You may not know it, but in addition to being the owners, Chris and I are the only employees of Phase Dock Inc. We’re a start-in-the-garage kind of business, only our startup is primarily in the basement. Same thing, I think. Although at this time, we can only park one car in our two-car garage because the spare injection molding machine is sitting in one of the car stalls. Just saying…
We’ve been working to build Phase Dock for about three years now. We’ve made tremendous engineering strides, but it’s been difficult to build sales and get the word out. Despite the enormous enthusiasm and loyalty of the customers we have (Thank you all!), we simply need more customers, if we are going to succeed.
What to do?
Well, for one thing, we decided that it was time to get out of our own heads and learn from specialists and professionals.
We applied for and were accepted into RAP*, a seriously excellent business accelerator program which kicked off right after Memorial Day 2020. Much like COVID, the RAP also brought us to a screeching halt, but in a good way. They asked/forced us to think hard about where Phase Dock was going and where it should go instead. If you have a notion to start a business, we highly recommend reading Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters.
We believe that Phase Dock actually has three potential markets: Makers/hobbyists, professional engineers/industrial users, and STEM educators. We currently have customers in all three markets, and that’s cool. Lots of potential opportunity. But…and it’s a big but… our marketing outreach was spread so thin it wasn’t reaching any kind of critical mass. In addition, Chris was getting whiplash from trying to develop multiple products to meet the different needs of each market.
The solution? Focus.
RAP led us to focus on the smallest viable market with the biggest pain points which required the least amount of product development churn.
- Makers think the WorkBench is great to have but they frequently aren’t in a huge hurry to purchase or work on their projects.
- Professionals often have quite a bit of pain and need an urgent solution, but many times they need something slightly (or much) different, so Chris was developing a string of one-off products which slowed down progress toward BDOs (Big Development Objectives) such as injection molding.
- STEM educators, however—especially those who aspire to elite STEM rankings for the secondary and post-secondary schools where they teach—are in urgent need of tools to make their classroom time more effective and their space more organized, clean, and safe. Some teachers are even looking for ways to make hands-on projects workable in virtual settings.
So elite STEM education is our primary focus for now.
The need is pressing. The requirements are consistent. COVID-19 won’t last forever. At the end of the tunnel, teachers and students alike will have a lot of ground to make up. And WorkBench is already proven to turbocharge STEM education.
The shift to a STEM Ed focus meant that Chris had to develop just one more product – the WorkBench 1007 Integrated Organizer (1007-IO).
Teachers! Mentors! Robotics Coaches! We hear you!
Way back when Phase Dock was still a fantasy and WorkBench was a prototype, the first teachers to see it immediately wanted WorkBench for their classrooms. “But,” they would almost sigh, “if only it had some kind of small parts storage it would be perfect!” We could hear their longing for a way to control classroom electronics clutter or minimize set-up and tear-down time.
The WorkBench 1007-IO fulfills that longing. And we hope that our re-imagined website helps you find the tools you need to make teaching electronics, robotics and coding fun and satisfying again. We welcome you to take a close look and drop us an email with your reactions and suggestions.
Wishing you More Education and Less Frustration!
P.S. Look for more on the WorkBench 1007-IO product next week as we get ready to launch.
P.P.S. Don’t think for a minute that we’re ignoring our loyal Maker and Engineer fans! We have dedicated several additional pages of Phase Dock’s new website just for you. And we think you’ll like the Integrated Organizer just as much as our STEM Ed friends do. It’s pretty cool!
*RAP is run by RIoT –a “convener for the IoT community, RIoT also offers a startup accelerator, R&D lab, educational programs, and more.” RIoT began as a regional IoT hub in North Carolina, but is rapidly expanding services and programs nationwide. Check out our friends at RIoT.org.