Halloween is a perfect example. As kids, we dressed up in costumes and went door to door in search of candy without raising an eyebrow. We bought pumpkins, cleaned out the insides and carved scary faces on them. And for what? Because that is how we were taught to celebrate Halloween. It was tradition.
I say all of this to reiterate the point that for most people, Halloween in it’s very essence is a holiday to practice traditions and rituals, not a field for innovation. The game is set. There are witches, ghosts, monsters, zombies and vampires, but no room for entrepreneurial ideas.
Wrong. Enter Mark Rober, a former mechanical engineer at NASA turned wearable tech Halloween T-shirt and costume designer. For nine years Rober worked at NASA — seven of those years spent working on the Curiosity Rover — when he had an idea on revamping how realistic and modern Halloween costumes could be by simply using smart phones and tablets.
Rober unveiled his revolutionary costume in 2011. By using two iPads and FaceTime, Rober created a costume that gave the appearance of seeing through his body. After uploading the video of his costume to YouTube, it immediately went viral. In fact, the video at one point was getting 1.5 million views every day.
“Everything has stemmed from that one decision,” Rober told wired.co.uk.
The next year, Rober created a free app, a plethora of T-shirt designs and a website to sell this “wearable tech,” for Halloween participants everywhere. This year, Digital Dudz has upped the game again with a costume that looks like a hand is punching through one’s back and ripping out his or her insides. Seriously, no more pretending to eat guts. You can now make it a reality and also be the most photographed guy at your next Halloween party.
Leave No Field Unexplored
Rober and the Digital Dudz story is a great lesson for entrepreneurs everywhere. In a field that seems to be tapped out on innovative ideas, Rober saw an opportunity to revolutionize the costume and Halloween experience with technology and devices we use everyday. He had a creative idea and made it happen.
Successful entrepreneurs can see ideas in many traditional or mundane settings. Think about that in your own industry. How can you go where no one else has gone before? How can you get people talking?
Another lesson we can learn from Rober is his form of advertising. Not only did Rober have a good idea and knew it was good, but he marketed it in a fashion that worked beautifully with the product — a viral video.
“We spent zero dollars on advertising,” Rober said. “We just had a YouTube video and that was it. We did a quarter million dollars in revenue, just in three weeks.”
Those are some scary numbers. All from a video that people couldn’t help but share. The next time you are planning a marketing or advertising strategy, explore unconventional ideas or mediums.
Take a Chance
This is really nothing new for successful entrepreneurs, but Rober believed in himself and his product so much that he quit his job at NASA to pursue Digital Dudz full time. I can imagine he got a few interesting looks from co-workers and family members when he broke the news.
“It’s a little bit scary, but at the same time it’s such a cool opportunity,” he says. “You just have to see what happens.”
Never Stop Innovating
Rober didn’t stop creating after such huge success in his first year. He has continued to come up with new ideas and improve his existing products. It’s something every entrepreneur has to do in order to stay relevant as a brand and business.
From originally cutting a hole in the shirt and duct taping the phone inside to installing a pocket to hold the phone in the shirt to now integrating the app with Morphsuits to use the accelerometer for a number of new visuals, Rober is constantly thinking of new features.
“We want to be disruptive in the fancy dress industry,” he says. “You’ve got so many things on there, the accelerometer, near-field communication, Bluetooth and other sensors…there are cool interactive concepts [to be explored].”