Zeo’s first generation product has been in the market for just over a year, with a self contained sleep monitoring product that serves the needs of a well defined segment of consumers who have trouble falling or staying asleep. The company was ready to expand to an adjacent market of younger consumers who are interested in measuring sleep as a way to improve their performance in sports, academic and work performance and more via a low cost product that worked with an application running on an iOS or Android device to deliver a lower cost and a superior user experience.
The company made the decision to create the new product in August 2009. As this is a retail consumer electronics product and an eminent “giftable”, it is paramount that the product is available before the holidays of the following year, since more than 50% of the business for these types of products occur between Thanksgiving and Christmas of each year. From a distribution standpoint, the product needed to be sold both online (at the company’s website as well as on Amazon) and in brick-and-mortar stores like Best Buy and the Apple Store. This meant a very compressed schedule, with a works-like, looks-like product in the final packaging available for buyers to review by April of the following year.
As VP Engineering, Elaine recognized that the more traditional process of designing and engineering the product on site and outsourcing only the manufacturing to Asia would not meet these aggressive deadlines. The only strategy for success was in engaging an ODM (original design manufacturer) to do the industrial and engineering design, concurrent with mold design and manufacturing engineering. Elaine developed a comprehensive system specification for the new product, specifying all key system architecture elements, then engaged an outsourcing consultant and went on a 2-week tour to visit candidate ODM partners in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. She ran a competitive RFQ (request for quote) process, selected an excellent Tier 1 supplier that was based in Taiwan, and kicked off the process to develop the new product. She managed a 31 person design and engineering team from the ODM that was dedicated to this program. She saw the program through the engineering validation test phase (EVT). Concurrent with the hardware design she also managed the development of the software platform which involved a significant porting exercise of the old code onto a new processor platform. Elaine also recruited a rock star director of engineering to bring the program to conclusion.
The company successfully shepherded this ambitious program to conclusion and the Zeo Mobile product became publicly available in October 2010, with time to spare for the holiday season. The new product expanded the market and served a new group of users who had significantly different needs and wants than the first generation product.
“Elaine astounded me with her work. She brings an astute sense of organization and drive to any project – the result is speedy and insightful results and new tools to approach future problems. I highly recommend her work and would be lucky to be able to collaborate with her in the future.”
– Ben Rubin, Founder and CTO, Zeo Inc.