Powerfelt claims it can power portable devices like the iPhone

uls-ener

By Dennis Clemente

International ThermoDyne’s Powerfelt bagged the most votes at the Ultra Light Startup presentation of eight energy startups that presented last October 9 at Microsoft, as it claimed to answer the ever-increasing need for clean power, especially in portable devices.

“Powerfelt is a thin material that harvests heat and motion and converts energy into useable electricity,” Paul Solitario said. “You can use it to charge your iPhone.”

The other startup presenters were Shailendra Suman of SmartCharge, Burt Hamner of Titan Ocean Energy; Jason Force of E-Mow; Ariel Fan of Grid Symphony; Raj Lakhiani of Athena Power; Graham Smith of Open Energy Group and John Jabara of Savenia Home Ratings.

The panelists who gave their critique and feedback were John Freer, manager of External Technology Initiatives at GE Global Research; Dave Kirkpatrick, managing director of SJF Ventures; William Lese, managing director of Braemar Energy Ventures and Willem Rensink – GameChanger of Shell.
ThermoDyne’s prospective customers for Powerfelt cut across various industries– mobile electronics, construction, transportation, textiles, government.

Asked if it could narrow down its intended market, Solitario said they could focus on remote sensors as it offers portable “electricity” anytime anywhere without batteries or the grid. “We have no moving parts.”

Investor’s advice to Solitario: Focus (on a specific market); find where the material can be unique; find an application where it’s available; understand how product competes in the landscape; study lifespan with a device.

Suman of SmartCharge was also one of crowd favorites. His successful Kickstarter campaign launched the world’s first LED light bulb that you can turn on or off from the same wall switch even during a power outage. It provides four hours of continued use. Battery is reportedly 300 cycles. When using the light bulb normally, it will reportedly last for three years.

The panel was impressed to hear that SmartCharge is selling already at $34.95. It started shipping 5,000 units in 32 countries last month with 100,000 units of soft orders. His gross margin is 20 percent of cost.

Suman hopes to target homes owners, small businesses, the direct online sales sector as well as wholesale to big box retailers such as Amazon.com, Duke Energy, Lowe’s and Home Depot.

Investors’ advice to Suman: Work on IP; introduce more product(s); look for other distribution channels to accelerate the business; find out where it goes on store shelves; and figure out positioning of the product.

Titan Ocean Energy’s Hanner presented the mobile platform for office offshore wind power and drinking water production already installed in Sweden. A panelist said, “You’re on the right track in Europe.”

Globally patented, the mobile jack-up platform reportedly supports 6MW + offshore wind turbines and met towers ad desalination systems.

Investors’ advice to Hanner: Make sure you’re protected; Target corporations; repurpose existing rig; keep it light; laser-focus on costs

E-Mow came next with Jason Force talking about its self-powered drone bioenergy harvester which creates renewable grass fuel pellets at low cost. It seeks revenue from pelleted agricultural products.

“It will be a significant cost reduction again existing methods,” Force said who’s looking forward to it as a build-and-operate model.

Prototype challenges for him would be the maintenance of this self-powered technology

Investors’ advice to Force: Work with a big player like John Deere so you can market faster; powering it by biogas is not the best way to go about it; look at all the pieces you want to integrate; and determine MVP, being a relatively complex engineering system.

Ariel Fan presented Grid Symphony, an intelligent brain for the electric grid to prevent utilities and priority clients from power meltdowns like Hurricane Sandy. It emerged from Columbia University’s machine learning lab.
“It’s not an emergency product. We want to create an optmization product,” she said.

Utilities are targeted customers but right now, it is looking at system integrators. The distribution strategy aimed at selling directly to enterprise smart/medium customers.

Investors’ advice to Fan: Survey how many people will use it; think how this business scales; test in some places like Hawaii to get customer exposure before scaling; work with system integrators, because they see everything; make sure you have a partner; explore idea in business model canvas.

