over the world with our Crowd GPS technology and this is where my journey with the business came to an end.
Reflecting on the journey, it was a ton of fun, a huge learning experience, and I am incredibly grateful that I made the leap to start up TrackR. Otherwise, I would be sitting in my cubicle saying “They stole my idea!” and instead I have the perspective that “They get to carry on the mission”. I’m incredibly excited to try out the “Find My” app experience and can’t wait to see the vision of having a “perfect memory” come to fruition.