This episode introduces the second participants of the season's thoughtbot's Incubator Program, Mike Rosenthal and Chris Cerrito. Mike has a background in music industry marketing, and Chris is a maker and tinkerer with experience in exhibit development. They're developing a product combining physical objects with digital content, starting with music. Their concept involves creating physical items like wooden mixtapes with NFC chips linking to digital playlists. This blend of physical and digital aims to revive the tangible aspects of fan engagement in a digital era.
Their project, named Goodz, is the first pure consumer product in the Incubator program, adding complexities like supply chain and manufacturing considerations. The team is conducting user interviews to validate market interest and refine their messaging. They aim to have a functioning physical product and a supporting digital backend by the end of the program. Challenges include defining the target market and understanding how to attract customers to a new product type. The thoughtbot team is excited about the project due to its fun nature and technical aspects, offering a fresh perspective compared to problem-focused startups.
The conversation also explores the broader implications of bridging the digital and physical worlds in fan engagement, with the potential to collect valuable data for artists and create lasting, meaningful connections for fans.
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LINDSEY: All right. I'm going to kick us off here. Thanks, everyone, for tuning in. We're doing our first update with two founders that are now going through the Startup incubator at thoughtbot. thoughtbot, if you're not familiar, product design and development consultancy. We'll help you on your product and make your team a success. One of the very fun ways we do that is through the startup thoughtbot incubator, which is an eight-week program.
So, with us today, I myself am Lindsey Christensen, marketing for thoughtbot. We also have Jordyn Bonds, who is our Director of Product Strategy and runs the thoughtbot incubator. And then, as I mentioned, we've got two new founders who are going to tell us a little bit about themselves and what they're working on. Mike Rosenthal, let's kick off with you. Can you tell us a little bit about maybe your background and what brings you to present day?
MIKE: Sure. First of, thanks for having us. It's been a lot of fun doing this over the last [inaudible 01:03]; it's only two weeks, two and a half weeks, something like that. It feels like a lot more. I come from a music industry background, so worked in sort of marketing and strategy for artists for a long time; worked with a band called OK Go back, sort of starting in 2009 or so.
I did a lot of early kind of viral music video stuff. And we were sort of early to the idea of sort of leveraging fan engagement and revenue, honestly, kind of beyond sort of just selling their music and touring, so sort of exploring other ways that artists can make money and connect with their fans and was with those guys for five years.
And then, I went on and worked at an artist management company in Brooklyn called Mick Management and ran the marketing department there, so doing similar type of work but for a roster of 2025 major label bands. And so, really got to see fan engagement on all different levels, from really large bands down to baby bands who were just getting started. And then, yeah, started my first startup in 2018, so doing sort of fan engagement work, and NFTs, and blockchain-type stuff working with bands, but then also sports and entertainment properties. Yeah, that kind of brings me here.
So, always been sort of on the music side of things, which ties into a lot of what Chris and I are working on now, but more generally, sort of fan engagement and how to, you know, drive revenue and engagement for artists and deliver value for fans.
LINDSEY: Very interesting. All right, Chris, going to head over to you. Chris Cerrito, can you tell us a bit about your background? And it sounds like yours and Mike's paths; this isn't the first time you've crossed.
CHRIS: No. Mike and I have been working together since 2007, I believe. Yeah, that's a great place to start. I've always been kind of a maker and a tinkerer, always been interested in art materials, how things are put together. And that kind of culminated at grad school, where Mike and I met at NYU, where we both studied physical computing and human-computer interaction, making weird things that kind of changed the way that people interact and play with technology in their day-to-day lives.
I think the first project he and I worked on together was a solar robotic band that we played with light in front of a bunch of people. It was very wonderful and confusing at the same time. After grad school, I was lucky enough to become a resident artist and then an exhibit developer at a museum in San Francisco called the Exploratorium, which is a museum of science, art, and human perception.
I spent ten years there working on exhibits, teaching people things ranging from, let's see; I built a dueling water fountain to teach visitors and users about the prisoner's dilemma. I built a photo booth that used computer vision to teach people about the microbiome that lives on their face, like, just all kinds of weird things like that that fuse the digital and the physical worlds. I loved my time there.
And then kind of COVID hit, and I realized that everything I had been working on for ten years was locked up in a museum that I no longer had access to. And it really gave me a desire to kind of bring my ideas into the physical world. I wanted to make things that people interact with and use in their lives on a day-to-day basis. And I would say that's really what brought me here to this point.
LINDSEY: Very cool. Very interesting backgrounds, in my opinion. What is the new idea? What is the thing that you're bringing into the incubator? Mike, I'll start with you. Tell us a bit about what you're working on.