Athena Power has developed a self-powered wireless fault sensor for underground distribution networks. It is hard to find faults, but Lakhiani is confident about its startup based on its four-year engine and his experience.
Still, he thinks it’s better if Athena works with utilities. “Underground (networks) are tricky.”

Investors’ advice to Lakhiani: Know the sensor market to make sure you get plenty of pilots; score early with Exelon as a demonstrable result; (recognize) it’s a timely product to bring to electric utility to the world; (think of it as a) unique entry point to get data

The last two presenters were Smith of Open Energy Group and Jabara of Savenia Home Ratings.
The former is an online marketplace for renewable energy investments.

“We offer accredited investors direct access to higher return, lower risk, fixed income products by directly funding the construction and operation of commercial renewable energy power projects in the States,” he said. This includes solar projects.

Investors’ advice to Smith: Make loans that banks don’t give; look for a partner when it’s time to add deep pockets, focus on residential (market)

Savenia Home Ratings helps home sellers unlock the value of home efficiency upgrades to differentiate, sell faster and capture more value.

“Energy auditors focus on the negative. We focus on the positive,” Jabara said. “We’re CARFAX for home efficiency.”
Asked if it has a method, he said the company validates the rating through documentation. “Customers do most of the work; we check (the work).”

Investors’ advice to Jabara: The platform can be bigger, think of other groups doing the rating; and get accurate data from third-party source.

This time, Graham Lawlor of Ultra Light Startup hosted the meetup with Tim Hoffman of Cleantech Open.

David Tisch talks about his Spring e-commerce app, startups’ key to success

david tisch

By Dennis Clemente

Last October 8, Orrick hosted a fireside chat with David Tisch, former managing director of TechStars NY, co-founder of BoxGroup and startup investor at the WeWork offices in Soho West.

The chat centered on his new Instagram-like mobile e-commerce startup Spring where he sits as chair, and his former role as managing director of TechStars.

Spring was funded under Series A by Thrive Capital, Groupe Arnault and Box Group. Other investors included Founder Collective, Google Ventures, SV Angel, and Lerer Hippeau Ventures.

“We believe buying things should be simple,” a listing for Spring on AngelList says. “We are on a mission to build a platform that connects the people who make products directly with consumers who love them.”

Available only on iOS, Spring aims to make the best experience for buying things on your phone or tablet.
Tisch co-founded Spring with his brother Alan Tisch, Ara Katz, and former Googler Octavian Costache with talents from Bergdorf Goodman, Cannon Tekstar Hodge and former fashion director of ShopBop, Kate Ciepluch. The other team members came from Fab, Beachmint, Google, Foursquare, Ralph Lauren, and DVF.

“We launched our company with 32 staff. That’s insane. But each startup is different,” he admitted.

Tisch was quite candid in the chat which was unfortunately marred throughout by a dysfunctional microphone, obscuring some key points. Still, we managed to hear some gems for startups:

RESEARCH
On day one of your startup, do research. The best companies take a lot of time with their idea and research before they start building

MARKET
Have a real understanding of the market

COMPETITION
If you have a similar startup with another and you don’t have the culture (in place), you lost already

SECRET SAUCE
Ask yourself why you are the best person for an idea
The most important for a startup to have—leadership; (it’s crucial) if you can convince people to join you
Those who are ready will be able to accelerate
A startup is rebellious by nature yet so many founders spend a lot of time conforming

OUTSOURCING
You can’t outsource if it requires local discovery and it’s one of the differentiators

DEALING WITH INVESTORS
Food is a great leveler when talking to investors
Build real relationships that will last years; find 5 people not 150 people, and not because they are on a list
They are (investors) not going to take you if you are not ready

FUNDING
We (investors) look at those who have built stuff before. We have to see something, especially (one that matches) your background
You can get money from banks with no equity
When do you need to ask money? If you need to accelerate faster. Money is fuel
How much money do you need? Based it on your milestones
We (investors) don’t even need to see the idea; we don’t even need to see the product—(we look at) the team and the market, because they are easier to identify
Your Idea must match startups with investors

GROWTH SECTORS
Healthcare and automotive sectors will grow

CONTENT
Create your own story. Engagement is key

SUCCESS OF SPRING
As an entrepreneur, he is confident it will succeed but there’s always “my awkward Jewish nervous self.”

