Shout Out to Local Startups Series: Volume 1, Part 2

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Zach is back this week with round 2 of his interview with Tony of Tinted. Last week, Tony Farnsworth took us through the big idea for his startup, Tinted. This week, he returns for part two of our blog series detailing his entrepreneurial journey.

The Tech

Q: Welcome back Tony. This week we will be discussing the tech behind Tinted. First, I’m curious: how did you cover the development costs at the beginning of the design process?

A: Well, we were actually very careful to keep costs as low as possible. To do so, we used what is known as the “mechanical Turk” model. If you aren’t familiar, the mechanical Turk was a chess machine built in the late 1700s that appeared to be fully automated. At the time, people were shocked at how a machine could be programmed to play such a complex game, and it was exhibited around Europe and the Americas for decades. However, it was later revealed that the machine was designed to house a chess master hidden inside. This chess master could manipulate the pieces without being seen, thus giving the illusion that the entire process was automated.

By following this model, our first prototype was actually incredibly inexpensive to put together – it was little more than a survey. Users answered a series of questions, and then we manually reviewed the answers and sent out the color recommendations. The idea is to build something that costs as little as possible along each step of the way, but still appears to be working to receive the requisite feedback. Our goal is to always do the minimal amount of work necessary to get the feedback necessary to advance our product. Using this approach has saved us lots of time and money throughout the design process.

Q: Fascinating. How did you go about turning your version of the mechanical Turk into the new tech required for Tinted?

A: As I mentioned in the last article, the idea first started out as a joint venture between myself and my wife. However, I quickly realized that it would be best to run the idea by some other bright entrepreneurial minds to establish its validity. I pitched the idea to my teammates in the MSTC program, and together we completed our initial market research. We interviewed people in the interior design industry, from heads of marketing at top paint companies to those in charge of color selections, we did hundreds of online surveys and in-person interviews and extensive secondary market research. The consensus was that the problem of selecting colors was big, it did cause pain, and people seem to see value in concept.

After we started to realize our idea had traction, we brought on a business partner to help design the first true automated prototype. We took it to the San Antonio Home and Garden Expo in September 2017; at the expo, we sent a big group of people through the actual product and interviewed hundreds more. Our results were great and we achieved an 88% satisfaction rate with our very first tests.

Q: Those are some very impressive results for a first test. What was the next step?

A: Following our success at the Home and Garden Expo, we took a pause on tech development and focused on putting together our business plan. By December of 2017, we took all of our research and feedback and consolidated it into a pitch at Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition. We won third place, and it served as the final validation that we were indeed on the right track. We got connected with investors, learned more about how much money we needed to raise, and got ideas about where to start that process. We continue to take baby steps in the right direction, and our Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign is just another step in the process.

That concludes part two of our series. Next week we will be back to discuss the crowdfunding process and what it takes to launch a successful campaign.

Tinted’s Indiegogo campaign kicked off on January 24th; so far, Tinted has met over 20% of their fundraising goal in under one week. If you are interested in learning more about the campaign, please take a look at the following link:

This was actually the prototype version of the expo hall. We had a version that automatically selected colors on the spot at the expo. If you want to include this maybe before the 1st question…Maybe we talk to over 20% of the goal has been met in under 1 week.

Tinted is a team of university students, product engineers and interior design professionals passionate about the intersection of technology and design, on a mission to enable the average American to have above average design advice in real-time through a set of frictionless, automated, digital tools.