You chose to go into sales...not accounting. HUSTLEBOX is a wireless vehicle-telematic device that becomes your lovable personal assistant for tracking expenses.
HUSTLEBOX uses cellular networks to transmit your car's data instead of battery-hogging systems that use bluetooth.
Tag your trips! HUSTLEBOX lets you hashtag trips and get mileage summaries for each tag. Imagine tagging clients, your various companies, or just things for fun.
HUSTLEBOX generates beautiful Excel spreadsheets and reports, organized on individual tabbed worksheets for each of your businesses.
We designed Hustlebox to serve two specific market segments - the corporate road-warrior, and the independent business person who uses a personal car for work, and need to accurately report miles to their companies and to the IRS. Our thesis was that a really-cool, easy-to-install, consumer-friendly device and software package would be able to sell itself, and that our adoption curve would support a venture capital raise.
1. (If you're in sales, the following might not make sense, but if you're a designer, you'll understand)
Our DNA is product design, software engineering, marketing and branding - not sales or sales management. Our entire business model depended on lightwieght, mostly-online and retail sales with a mix of institutional business development. After numerous failed online advertising campaigns, we discovered this product couldn't sell without a face-to-face interaction. Thus, we tested other channels - from CPA offices, car repair shops, car audio boutiques, professional organizers, and so on. Virtually zero units were sold without a representative from Hustlebox shaking a hand in-person. Despite this, we had good traction in SF Bay and Atlanta with over 100 paying customers who loved the Husltebox product. We built it, but they didn't come. At our price, the product requires an unsophisticated transactional sales team - something with which we had very little experience. Could we have kept pushing forward...yes, but read on...
2. We made a big promise - that our customers would "never miss a trip". While this was true in most U.S. metropolitan areas like Atlanta, the Bay Area and coastal California was affected by GPS and cellular dead spots. We we're at about 93% accuracy versus 99.9% in other markets. This caused numerous support calls and efforts with our harware provider to solve. It made it difficult to position ourselves as a premium product and scaling would mean higher support costs. As a self-funded company, the mix of operational expenses with a sickly feeling that our beautiful product couldn't do the one thing it's supposed to do, made it difficult for us to put on our sales-pants and hustle in more customers. Could we have? Yes...but we're not the type of people who sell a promise we can't deliver.
3. Anyone who tracks miles with pen and paper LOVED Hustlebox - these were the folks we interviewed in the early phases of product development. We should have talked to more people because most of our market doesn't really care enough about accuracy - these are folks who tell their CPA "just guestimate enough so I don't get audited". We assumed we'd pick up a portion of these people but it just didn't happen, and finding those who use pen and paper are too expensive.
4. Our hardware was tehered to another service provider - a startup. There was ongoing concern that our backend device management company could potentially go out of business. We begun looking at new hardware vendors and quickly learned the complexity of coordinating the cellular data providers with device manufactuers. Our vender definitely filled a need, but their margins were even much thinner than ours, and we had concerns over their long-term viability.
6. "It's been working for me perfectly...why not just keep it running?". We've been toiling over this, but it ultimately comes down to our infrastructure costs. Hustlebox is a huge consumer of data and our hosting provider charges us accordingly. At this point, we have zero income from Hustlebox and high expenses which are being covered out of personal savings. We kept the product running over 18 months with no income to support customers on 2-year plans - we honor our commitments even at a cost to our personal finances.
In a nutshell, at it's highest tolerable price, Hustlebox's margins were too low to support a direct sales model. With VC funding, we could have possibly flooded the market with cheap units and drove brand awareness and *maybe* found a cheaper sales channel, but getting to the traction VCs required would have been a long and expensive road. So at this point, with another very expensive lesson, it's back to the drawing board.
"I loved HUSTLEBOX...is there anything else like it?"
The answer is no...and yes. Stay tuned for more details.