Editonthefly is crowd-pleaser at NY Tech Meetup

nytm photo-oct6

By Dennis Clemente

How can you tell if your startup is going to be the crowd-pleaser at the NY Tech Meetup? Every month, almost like clockwork, the last presenter gets the most applause. Of course, it doesn’t mean your startup is the best or the most promising among all the usual nine startup demonstrations.

Last October 6, Fly Labs presented last but came first on top of people’s minds at the after party, as people talked about its iPhone app Editonthefly, which lived up to its name as a fast way to edit videos, literally on the fly. It’s only available on the iPhone (not available on Android yet), because the team focused on “perfecting” its cool features.

The demo showed how it keeps cuts interesting. Each cut stimulates the viewer with a change of perspective or a change of scenery. You just tap to cut. For dissolves, you make the videos dreamy, nostalgic or magical just by swiping. By tapping two videos at once, you get a split screen that allows you to compare them. You can add music and voiceover, too.

The other presenters were Emozia, which is developing technology that enables machines and software to understand and respond to human emotion. It can reportedly tell which “zipcode is really feeling (something).”

Still want another dating app? There’s Glimpse. It matches you with another person via your Instagram photos. Yes, photos, not likes or dislikes but just photos.

“Have you used the product personally?” a woman asked, which prompted a crowd-pleaser of a response, “I use it all the time.”

KuaiBoard turns your keyboard into your clipboard as you type text quicker.

Mondevices introduced Monbaby for monitoring babies. It’s a wearable baby monitor in a smart button that tracks your child’s breathing, movement and sleep patterns on an iPhone/Android app.

This could actually work for everyone, not just babies.

Two other presenters were Partake, which claims to be the easiest way for couples to share expenses as well as PowerToFly, a social platform that connects women in tech to great jobs at high-growth companies.

The latter’s mission is to give women more jobs. The site has a staff of 22 remote locations in 7 countries for faster work cycle.

Shyp, for its part, claims it is the easiest way to send anything, anywhere. It can reportedly lower your shipping cost, because it has a machine that allows packaging items to the precise size of the item. It delivers around Manhattan up to 96th St and in Brooklyn. What? No Queens again.

That same night, IBM selected the Scaffold to compete against other startups.

The site aims to help you discover your leadership style. You take a short quiz and a virtual coach generates customized insights and suggestion how you can become a great leader. Its virtual coach will also send personalized advice, weekly tips and helpful resources to guide you.

A background in organizational psychology helped the team answer questions about the site’s legitimacy.

The hack of the month came from Yin Aphinyanaphongs who showed the results of alcohol intake using Twitter for a specific period of time. It’s not scientific but it clearly showed some interesting insights that can help in terms of monitoring policy changes and the behavioral effect of alcohol.

Yin’s study considered the text categorization, labeled tweets and learning algorithm. His next step is to prove his study over time periods, especially on weekends. Yin wrote about 400 lines of code using R and Python.

Vognition, SAM Labs and Make!Sense lower barrier to IoTs

IOT photo

By Dennis Clemente

It seems simple enough. How do we connect to this 7.1-trillion Internet of Things (IoTs) market by 2020? Having our voice work for it is a good start, for sure, especially when the world will have 50 billion devices by then.

That’s what What Are Minds For, Inc. (WRM4) and its natural voice control platform Vognition hopes people will do. Last October 2, WRM4 presented along with SAM Labs and Make!Sense at the Internet of Things meetup at Pivotal Labs’ offices in midtown Manhattan.

