Zeemote started in 2005 with just four people: the founder and CEO, the co-founder and CTO, the VP Software, and Elaine, serving as the VP of Product Management. The mission of the company was to improve the user experience for feature phones by providing additional user input elements.
In the early days of the company, the product concept involved instrumenting the backs of flip phones and candy bar phones with resistive sensors to provide additional input elements to accelerate SMS text entry. There was an early prototype and a patent was filed, but the use case and target applications were not yet validated with customers.
Elaine was a jack of all trades in the beginning, taking new sensor technology prototypes from the CTO and doing detailed engineering and prototype construction to create new prototypes. In parallel with the hardware engineering, Elaine performed a round of primary research to develop a user persona and validate the use case. Through this research, the company discovered that while sensors in the back of phones did help texting, the actual problem with text entry resided with an older demographic who did not engage in texting at the time. Additionally, human factors research conducted by Elaine indicated that a two-handed use case with a wireless controller that offered the additional input elements provided a much more ergonomic solution. These two insights, coupled with new business development in the mobile gaming vertical, resulted in a series of pivots within the first 9 months of the company to align the team’s efforts with what we learned from the market.
The company rallied around the new focus of providing wireless controllers to improve the mobile gaming experience. This new focus shaped the requirements and specifications for the Zeemote JS1 controller moving forward. The Zeemote JS1 was first released to the market in late 2008 in a bundle with a top-of-the-line gaming phone from Nokia. The company eventually built out their phone support to cover all major smart and feature phone operating systems.