The DistroMonk One Spark Launch

I was selected to be a One Spark ’18  Health Spark Creator a few weeks ago and with the event wrapping up, I wanted to openly share my thoughts, lessons and next steps on the journey to launching DistroMonk to help teams deal with work stress.

DistroMonk is the third startup I’ve launched in this event format. Each time, I spend less money.  The risk is so high to find out in real time, face to face what interests people and validating people would pay to solve this problem. It gives me a clear go/no-go on whether to move forward with the lens of product/market fit.

The first time, I had finished developing the platform and mobile apps to launch at an event for the audience I was serving. I spent over 20k, had the name up in lights, on signs and TVs everywhere. I gave out over 500 business cards. and not one single account came of it.

The moment I realized that startup was a failure, I was sick to my stomach and cried at the Starbucks patio thousands of miles away from home.

I felt so alone.

I had invested so much energy and money into building the platform to launch and was sure once I got it in front of people, they’d want it. I was wrong. I carry this lesson forward today.

Get out my head and listen to the people whose problems I’m solving.

I didn’t want to feel that way again with DistroMonk, so I’ve opened up and asked peers and advisors for help. I did 1 Million Cups to practice my pitch, shared my lean canvas to explain how DistroMonk works and took action on advisor feedback. Building this support system ensures that I’m not in my head and am around people who want to help me succeed.

On Becoming a One Spark Creator

To be a One Spark Creator, my total expenses were about $300. Things that helped keep that number low:

I didn’t have travel expenses
I already had the gear to do events
I wasn’t launching something so far out of what I was doing before
I’ve already served my target market

I spent the money on the booth fee, getting a poster, business cards, and some shirts. The rest was hustle. I had a very clear focus on my ask. I practiced my 60 second pitch.  I reached out to local press that I was doing something cool at One Spark. I let my friends know that I’m a Creator this year and built my game plan for the experience I wanted attendees to have with DistroMonk. I knew that giving VR experiences would get people to spend a few minutes talking with me and set apart what’s unique about DistroMonk than others in this space. Even so, I spent much less time on the building out the platform and more time figuring out how to listen to customers.

My focus is not on the tech but finding the initial customers.

Here’s what I brought to One Spark to launch DistroMonk:

Looped a 6 minute explainer video for people walking by or waiting to learn about DistroMonk
Created a One Spark branded 3 minute VR mediation experience for people try
There was the voting component of One Spark
Had a T-shirt giveaway to support #JaxInnovates
Had a secret link to the audio of the VR experience for an additional touchpoint on their phone after they leave my booth

How Attendees Responded to DistroMonk

While the event organizers haven’t released attendance numbers, I did about 450 VR experiences for One Spark attendees
Did 5 IG interviews and got press coverage from WJCT, First Coast News, Times Union, and 904HappyHour
An invitation to join an accelerator
Made great connections within HealthSpark area
Met a VC
Gave out over 100 business cards to people who asked for one
Got contact info for 20 people who want to bring DistroMonk into their workplace (Goal.)
Got 2 personal referrals to business owners who would benefit from what I’m doing. Steli would be proud.
Had 11 people go to the Attendee Meditation Giveaway link which is great because they were literally sticky notes people took pics from their phone.

The People Spoke About DistroMonk

Things One Spark Attendees Taught Me

No one asked about mindfulness
Didn’t care for branding/personalization
Didn’t care for adding mindful training or hearing from experts in meditation or famous people doing the meditations
No one said anything about the name DistroMonk being weird
Everyone understood what meditation is. Thought I’d have to explain the different types of meditation/ relaxation exercises and how they are beneficial but no
After of a year of doing VR events and putting on tens of thousands of VR sessions, it’s still most people’s first time trying Virtual Reality. I am on target with the level of simplicity needed for an immersive VR meditation experience
Kids want to do VR because it’s new technology but parents waited in line to get the effect of the VR meditation experience
Only two advanced meditation practitioners questioned using technology rather than sitting in silence with their eyes closed. They still saw how this benefits everyday office workers who might not be ready for that.
People loved having something to look at while meditating and VR surprised them to take them into another frame of mind in such a short time and physically notice a change in how they felt
People really like the short 3 minute sessions
They only cared about their n=1 experience and sharing it. No one asked about research studies.
People liked it as a tool to deal with work stress and get focused within a few minutes
Confirmed that people would use it at work
People who are using paid B2C meditation apps saw the value of DistroMonk being available at work to solve work related stress and getting back to focus and want to have it at their workplace.

