I invest in trends, and one thing we’ve learned from this pandemic is that COVID-19 is an accelerator of trends and a massive economic disruptor. And that’s the rationale for investing in a tech startup called VestaBoard.
The company is headed by Dorrian Porter who is working on what could become the next major communication medium. Just as Twitter revolutionized with its 140 characters, SnapChat innovated with its disappearing messages, and TikTok taught us a new way to convey ideas with its short video format, Vestaboard has the opportunity to capitalize on consumer’s new unmet needs and innovate in the smart home & office communications space.
Vestaboard is a high-quality display board that hangs in your home or your office, displays a message or visual that’s controlled by an app on your phone, and is still able to provide a tactile experience that makes it a highly-differentiated stand-out in the super-saturated digital display market.
Combining Digital Technology with Retro Communications
Because of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, our normal one to one communication has been eviscerated, and changes in society force us to find new ways to connect.
Unfortunately, a normal digital display board is no longer interesting or innovative; it’s just another screen with mundane messages that fail to get noticed.
To break through the sea of digital screens and really connect, you have to rethink the medium used to communicate. The creator of Vestaboard asked himself, “What if there were a way to combine a classic, tactile message board with cutting-edge software and a range of apps for digital control that would allow clever and heartfelt communication?”
Founder Dorrian Porter was looking for a way to communicate meaningfully with his kids during the times when he was away from them. He wanted something unique and involved, a touch point that wasn’t just another digital interaction bringing a phone or computer screen to the forefront of their attention. He remembered an iconic, larger-than-life split-flap display panel that he was fascinated with in the Gare du Nord train station in Paris.
He thought if he could engineer a way to adapt that design for his needs in his own home, it would be a compelling, beautiful, and ‘retro’ way to take meaningful communication away from the digital without sacrificing any convenience or connectedness.
Smart Investments with Big Market Opportunities
It is rare that I invest in direct-to-consumer products, but the very personal video marketing Dorrian created really resonated with me and reminded me of my own early marketing efforts for my startup, Vungle. While the company estimates that over 3 million upscale homes have the appetite and income to invest in high quality art in their homes, Dorrian also used crowd-funding platforms to prove demand for his product. The product has been well received, which is something every investor looks for; Vestaboard currently has over $5 million in pre-orders.
In addition, I could see multiple sectors benefitting from this product, including the global smart display and smart digital signage market, which is expected to grow from $861 M in 2018 to $6.6B by 2025 (a CAGR of 34%!). Honestly, if I could rewind the clock, I would have had one of these in every office at Vungle when we were just getting started, to foster a more personalized daily touch point with my coworkers.
If consumers adopt this for their homes, it has the potential to be a “must-have” product, and if you are going to buy one, you might as well buy multiple Vestaboard units so that you can communicate back and forth with those you want to share that close connection. In today’s world of family group chats and weekly pandemic-inspired family Zoom calls, Vestaboard offers a powerful new way to communicate and when those wheels start to spin, family members will wait with great anticipation for what the board will say next.
There are two distinct elements that will drive the product’s functional success: the product itself and the associated management technology. The product is comprised of 132 modular character units, with 56 alpha numeric characters (the alphabet, 10 numbers, and several other special characters) and 8 different color blocks. The integrated technology allows you to control the board using a mobile app, cloud app, API, or smart home products from Apple, Google, or Amazon’s Alexa.
Investing in Tech Startups That Create New Markets
The greatest innovators create more than a product; they create entire new markets. To me, this is a measure of the magnitude of an idea and a great reason for investing in a tech startup. Apple gave birth to multiple industries with its innovations, and I can see that Vestaboard has the opportunity to create entire ecosystems on top of its concept. Developers can create all types of apps of that would allow people to subscribe to a service that would display inspiring quotes, or news or weather updates on their Vestaboard. The company also anticipates interest from artists and others who might want to create applets for the board.
Investing in Tech Startups with a Strong Mission
I think for most investors, while they may be interested in the social agenda of a project, it’s the financial reward that’s the real light at the end of the tunnel. Vestaboard certainly has the potential to create strong returns for its investors for the reasons already outlined, but this product experience was a different one for me. When I first saw Vestaboard, I had a completely emotional reaction. In my own life, I haven’t been able to see my parents since before this whole pandemic started. I was blown away by the potential, and I felt an immediate emotional draw to Dorrian’s mission. I need this was a feeling, more powerful than just a thought.
So, I got it. I understood that it’s a visceral form of communication, organization and artistic expression — the kind of subconscious cue that can change your day for the better. I could see myself using it to communicate to my parents as I maintain my distance, or to keep in close connection with my kids. I understood how I could reap the benefits of inspiring technology without slipping further into the digital dark hole.
At first glance, it might seem like just a toy for rich people, but the truth is, it’s hard to put a price on the things that bring us closer to the people in our lives.
These boards are art pieces, home decor, and communication vehicles all in one. It can fill the white space in our lives with inspiration, transforming otherwise blank walls and giving us a tangible way to invest in emotional intimacy with the people around us.
It’s another important innovation in the realm of human communication. Besides being an enticing product, it’s simply a sound investment.
Mass production begins this month, and I’m excited to watch this company take off. Vestaboard is about creating a visceral experience that inspires others and brings close ones closer. When you hear the soft, soothing sound of the characters spinning, you get a tangible sense of anticipation, joy, excitement, inspiration, peace, and connection. I feel the same way about my investment with Vestaboard. I’m confident that the company will enjoy strong success, as all companies do when they deliver us to something we didn’t know we desperately needed.
You can find out more about them here: Vestaboard.