My team of good friends, Jason, Bill, Carla and I drove to Cincinnati yesterday for our final I-Prize presentation with Cisco. The Carmel facility is a lot closer but Cisco needed to move us to enable their full Innovation team to be present.
With over 1100 international entries to the contest, we were selected and made the 32 semi-finalists. Now we were one of the final 12 ideas presenting in front of the very board who initiated the contest. No pressure, huh?
I couldn't think of a better mix of team mates to work with on this project. The irony, of course, is when you pick a team of hard workers… all of us have challenging jobs already. The I-Prize really added to our workload and I'm thankful I had friends who would step up when I couldn't. You could see the strain leave our bodies and the smiles return after we finished the presentation.
The Telepresence Experience
A sample video of Telepresence is on Youtube but it really doesn't provide the full experience.
The room is a partial oval table that directly faces 3 enormous screens with built-in video cameras. When you plugin your laptop to do your presentation, it's projected locally under the screens as well as remotely under the screen so all members can see it.
We had parties at 3 physical telepresence locations at our meeting as well as another caller who simply dialed in. The system automatically flips the image based on which location is speaking. But it doesn't flip all of the screens – it simply flips to the screen that someone is speaking on. Here's a great pic where a tech was working to the left of the San Jose group – you can see half of her.
Within a few minutes of using the system, you truly forget that you're actually at opposite ends of the country. it's an amazingly comfortable experience. We were definitely impressed.
The Cisco Team
With hearts pounding and so many executives from Cisco, I tried to write down everyone's names but simply lost track. It was a thrill to be face-to-face with Marthin De Beer, though! The Cisco team were casual, gracious, inviting and supportive hosts. Any fears of Randy, Paula and Simon quickly evaporated with the leadership team we had in front of us!
Enough! How did the Presentation go?
Trying to sell a billion dollar idea in 60 minutes is definitely a new experience. Bill was our spokesperson and the guy who kept the tempo of the meeting. I chimed in with as much industry data and experience I could. We knew the toughest hurdle was actually getting the team to recognize the solution and opportunity. Carla illustrated our slide deck to visually capture the mounds of data that we packed into each slide.
When you say “Point of Sales” system, folks immediately think about a barcode scanner, an inventory database, and the ability to print a receipt and charge a credit card. That's the paradigm that we had to shift in the first 30 minutes!
We had to get the team to recognize that the POS has much more potential to be the entire hub of the business with an opportunity to integrate into all other business processes – inventory control, food supply, employment, accounting, marketing, rewards, online ordering, kiosk ordering, wireless ordering, reporting, enterprise management, etc.
The reason why people see a POS as a ‘glorified cash register' is that this is exactly what it's been the last 50 years with very little change. The core of our idea for the finals is to make the POS the HUB of the restaurant, with a secure and reliable network to support any communications.
Perhaps the best part of the presentation was that, as we spoke, we could physically see the expressions on their faces change and the light bulbs turn on. Questions changed from ‘who, what, how much' to ‘how about, do you picture, why not'. With a $17B industry, prospects that are disappointed with current offerings, and no vendor stepping to the plate – the restaurant industry is primed for disruption by a company with the resources of Cisco.
By close of the meeting, we had talk of thin-net clients deployed with ideas of the “Restaurant in a Box” and alliances with vendor agnostic POS hardware clients. Yes!!!! That's the picture that we wanted to paint all along. We had some very positive responses from the team, some good chemistry throughout, and we closed the meeting. Jason polished off the meeting letting the team know why a system would have been so essential to his success as a restaurateur.
I don't believe it could have gone better! There is additional cost/benefit analysis that could be accomplished and we identified the resources to obtain that information to refine our business case. A few thousand dollars in industry reports would need to be scoured with a good analyst to come up with an accurate estimate.
Now we wait! Marthin closed the meeting with a statement of how interesting it was to hear others' perceptions of what Cisco ‘was' or ‘did'. We hope that they can visualize themselves into this space. This would solidify Cisco as the data backbone of commerce, first in the food service segment, and beyond to the entire retail industry.
The team ended the phone call and did a 30 minute debriefing. We wait until June to hear the results! Tick… tick… tick…
If Cisco does not choose us, we've already discussed the idea with some entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capitalists here regionally. Without Cisco's network and reach, this may be a tough idea to sell. That is, unless we get the funding and become their customer!