OrderWithMe, a Las Vegas software startup in the retail supply chain management industry, already has a thriving business built upon a software platform that connects suppliers to small retail businesses. They combine thousands of independent retailers into a single national account, dramatically reducing overhead for suppliers by consolidating ordering, invoicing and payments into a single software platform. Retailers enjoy much lower prices that helps them become competitive with national chains while remaining independent.
While the OrderWithMe platform is extremely powerful and poised for exponential growth, the company’s vision extended well beyond enterprise level software solutions for retail supply chain management. They saw that the future lies in omni-channel retail, where the lines between on-line and physical shopping experiences become blurred.
OrderWithMe wanted to accelerate this trend by creating a Point of Sales (POS) system that creates an entirely new retail experience, enabling shoppers to touch physical goods in-store while browsing and easily ordering related or out-of-stock products that get shipped to their home. The POS system would include a kiosk that allows shoppers to browse an on-line catalog of products, scan an item to look up details and more. It will also come with a tablet based system for store employees to help consumers find things on line and in the store.
When OrderWithMe approached ConceptSpring, the vision was well formed. They had developed a document that described the product at a high level. The team, however, was completely committed to developing the software platform to support the original OrderWithMe business. There was almost no spare bandwidth to work on an ambitious new product. In addition, as Order With Me was a pure software company at the time, it did not have in-house experience developing hardware products.
The company needed help with product definition, program plan development, team recruitment and overall system architecture design.
We kicked off the project with a two-day on-site visit, where we came up to speed on the product vision, the current status of various components and the strawman system architecture design. Over the next two weeks, we quickly helped the company refine the product requirements, reviewed and made suggestions to the system architecture design, came up with a strawman program plan starting with a prototyping phase, and set up and ran a competitive RFP to help the company build a virtual team to develop the first looks like, works like prototype.
Based on the outcome of the competitive RFP, the company selected their product design partner in February 2014. We continued to work closely with all parties involved to provide support in cross functional leadership, product management as well as a systems approach engineering to the project.
From a program planning standpoint, we worked closely with the company’s product design partner to develop a program plan that covered both short term initiatives for the prototyping phase, and a long term view involving all the phases needed (EV, DV, PV) to get to a mass producible product. We provided input on sourcing and production strategies for low and high volume runs of the product.
From a technical standpoint, we performed in-person design reviews on the system architecture, electromechanical architecture, detailed designs and DFM/A considerations. We made sure the hardware, firmware and software teams are well connected and working closely together on system integration. We also played an important role during the full system testing and debugging phase for each hardware build, drawing on our deep experience bringing up hardware products with software components to help the hardware and software team work through systems level issues that do not typically appear in a pure software product.
From a long term strategic planning standpoint, we continued to provide critical input in coming up with an organization structure and operating plan to support this hardware based business. We also developed strawman job descriptions for several new roles spanning engineering, manufacturing, logistics and service disciplines, that will be needed to run this business.
The first working prototype came on line in July. The system included both the kiosk and the cashier display. The demo was so well received that the company created a new brand – ShopWithMe – to represent this new business. They also decided to open a 25,000 square foot Zappos pop-up shop featuring the ShopWithMe system by Thanksgiving 2014. Press coverage for this pop-up shop may be found here.
In 11 months, the company took this concept from an idea, through two prototyping builds, to going live in a retail environment. They also went from having no in-house hardware experience to deeply understanding the nuances of developing, testing and releasing software for custom hardware platforms. We are honored to be part of this team and feel very fortunate to have played a part in taking this product from idea to reality.
“When OrderWithMe started working with Elaine, the ShopWithMe concept was still an idea. Elaine helped us define the product, design the system architecture, and identify an excellent product design partner to bring our vision to life. Elaine’s deep experience in product development with integrated hardware and software was invaluable in helping us make the right decisions, coordinate work, and get the job done on an unbelievably aggressive schedule. She was the glue between geographically distributed groups, making sure we communicated regularly and solved problems holistically. She acts with high integrity and is a trusted advisor to the whole team. I very much enjoy working with Elaine, and highly recommend her to any team creating disruptive new products for the first time.”
– Jonathan Jenkins, Co-Founder and CEO, Order With Me