Michael Liguori talked about how Vognition is cutting its teeth into IoTs, consumer electronics and other remote connected devices and services. “We integrate our solution into our customer’s apps by adding the microphone button into it such as home automation, security, transportation and data manipulation,” he said. In layman’s terms, these could be greenhouses, cars, food orders, entertainment, even videogames.

Liguori showed how it can control your thermostat by having Siri accept his request to lower and increase room temperature.

The platform reportedly allows industry voice engines (such as Nuance) to operate a wide range of connected devices. Developers through a series of API’s can control devices without building complex applications, as they currently do now, for each device.

“We have built and refined it for over 4 years,” he said.

Alon Sicherman of Sam Labs presented next. The London based startup, which recently joined the Microsoft Ventures UK Accelerator program, has created a pioneering Development Kit that lowers the barriers of entry into the Internet of Everything market.

Sicherman showed how anyone, even students, can connect everyday objects to the Internet using SAM.

“We are opening IoTs to everyone,” he said. “You don’t have to be a genius. There’s no coding necessary. Your idea becomes a product in minutes.”

SAM carries a modular library of sensors or sensor actor modules, including a button, slider, pressure, tilt and proximity.

How does Sam work? There’s an all-in-one package to connect to IoTs using Bluetooth. One can just drag and drop modules.

“There are no compiling and predefined relations. Custom code is in java script,” he said. It is also Preloaded with social media and IoT APIs.

Last presenter was Stephen Lewis of Make!Sense, It’s an easy-to-use platform for making learning fun and interactive. It’s a universal interface system that allows you to quickly and easily connect different types of sensors to your computer or smartphone.

You can use Make!Sense to observe movement, moisture, light, temperature, even your own heartbeat! If you’re curious about it, you can probably Make!Sense of it.

Science writer Steven Johnson talks about ‘How We Got to Now’

steven johnson

By Dennis Clemente

Steven Johnson, author of “How We Got To Now: Six Innovations That Made The Modern World,” likes to tell little-known success stories, sometimes or precisely because they are overshadowed by other bigger inventions or innovation and because people thought little of their connection with each other.

At the Huge UX meetup last September 30, for instance, the bestselling science writer cited the printing press as an example of how it was also connected to other inventions. When the printing press produced books, it also revealed human farsightedness that gave rise to lens-making for eyeglasses and later the telescope and microscope.

“People didn’t know they were farsighted until they read from a print that was too small to read. The discovery of the printing press created a demand for spectacles,” he said.

Johnson’s talk was about his book and his new PBS series this October about the history of technology and how gaining such historical perspective can certainly help us derive insights from it, especially in today’s startup world.

Johnson told one story after another from his latest book. Another interesting story was from an interesting man called Clarence Birdseye who got the idea for flash-freezing from ice-fishing. He discovered eating fish frozen after a days to be edible. Where most of us would just sleep after eating, he bothered to ask why the fish tasted good. He would follow little trails (in his mind), experimenting with other food, even vegetable, before coming up with an industrial product that made refrigeration possible.

“(Birdseye) was just curious (even if he had) no clearly defined path,” he said, as most of his examples confirmed. The other key points in Johnson’s talk included the following, paraphrasing here:

• We are in a complicated dance with innovation. We’re led by what technology is allowing us to do. It has flexibility
• When you are trying to get genuinely new ideas and pushing the envelope, you can have these crucial blind spots, because you are working at the edges of possibilities.
• Conscious of patent protection will only make you build walls within yourself
• Focus is not a big deal to him. You want to be a little distracted
• Invention overlaps with innovation but it’s almost the same thing
• When you are pushing the envelope, you get extraordinary insights.
• Don’t assume that technology has its own deterministic logic
• Ideas become imaginable at a certain point in time

Johnson is also the author of “Where Good Ideas Come From” and “Everything Bad is Good for You.” He is one of the foremost experts on the intersection between science, technology and personal experience. He recently gave a presentation at TED Talks.

Numberfire predicts sports winners through its analytics

By Dennis Clemente

Who wants to be a millionaire? Nik Bonaddio did when he won $100,000 on the TV game show and launched Numberfire. That’s the way to get funded without going the VC route.

