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Meet Randy Ganacias, BSB/M ’07, the inventor of the do-almost-anything smartphone accessory, MilliMount. He went from corporate employee to independent innovator after a layoff left him out of a job. Not one to be deterred, he set his sights on bringing his big idea to life. Here’s how he did it.
Phoenix Focus: Prior to becoming an inventor, you worked in communications for a company for more than a decade before you were downsized. How did that impact you?
Randy Ganacias: I was kind of depressed being laid off. It really took the wind out of my sails, and I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. But just being an alumnus, and knowing the nature of Phoenixes, you pick yourself up and you figure it out.
PF: For you, figuring it out was taking an idea for a product and running with it. How did the idea for MilliMount come to you?
RG: It was in my car. Since phones have GPS now, I found it very annoying that I had to look down to navigate. MilliMount started off as a GPS mount. At the time there were mounts that required you to have certain smartphone cases. I wanted one that would fit with pretty much any phone, with or without a case.
PF: You accomplished that. MilliMount fits most smartphones, and as we can see in your product video, it’s is more than a GPS windshield mount. It also can be used as a tripod and phone stand, or it can be mounted just about anywhere with a suction cup or a hook. How did you take MilliMount from idea to reality?
RG: The thing that got me motivated was having something in my hand instead of just a paper sketch. Having an actual prototype changes things a lot. I started off with cardboard and blocks of wood, and then I took my wife’s cutting board and ripped it to pieces.
The other thing [that motivated me] was my inability to create something that was actually presentable. I have this thing that works, but it doesn’t look nice. That’s when I started researching services. There are a few companies out there that offer 3D printing services. If you send them a 3D drawing, they will print that object and mail it to you. The one I relied on most is Ponoko. With Ponoko, I was able to send them a file, and in two weeks I had something I was able to work with again.
PF: Eventually you bought your own 3D printer. How did this push you ahead in the process?
RG: It took about an hour for me to create the parts for MilliMount. If you consider that it used to take two weeks [to get a 3D prototype], that is a huge time savings.
PF: You had family and friends test MilliMount while you were developing it. How did that go?
RG: My wife thought it was nuts until I used it on her Droid. Then her sisters [used it]. It grew in my family first, and then through friends. I was able to get honest feedback, which I appreciated.
PF: After you had a prototype you were happy with, you decided to mass produce the MilliMount. How did you find funding?
RG: The bottom line is I needed to get something done. I had to learn how to turn a project into a product. I had entertained the thought of using Kickstarter.
PF: Kickstarter is an online funding platform for creative projects. The idea is that you create a project, set a fundraising goal and post it to Kickstarter. Then, you need to find enough people who like your idea and are willing to make a financial pledge toward your goal—what Kickstarter refers to as “backers.” If you don’t reach your funding goal, you don’t get any money. If you do, you owe your backers an agreed-upon reward, which in your case was a MilliMount. How did you prepare to launch your project on Kickstarter?
RG: I thought about what was missing and what I needed to put in place to make this happen: a business plan. The thought of a business plan was overwhelming. I didn’t know where to start. I started plugging in pieces, and that helped me figure out the partnerships I needed to create.
PF: You created your own kind of business plan on a single page with everything flowing in a clockwise direction, interconnected—value proposition, product development, communications, costs and so on.
RG: Just going clockwise, we make an improvement and then go to the next item in the rotation. As I did with iterating my product, my business plan in a sense goes through iterations.
PF: Your MilliMount project got full funding after little over a month on Kickstarter. What did you do with the funding?
RG: I manufactured 2,000 units, and I sent out 900 to my [Kickstarter] backers. I currently sell about 40 per week. It’s modest and it keeps me busy. It provides slow and steady income while I work on other things.
PF: Now that you’re an inventor, what’s next?
RG: This year is all about teaching—teaching those who want to turn their ideas into a product. It’s great to share content with one or two people, but it’s even more satisfying and meaningful to get that information out to the masses.