Attendee Feedback and Requests

People asked to have music only or nature sounds only without narration. I have versions with different audio to get away and be immersed in a different environment.
A physician requested I add biofeedback integration to see their personal data points with meditation
Had people ask to make kid versions or use it for ADHD and autistic kids
One small biz owner laughed at me and said he couldn’t believe people would pay for that then he did the 3 minute VR session and asked me to build out a library of motivational sports scenes to buy so he can get pumped up.

Ok, Attendees Loved DistroMonk. What Would They Buy?

People really wanted the VR meditation experience, not nearly as interested in audio or video sessions once they tried it.

I wasn’t expecting interest in VR as the main product to buy and hadn’t prepped an offer. I had many requests for on-site VR meditation events for corporate retreats, wellness days, and employee appreciation days.

People want this at their workplace, on their own time rather than an event. The business model would be VR unit based subscription model (for hardware rental & access to content) for Wellness/Zen/Meditation rooms in office buildings.

Had 3 people ask how can I buy this for myself right now. Which would mean creating a B2C VR meditation subscription model

Someone suggested I create a VR stock footage site for all the people buying the VR 360 cameras to sell their footage and split the revenue.

One Spark In Hindsight

I’ve been rooting for One Spark to find its way as a sustainable annual event in Jacksonville. In hindsight for me, I would not have made voting my primary call to action. The stage I’m at with DistroMonk is to validate the problem I’m solving and get my first ten customers.

In the future, the only call to action will be an email sign up to get a meditation giveaway before doing the VR demo. I didn’t figure that out until almost the end. Also, I need someone helping me during the entire event with VR. I was so busy that I didn’t get to talk to everyone who was interested. So glad Shawna helped out on Saturday. By the end of the event, I about lost my voice from all the talking. I wouldn’t have been able to meet as many people without help.

I will reach out and help build a community of local peers, creators, and founders. I had only met two of the other Creators before this event. There are still many islands of innovation in this sprawling city. One Spark Creators didn’t have an organized way to meet each other before, during, or after the event. The only thing we knew was that we were competing for a cash prize by popular vote and a mythical Spark Tank. Most Creators had hopes for but didn’t understand it was private and pre-selected winners before the main event happened. Saw a lot of disappointed Creators when they heard candidates were already selected and had pitched in front of judges privately. With the weather, they changed how the event would end. There was no pitch off to find the Top Creator with live audience voting, it became the highest popular vote and they handed out the checks to the 5 Spark and top 3 Spark Tank winners. I was looking forward to seeing how my peers pitch in front of an audience. I thought, how awesome would a local shark tank be in front of a live audience.

There’s so much more to win from being a part of an event like One Spark. You get to meet the do-ers willing to stick their neck out. These are the courageous future leaders who can change what our world looks like. I hope One Spark puts more emphasis on the journey of their selected Creators leading up to the event. That’s what several first time attendees have told me they were hoping to find to build anticipation for the upcoming event.

Post Event Next Steps

Reach out to contacts. Did my first round of followup: Sent 15 emails and 5 texts
1 inbound interview request, had 2 intro calls and 2 meetings set for next week.
Figure out how to sell the VR experiences to work teams.
Reach out to other Creators and Attendees to listen to what they have to say and ask who I should meet.

Onward and upward.
Vanessa


2 Comments

Janet L. Laman · April 11, 2018 at 10:39 pm

Excellent presentation of how things ended up working and not working at tbe OneSpark event. Although it is a personal recap, it also highlighted the poor organization, poor design of the event (it changed and wasn”t communicated to the creators). Sounds like VP personally learned a great deal. It would be interesting to see more public reactions.of creators.

Kate Stewart · April 12, 2018 at 1:03 pm

Awesome insights, Vanessa. Thank you for sharing! To my way of thinking, the One Spark opportunity has always been primarily market validation; the popularity contest dilutes that opportunity and distracts Creators. So glad you grabbed the opportunity and learned so much valuable information. Also pleased that you continue to support addressing the need for Creators to have year-round support and community. Impossible for Jax to compete in the innovation realm without that basic foundation.

They say that the third time is the charm – best of luck with DistroMonk!!

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