Sunday, June 15, 2008

Just when I was beginning to doubt BSS

Reflections on Father's Day ...

Most of the time, the boys love Big Science Saturday (BSS), particularly when we do stuff like rockets or bugs. Sometimes, though, they're not really that into it, and I wonder if I'm really wasting my time.

In my past post about Ryan's rocket birthday party, I mentioned that I didn't really care if Ryan loves rockets as much as I did when I was a kid, but I just wanted him to be exposed to them.

With regard to BSS, I also don't care if the boys go into any kind of scientific pursuit like I did, or have any interest in science whatsoever. When I talk with them about why we do BSS, I tell them that all I'm trying to do is get them to ask questions about their world and to have some structure around how they seek answers to those questions. To me, it's all about curiousity and critical thought.

A couple of months ago, I went to Ryan's science fair. At his elementary school, science fair is only required for fourth and fifth graders, but for our family, science fair is required in all grades. Ryan is not a big fan of this and gets a little grumpy about it, but we came up with an experiment that was kind of fun. We measured how fast Maddox, Ryan, and I went down a waterslide at a local rec center.

Ryan hypothesized that I would go fastest because I was the tallest. That's how the data turned out. However, Ryan was slower than Maddox, although Ryan is taller. As we discussed the results, he could not see the inconsistency in his data. Although I found that a little frustrating, he was quite content with his conclusion and that's what he went with.

So, recently I have been asking myself if it's worth all the trouble and if I'm getting through to these guys. Well, Ryan brought home his report card at the end of the year. It had threes ("proficient") in about 20 categories, had a couple of twos ("partial achievement"), and two categories in which he received fours ("advanced"). One four was in a reading category, something about recognizing words, and what do you suppose the other four was for? "Scientific Process and Inquiry -- Draws logical conclusions and writes about scientific investigations."

I guess his teachers saw something that I hadn't, and I really love that.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


(This post looks back a couple of months, but I saw something today that jogged my memory about it. I apologize for the delayed post.)

A few years ago, Ryan and I used to enjoy watching Battlebots on TV together. That show isn't on anymore, but we really enjoyed those compact creations of mayhem and destruction. (According to the Wikipedia page linked to above, the TV show will be returning, for at least one competition, in November 2008!)

One day during this spring break (we didn't do anything special for spring break this year, since we had gone to Puerto Vallarta a month prior), I happened to read about the FIRST Robotics regional competition taking place at University of Denver over the weekend. We went down on Saturday for our Big Science Saturday (BSS) activity, and the kids loved it!

The robots were built by high school kids with corporate mentors. The sophistication of the robots was very impressive, as good as we ever saw on Battlebots. (So much so, that it made me wonder how much design and manufacture was done by the kids, versus by the corporate sponsors.) You could go down into the 'pits,' where the teams were very helpful in describing their robot designs.

The robots were designed to compete on a specific event that involved racing around an oval track and picking up and carrying large exercise balls. It wasn't clear how the scoring was structured, but they seemed to get points for the number of laps completed, picking balls off the racks, and pushing them around the track.

Our favorite robot was one that wasn't even designed to deal with the balls at all. Once the designers abandoned this activity, they were free to design a very specialized little bot that did one thing very well. It zipped around the track three to four times faster than any other bot. It was very fun to watch that little guy.

The boys loved their robot-themed BSS. There was even a demo table there from a Lego robotics club, and the boys talked about finding a local chapter to join. We'll see how that turns out ...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Although it wasn't about sales leads, it was a huge success

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, for Albeo, Lightfair was not about sales leads. It was about our coming out as the only LED light fixture uniquely focused on the hardest problems in lighting: big, bright, efficient fixtures for industrial applications. From the perspective of showing the lighting world who we are and that we’re credible, it was a terrific show.

We had great press and analyst interaction. We had the best press kit in the press room, and appeared to go through more than anyone else. We participated in about press 12 interviews, which should generate 6 to 8 editorial pieces from now through September. I also had a terrific conversation with an LED lighting market analyst. Her firm published a large market analysis report in early 2007 which did not even mention the industrial market through 2012. I made the argument for the market opportunity and positioned Albeo as the one most able to serve that opportunity.

We had great investor engagement at the show. It was interesting to see so many venture capitalists walking the aisles of a lighting show. I'm sure it was the first visit to a lighting show for almost all of them. It was particularly valuable for Albeo to be able to encourage potential investors to visit all the other booths to see if they could find someone addressing a similar market need with the same set of capabilities.

We also connected with some strong reps in regions where we had no coverage (SoCal, New England). These new relationships are already paying dividends.

In summary, it was a successful opportunity to establish strong, clear corporate positioning with customers, competitors, and channels.

Having said all that, it wasn't a bad show for sales leads, either. Our booth was mobbed all three (exhausting) days. We came away with 200 to 300 leads, a mix of end users and potential channel partners, that we're currently going through and qualifying. We have found some valuable nuggets in there.

However, the most valuable aspect of Lightfair for Albeo may not have been raising awareness with customers, editors, channels, or investors, and may not have been generating sales leads, either. The most valuable aspect of this show was all about the team.

We're still a very small company, so putting together this kind of trade show presence, with all of the required products (several new products shown for the first time) and materials, was a huge undertaking for us. Every member of the company helped make this happen, and to have all their hard work pay off in such a big way helps to confirm the value of each individual's contribution. When they also saw how well we were received by the various audiences, it highlights that their continued efforts are likely going to help change the world in some way.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

I found it, but a little too late

Back in January of last year, I proposed a business that I wanted to see someone start to help me out with Big Science Saturday (BSS). Wouldn't you know that I finally found it? The Young Scientists Club is exactly what I described, a subscription, home-delivery science kit program that sends you a new kit every couple of weeks.

If I had found this service early on in our BSS, I would have been a lot more consistent about having it. At this point, however, we have done many of the experiments in their program, so it doesn't make sense for us. However, if any of you are just thinking about starting something like BSS, this sounds like a terrific deal.

I can't vouch for the quality, but clearly the concept is great. I'd like to take credit for it, but from their website, it looks like they might have been around since 1999. Great minds ...