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Investor Pitch Video

Idea Summary

Write a summary paragraph: In about a paragraph, describe what problem you are solving, how many people are experiencing the problem, and what your solution is.

    Current social media technology is insufficient to bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds. No network yet attempts to target and serve specific content based on users’ physical presence in a meaningful manner. Radius allows users to set up flexible fences around locations in the physical world by setting up GPS parameters using a simple web form. These hotspots, which we term Beacons, can quickly and easily deliver hosted multimedia to Internet-connected devices within range.  The user effectively creates a digital broadcast in physical space, much like how current FM radio is centered around transmission towers, except Beacons are more geographically precise and media more versatile. This creates the first truly flexible platform that allows users to claim parts of the physical world in the digital space and serve pertinent content based on location.

Tell us more about the problem you are solving.  Why is it a problem and how big of a problem is it?

    Consider the following scenario: you’re in standing in front of New York’s Penn Station, trying to decide if you have time to grab a coffee before the next train to Jersey leaves. You need to access the train departure schedule, but actually going inside the station inefficient; it would take you at least 10 minutes to maneuver past the crowd, find the relevant monitor, and get back out to the coffee shop.  So you go for the electronic alternative and pull out your smartphone. However, having to find the schedule on your phone via the web is a bit of a hassle - you have to pull up Google, find the Penn Station’s website, and then filter a number of forms to get the information you’re looking for. Throughout this entire process, your phone knows exactly where you are in the train station but cannot parse this to your advantage. Why doesn’t it simply offer you the schedule in one touch as it’s likely the most relevant piece of data for anyone standing in your location? The problem is clear: there is no singular platform for locations to share their relevant information to those nearby, and no way for users to benefit from the natural locational awareness of their devices.  By current technology, the user would be going through the same digital process whether he/she was 10 feet away or 100 miles away, wasting valuable time hunting for what would seem to be obvious material.
    The problem thereby is the lack of a convenient, timely, and low cost way of delivering and receiving multimedia information based on physical proximity to an object of interest. We’re here to solve this with the innovative Radius platform.

Who do you think your target customers are and how many are there?

    Radius is primarily targeted towards individual users (the tech savvy social-media based generation) as well as corporate/academic settings, such as small businesses, panel conferences, and group taskforces. This wide-reaching combination is a mark of the robustness of the platform; much as how Twitter and other social media now thrive on both public and private accounts, radius’s evocative nature in assigning physical locales for data collection appeals to corporate and casual audiences alike.
    As of last October, there were nearly 100 million smartphone users in the US, and other countries have even higher penetration of these devices. Between these users and owners of other internet-connected mobile devices such as e-book readers and tablet computers, the addressable market of our software is enormous.

Do you think your customers are looking for a solution?

    The sheer amount of traffic that information-serving websites (social news sites such as digg, RSS feeds, or blog aggregates like Tumblr) currently host is testament to the market’s thirst for content-on-demand. radius provides this private industry a means of content subscription that is entirely new and novel: location-specific information serving and compares strongly to current solutions that simply use interest-learning algorithms to entice users. radius also provides a crucial functionality in the corporate industry as an elegant, easy way of information hosting, as outlined in the section below.

Tell us about your solution.  How does it work and what are the benefits?

    Radius allows users to quickly configure a physical location as a data hotspot (beacon) through setting a flexible fence around a specific GPS coordinate. Devices within range can detect this hotspot and immediately begin information transaction, exchanging instant communication and files of all formats. The user effectively creates a digital broadcast in physical space. Useful applications of this technology are easily identified, and far-reaching:
  • At a corporate conference, the devices of each attendee that walks in automatically checks in with the presenter’s hotspot – the presenter receives instant demographic data and the attendees receive pushed content from the presentation.
  • A boardroom meeting no longer needs to focus on a central projector – rather, each person can have the presentation display on their personal device in real time, and receive information that is specific to them and not the rest of the group.
  • A local business can set up a hotspot to push advertising deals via images to customers and passerby that is immediately relevant because they are within physical range.
  • A private user can set up a hotspot at a favorite hangout location and leave messages or notes behind for friends that visit that location in the future.
  • In tourism, a hotspot can be established on a landmark, which, upon detection of enough receptive devices in its immediate area, will automatically display the start of a digital tour to the nearby users.
In each application, radius creates intuitive new functionality and dramatically reduces the cost of hardware by broadcasting information on peoples’ existing technology.

    We’ve developed an elegant implementation of our stated functionalities through a combination of web and mobile technologies. This first graphic shows a user’s account homepage splashed across a full-screen, dynamic Google Map (licensed and used to track GPS coordinates) and a few of the beacons that he/she has created. Mousing over any of the beacons will bring up a short summary of the broadcast, and clicking on any of them brings up a detailed shift view.

    This next graphic shows a detailed panel of a beacon management screen for the content creator, which allows him/her to easily change the wireless boundary, adjust files for visitors to browse, and oversee the message board. 

    Finally, to bring the functionality together, here is a mockup of a content screen on a mobile device. The user here has walked within one of the established beacons and is available for data transfer.

    Radius will distribute its internet-based technology free of charge to establish a widespread user base, and capitalize on per-user value of the inherently resource-rich private, corporate, and academic markets through its monetization channels, outlined below. 

What's your plan for developing your product or service including some dates and milestones?  

    The base functionality of radius is contingent upon the parallel development of three major technological components:
  • API - We need to create an easy method for our software to interface with existing frameworks (such as native Facebook log in support) and for developers to create ways to interact with our product.
  • Web Interface - This is the bulk of development work, how beacons are created, managed, and made useful.
  • Mobile Application - The primary way by which users interact with beacons.
    Once the requisite funding and development resources are in hand, a dynamic, scalable prototype can be expected at six months past project launch. The service will be rolled out in a two month beta test and then deployed to the public.