It’s a great story that Numberfire COO Adam Kaplan liked telling his audience last September 29 at the New York Sports Tech Meetup sponsored by GameChanger in downtown Manhattan. He also took the opportunity to announce the release of its app.

Numberfire has since been working with the likes of ESPN and FIFA, providing unstructured data and leveraging mathematical modeling to mine it for insight that predicts players and team performance.

It’s a long way from ex-jocks giving their own forecasts.

“It’s not based on emotion. It’s quantitative and based on rigorous mathematical modeling. Calculated and delivered on demand,” Kaplan said.

How does it all work? He said Numberfire ingests live data and regression modeling.

An analogy that Bonaddio likes to use from his past interviews is the common cold. You know when you’re going to get a cold. In sports, it can be the same way.

The data Numberfire uses to make projections is reportedly of public record.

Today, Numberfire offers analytics for the NFL, NBA and other sports organizations like the FIFA World Cup where it also leveraged its analytic capabilities in real time.

Numberfire’s monetization model is based on subscription content services and native display ads in various devices.

“We turn analytics into multiplatform products that deliver engagement, revenue and positive user experiences,” he said.

The meetup was also co-organized by Stainless Code. It uses advanced semantic technology to allow easy integration of their metadata logging tools in real-time video workflows. Current clients include Major League Baseball and Turner Sports.

Sponsors of the meetup were GameChanger and SportsData. GameChanger provides scorekeeping, stats, live GameStream and recap stories for thousands of amateur teams. SportsData, subsidiary of Sportradar, provides real-time scores, stats, play-by-by, and other sports info for 40+ sports, 800+ leagues, and 200,000+ events.

Hatchery is back with no-nonsense feedback to startups

hatchery-yao

By Dennis Clemente

You better be prepared when you present at “The Hachery: Are you serious?” meetup, because even if there are so many similar meetups in the city, it doesn’t fail in one regard: giving serious, constructive feedback.

The secret to its no-nonsense approach probably lies in two things. It has fewer startup demonstrations—four this time, as one presenter didn’t show up. Second, startups have five minutes to pitch to the panel of investors, usually four or them. In the startup demo world, the five-minute presentation format is, of course, an eternity and for the panel listening, just more information for them to give serious feedback that startups truly need to hear.

It also helped that The Hatchery’s first meetup last September 25–after taking the summer off–had the candid Kamran Elahian talking about his decades-long investing experience. The other panelists were Jeff Neu of B2B Ventures and Gregg Young of NY Angels, respectively.

The investors were unanimous in saying how all the presenters need to review their financial projections. Elahian spoke at length about how in the interest of time, presenters should not do three-year financial projections, believing this to be unreliable based on his experience.

“Value is in the eye of the beholder…not in the spreadsheets,” Elahian, talking about an unspoken reality in this business. “Make (investors) like you.” He added: “Establish value then negotiate.”

With over 29 years of experience in the tech industry, Elahian has co-founded 10 hugely successful companies. As the chair and co-founder of Global Catalyst Partners, he has invested in multi-stage companies in the United States, China, Japan and Israel.

The first presenter, Aspirevest, connects individual investors to financial advisors and asset managers in the alternative investments space pay per connection auction and data social feeds.

CEO Daniel Roth sees a $1 billion opportunity, especially with “the financial world (being) 10 years behind the internet.” He is looking to raise $750,000 with a milestone in 18 months.

With 3 US patents, bio-medical startup Synchropet is also seeking $750,000 in its variation on PET scanning for animals. Working prototypes are called rat cap and pet insert MRI It is competing in a $235 million by doing something smaller and cheaper.

Each unit could cost $295,000. Beta products are expected to be done in December, delivery by the end of the summer of 2015 and sales by the end of 2015. It’s a high ticket product, especially being in the hardware category. “Make sure you are in the cash flow,” one of the investors said.

