In a previous life I spent three years running Whirlpool's Connected Home Technology group, where we researched a myriad of home-based solutions that leveraged information technology. I still have a lot of passion in this area and keep a watchful eye on it, so I was intrigued when I first caught a glimpse of Cozi, based here in Seattle. I thought it would be a perfect match for the Whirlpool brand, so I reached out to Robbie Cape at Cozi and put him in touch with some former Innovation contacts at Whirlpool. Sure enough, Cozi and Whirlpool have partnered up to help busy families.
I wanted to undersand Robbie and Cozi a little deeper, and Robbie has graciously agreed to talk about Cozi.
JR: What gave you the inspiration for Cozi?
RC: The needs of the family inspired Jan and I to build Cozi. We saw an incredible gap between the needs of the family and the degree to which technology and software were addressing those needs. That represented a wonderful opportunity for a couple of guys who love to (1) build simple technology experiences, and (2) address the needs of the typical "consumer." The Cozi vision was the perfect problem for us.
JR: Where have you found the greatest adoption for Cozi?
RC: Cozi has been adopted right across the United States; there is no one area where we have more adoption than others. Cozi tends to appeal most to families with kids between the ages of five and fifteen. Cozi families tend to have multiple PCs in their home and are comfortable with the internet, and they are far from "techy". In fact, most Cozi families talk about themselves as "no tech - no time".
JR: What was the biggest challenge getting Cozi to market?
RC: I'd say it's the same thing that challenges every startup: staying focused. It happens to be one of the things that this team is really good at, so it came naturally to us. Jan is exceptional on this front and he constantly reminded us that we needed to stay true to our original vision for v1, deliver on it, and then begin to iterate. That's what we're doing.
JR: What has been the biggest challenge growing the business?
RC: The biggest challenge has been acquiring customers. It's almost always a tough nut for a company starting with little marketing money. For us, it was especially hard since we didn't build in viral from day one. Why not? Because we needed to stay focused on what families were asking for. While sharing matters to them, it wasn't their #1, #2, or #3 requirement. And while it might have helped us get the word out on Cozi faster, we decided to optimize for the needs of Cozi families rather than for the growth of our user base. What's much harder to find is GREAT people who have the drive, experience, and ability to execute. I urge entrepreneurs to find the best partner (you need a partner to get through the challenges of a startup) and ensure their first few employees are all about execution. If you can execute, there is no stopping you.
JR: What other ventures have you been involved in?
RC: Cozi is my first startup. Before Cozi, I was at Microsoft for 12 years; I had a bunch of different jobs there, the most interesting one was the six years I spent on the Microsoft Money business. My last "job" at Microsoft was to build a startup team (we started with 2 people!) to help Microsoft figure out how to deliver annuity value to our best enterprise customers. It was fun to do a startup at Microsoft before I did one in the "real world."
JR: Can you talk about what's next in Cozi's future?
RC: Family Life - Simplified. That's what's next. We will continue to work with laser-like focus on delivering on this promise, simply. It turns out to be really hard to design, build, and deploy simple software; it's much hard than it looks. We are also focused on building the revenue side of the business so we can continue to build value for families for years to come. Thankfully, things are going very well on that front.
JR:Thanks Robbie for taking the time to post your thoughts, and best of luck to you and Cozi!