How much funding to get to a company exit?

    The Radius team looked into the possibility of an acquisition exit by examining ten past startups that had been purchased by major players in the industry based on the criteria of similarity to product, company goals, expansion strategy & timeline, amount of data provided, and team composition. These companies, outlined in Appendix A, represent a diverse but specific subset of software companies, from firms that run on SaaS models, to revenue-less startups, all the way to PhD projects turned businesses. Temporality of acquisitions was taken into account and weighted for the most current data; we only examined companies exits dating back to 2009, because of the fast evolutionary pace of the tech industry. We also analyzed the trajectories of these companies with our intended timeline pacing.

Average Seed funding: $381K
Average number of rounds to acquisition: 1.63 rounds
Average time to acquisition: 40 months
Average Amount at Acquisition: $68M

    We have determined that around the three year mark is the tipping point for our company, and that a little less than 2 rounds of funding got these companies to that stage.  At the three year mark, we assume the we will either be acquired or will go through a phase of rapid expansion which entails a larger order of business expenses.These companies require an average of more than $300,000 to get started; we are advantaged in this respect because of the lean nature of our young team and our exclusively digital product. As compiled in the finances chart below, our costs for the first year are $144,139.  Assuming we have no revenue for the first year we need at least that much in funding to stay cash flow positive until we can reasonably expect revenue from implementation of our monetization strategies. Our full comfortable figure for the first year is therefore $200,000. To further break this down, we would be able to pay for a solid 6 months of lean development time on the $50,000 prize alone. This would give us sufficient breathing room to develop an initial version of Radius, and have a concrete foundation from which to gather users and additional support. We would then leverage our launched position and initial numbers to seek a very small seed round or angel investment for the remaining $150,000.
    As previously discussed, we are assuming no revenue for the first year, so our net profit is simply our total operating expenses: -$144,139.  We have not only used our conservative ad revenue estimates, but we also are assuming that we’re not working at full ad capacity right from the start.  For year 2, we assume that we’re working at 50% of our ad potential, and achieve 67% of capacity in year 3.  When looking at these figures, remember that user growth, in many cases, is exponential.  We predict revenues of over $37 million at the 10 million user mark.  Considering Foursquare added users at a rate of 9.86 million per year in 2011, it’s not out of the question for Radius to have at least that many users by year 4. At that point the company would be a highly valued target for acquisition.

Tell us about yourselves (Who is on your team, what are you studying, what year are you)

    David Herzka will be graduating from Duke in May with a bachelor’s in Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering. He has extensive experience developing software for desktop operating systems, iOS devices, and the web. David spent his last two summers at engineering internships during which he contributed to the development of revolutionary clean energy technology at DEKA R&D and the next generation of anti-malware software at Microsoft.  He has also been exposed to the entrepreneurial world through his work with startups E-Newal and Investors Mosaic as a participant in Fuqua’s Program for Entrepreneurs.  He is planning to start as a software engineer for Google at the end of this year.

    Jason Tian is a 2011 Duke graduate holding degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Visual Arts. Both halves of this eclectic combination are put to use in his career designing user interfaces for web and mobile-based software applications. Jason has significant experience in graphic design and brand management while working exclusively within the tech entrepreneurship industry. He is currently a full time media development consultant.

    Fred Ehrsam graduated from Duke in 2010 with Latin honors and departmental distinction in Computer Science and Economics.  Fred is experienced in both the technical and corporate worlds, and previously has worked alongside the chief web architect at a higher education software company, created custom software to analyze self-assembled DNA nanostructures in a Duke lab as a member of the Computer Science Undergraduate Research Fellows program, and developed financial models at BlackRock, one of the world’s leading asset managers.  He is currently a trader at Goldman Sachs.

    Hudson Duan received degrees from Duke in Biomedical Engineering and Statistics, as well as a minor in Theater Studies, in 2011. Hudson has extensive experience in the biomedical field, having worked for both a private bio research lab in Boston and a pharmaceutical company in New York. Hudson also has ample self-taught software and web development capability, managing two websites.  He is currently working on a mobile application startup called Foster.

Use of Funds - if you won $50,000 how would you use it?

    The technical background of our team will allow us to develop the first iteration of Radius completely in-house.  During the six-month initial development phase, our expenses will mainly consist of the cost of living of our core team members, which we estimate to be $1000/month for each team member.  We will also budget a small amount for travel and relocation as our team is currently located in both Durham and New York City.  Developing and running Radius can be done using almost entirely free and open source software, though it will be necessary to purchase licenses for the Apple iOS SDK and the Google Maps API.  Further funds will be devoted to protecting our intellectual property, including patents for core concepts used in our product and trademarks on our characteristic brand elements.
    After the initial launch of Radius six months following the beginning of development, expenses will rise as we pay for hosting costs in the form of computing hours and bandwidth through a cloud computing platform and content delivery network.  These costs will scale with the amount of traffic Radius experiences, so they will grow exponentially in the first months Radius is online.  We have calculated that, assuming similar growth to that of Foursquare, the cost of running the site using the aforementioned configuration for six months will be only $6000.   

Starting March 21st, vote for us on the Duke Start-Up Challenge Facebook Page!  And be sure to join us for the Grand Finale on April 20th at 7:30pm ET in Geneen Auditorium at the Fuqua School of Business, or live on Duke's Ustream Channel.  RSVP for the event on Facebook