“I have about 15 customers for the rat cap from Europe,” said founder and CEO Marc Alessi.

The rise of personalized medicine is something that Bridget Osetinsky, co founder and CEO of Hyperfine, is hoping to capture with its Cornerstone tool. It aims to redefine the landscape of data search tools by introducing intelligence algorithms that will help in knowledge extraction in hospitals initially.

For $20,000 a year, doctors can also reportedly use it among patients using on-premise solutions and later, in the cloud. It is seeking $3 million and would have to figure out issues of liability and confidentiality.

CEO and founder Chris McBride presented Alta Editions, a digital platform for premium cooking content as a way to solve hard-to-find free recipes online.

“Cookbooks represent a $3 billion global market,” he said as he noted how Cooks Illustrated may have the American market but not the global market.

What is it going to do different? Re-launching early 2015, it will reportedly have a more personalized (approach) based on skill level, dietary needs, food purchases and user tastes. Founded in 2011, it faces an uphill battle. Content space is really difficult.

GoPRit and University Beyond were initially scheduled to present.

Storytelling in app world needs both Agile and Waterfall

brooklyndesignBy Dennis Clemente

Does the Agile methodology work in storytelling? If you ask Brian Kelly of Small Planet Digital, a full service mobile agency with 57 apps in the Apple Store, he thinks storytelling needs both Agile and Waterfall.

Using TV series as a case study, Kelly argued how Agile alone is not enough. “A pilot is the MVP, the episode the sprint and the season the version. Nobody writes the season(s) upfront.”

Stressing this point, he said, “When Agile works, it works but we’re often hired to tell stories and create new narratives. And agile is not really good for telling these great emotional stories.”

Kelly was one of three presenters at the Brooklyn Mobile Designers meetup along with
Refinery 29’s UX director Eben Levy and senior UX designer Juan Sanchez as well as Luke Miller, formerly of Yahoo and whose energetic speaking voice, will do him well in his incarnation as a mentor at General Assemb.ly.

Both Levy and Sanchez talked about the lessons they’ve learned in mobile design. Some of the key learnings they shared:

• Never assume they’re going to use (a feature)
• Consistency of experience is important
• White space is part of our background
• The problems you face may not be the interactive but how you need to diversify interface points
• Work closely with data analysts, to (design) in an honest way
• The biggest thing for us is the monetization of mobile
• Challenge is how to balance advertising needs vs. user needs
• It uses an internal tool to test

Using a newsfeed as case study, Miller advised people to take these three points to heart: usability, pagination and universal app for mobile and tablets. He stresses how it’s wrong to use a product person (internal) as test user.

Miller talked about the tools he has used. At Yahoo Finance, Miller used Hype. For interaction, he now uses a new tool called Pixate. “(The latter is) almost object-oriented programming, not timeline based, and with no coding.”

He urges designers to use data collection. “It’s good for hypothesis.”

Startups in mobility: charters, electric charging and smart automation present mobility concepts to BMW

bmwi

By Dennis Clemente

You know the brand behind the ultimate driving machine? BMW is also investing in startups under BMW I Ventures. And since it’s in the automobile business, you’ll have to be in the area of mobility services like the startups that presented last September 23—Buster, EverCharge, SmartCar and TransitScreen.

Founded in 2012 to help groups and charter operators find each other, Buster might as well be the Uber for group traveling. “It’s a marketplace where customers can discover, compare and book group transportation online,” said founder Matthew Kochman who also offered a similar service to fellow students back at Cornell University.

Reportedly an $11.4-billion market, Buster is for everyone who wants to book private group charters, whether for a school trip, company excursion or fun weekend getaway. Average price per booking is 1,000

With over 20,000 charter industry operators, Buster is reportedly aggregating bus companies and aims to offer centralized fleet services as well as discounts on insurance, maintenance and financing.
.
Next presenter, EverCharge is an electric vehicle charger from your parking space or for apartments and condos. You just tap your access card and plug in for EverCharge to automatically authenticate your vehicle and log your usage for billing purposes.

Minimum charge for EverCharge’s membership is about $40 for 500 miles.

From California, SmartCar is automation for connected vehicles. It is a web service that connects to internet-connected cars wirelessly over a cellular network. You should be able to configure and monitor your vehicle’s automation settings from your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Founder Sahas Katta talked about the many features of its app. If you want to have the perfect temperature in your, for instance, you can set a schedule and Smartcar will automatically begin cooling or heating your vehicle. It is also reportedly energy efficient.

It can also reportedly learn your driving patterns and automatically create a schedule to charge your car at the right time.

Smartcar is designed for the Tesla but it is working to have connected vehicles from other manufacturers in the near future.

A different startup from all the rest was TransitScreen. Matt Caywood recognizes the growth of smart cities, so he’s concentrating on real-time display of all transportation options at a specific location. This includes digital display ads.

The last presenter, Valet Anywhere, hopes to offer on-demand parking valet service for cities. Right now, it is only offering its service in New York City, the $25 billion parking market. “We hope to solve parking,” said founder Robert Kao.
How does it work? It assigns a uniformed vetted valet who greets you and parks your car for you. Valet also returns the car to you…wherever you may be in the city. Actual parking is said to be included in the price.

“How do you scale?” That was the frequently asked question by the guest panelists Matt Turck, managing director at First Mark Capital; Chris Thomas, founder and partner at Fontinalis; and Ulrich Quay, managing director at BMW i Ventures.

How not to overdo on your site or app’s features

cohn-agile-lean

By Dennis Clemente

If studies indicate 50 percent of a product’s features go unused, how do you make sure you don’t overdo it? The answer is quite obvious: You need user testing. What’s less obvious is how you go about this process.

At the Kaplan Center last September 22, The Agile/Lean Practitioners group brought back Danielle Tomson of the Occum Group and Steven Cohn of Validately to discuss various ways of gaining user insights from the prototyping stage.

Tomson said there are three types of user tests: desirability, usability and feasibility.

In terms of desirability, she said it’s important to interview, observe, survey and A/B test. When interviewing, ask for open question, making sure to dig deep.

“Instead of telling the user what specially needs to be done, give them a task,” she said. “Ask the user what he expects to happen. What’s in it for them?”

Breaking it down, asks the what, when and how questions. Does the user want to use it? Would they use it? How would they use it? When is it essential in the early phase and in creating new features on old products? How is the minimum viable service (.i.e. test the service before the product, figure out the interviews, surveys, paper prototyping)

Quantity is not always quality when it comes to number of users. Tomson adheres to Jacob Nielsen’s five-user test method: test more users if they are in a highly different group (egg. 5 students and 5 teachers). Read more here http://www.nngroup.com/articles/why-you-only-need-to-test-with-5-users/

As for usability, ask what does the product fulfill in the user’s needs? Why and why not? Do the features or UI/UX enable them to do so? Does the product do what you intended? Figure out how what tools to track behavior.

As for the feasibility part, ask how this feature can achieve business goals?

Constantly validate, but Tomson says it’s also important to keep two things in mind: the goal and hypothesis. “A goal is something you hope to achieve—what do you want the behavior to be? A hypothesis is something you think will happen—what do you believe the behavior will be?”

Cohn talked next about his startup Validately and how it is supposed to recruit users, create tests and get rapid feedback for different types of prototypes. Demonstrating Validately’s functions, he shows how it can show both low fidelity and high fidelity, including support for Axure and Balsamiq. With Axure, he said you can just add in the URLs and test the prototype on Validately. For safety, he said you can create a non-guessable URL to send to just a few people.

Overall, the validation site should be able to gauge desirability, measure usability, test the look and feel and make custom tests.

Cohn’s key takeways about user testing involved the following:
• Test what people do in their native environment
• Filter qualitative feedback based on actions
• Test on customer segments
• Be open to data