MIKE: Chris and I are working on physical objects that connect to digital content is sort of the broadest way that I could describe it. I think, you know, as Chris kind of mentioned, you know, we've both been working on sort of physical things that have interactivity for a lot of our careers. I think we both come from an era of a lot more physical objects in your life, whether that's, you know, VHS cassettes at your parent's house growing up, or records and tape cassettes, and just sort of physical things that remind you of the things that you love.
And I think that, you know, cell phones are great, and the sort of the smartphone era is amazing and having, you know, every single song, and movie, and television show and podcasts, et cetera, in a black box in my pocket is great. But I think we've sort of gotten to a point where it's more of an organizational problem now than anything else. And we sort of forget the actual things that we love in this world.
And so, we're working on basically making physical objects to tie to digital content, and we're starting with music. And that's what we've been working on at thoughtbot is sort of how we can create physical things that basically you can tap, and that will take you to streaming content. One of the first things we're working on literally looks like sort of a little mixtape on a piece of wood, and you can just load that up with any sort of playlist that you might have on Spotify, or Apple Music, or YouTube, or whatever, and tap it, and it will take you there.
And so, it's just sort of that idea of like, oh, we used to be able to sort of flip through a friend's music collection and judge them ruthlessly, or become even better friends with them based on kind of what you saw there. And we think that the time is ripe for, I don't know, a blend of that nostalgia with actual sort of, like, real-world utility that people could be into this right now. Chris, what am I missing there?
CHRIS: I'd say just to expand on that a little bit, it's, you know, we spend so much time in the digital world, but we still exist in the physical. And a lot of the things, like, you might spend a really long time editing a photo for your parents or making a playlist for a friend, and there's, like, a value there that might not translate because it's digital. It's ephemeral. And I think tying these digital assets to a physical thing makes them special. It gives them, like, a permanent place in your life, something to respect, to hold on to, and maybe even pass down at some point.
LINDSEY: Yeah, and I think before we logged on, we actually had Jordyn and Mike grabbing cassette tapes from the room there and to show us --
MIKE: [inaudible 06:49]
LINDSEY: What [laughs] was some of their collection and to prove some of the power of these physical –-
MIKE: Nothing, like, just old mixtapes.
MIKE: Yeah. We were just talking about this on our sync with the thoughtbot crew. They're, like, there's sort of two levels of nostalgia. There's nostalgia for people like us who, yeah, [crosstalk 07:09] mixtapes, right? For people who actually grew up with this stuff and still have it lying around or don't but, like, look at something like that that gives you, like, instant flashbacks, right? You're like, oh my God, I remember scrolling on that little j-card or, like, getting a mixtape for my first, you know, boyfriend or girlfriend, and having it just mean everything. So, there's people for whom that was a thing.
And there's, you know, generations of people for whom that is, like, their only connection to that is, you know, Stranger Things or, like, you know, the mixtape exists in pop culture as a reference. So, there's still, like, a very strong attachment there, but it's not a personal one, right? It's a cultural one. But I think everybody has that connection. So, that's kind of why we're starting with the mixtape, just because I think everyone can kind of relate to that in some way.
LINDSEY: Yeah, no, yeah. When I hear mixtape, it goes immediately to crushes. You make a mixtape for your crush.
LINDSEY: It's a huge, powerful market, powerful.
MIKE: Oh my God, so powerful. I mean, yeah, I don't know anybody --
LINDSEY: What's more motivating?
MIKE: [laughs] Yeah, exactly.
CHRIS: Or even just I have a really good friend who I don't get to see as often as I'd like. And he and I are constantly sending each other, you know, Spotify links and text messages. And it's great. I love that interaction. But at the same time, you know, I might forget to add that to a playlist, and then it's kind of lost. If I had taken the time to make something and send it to him physically or vice versa, it just becomes so much more special and so much more real.
MIKE: Yeah. I mean, honestly, I first made these...I mean, we can go to this origin if we want. But, like, I literally just went on moo.com, right? The business card company. And they let you upload, you know, 50 different images, and they'll send you all of those as business cards. And so, I literally went on and just made business cards of all the album covers of, like, albums that I loved growing up, right? And their cheapest is this little piece of cardboard. But I had 50 of these, and I'd put them all out on my coffee table, just as something I wanted to have around.
And people kept coming, you know, friends would come over, and you would just have these conversations that I haven't had in 10 or 15 years, right? Because no one's going to come to my house and pick up my phone and look at my Spotify collection. But if these things are all just sitting out, they're like, "Oh shit, you're into that? Like, I haven't thought about that album in 15 years." Or like, "Oh, I didn't know you were into that. I'm, like, a crazy super fan of that artist as well." And all of a sudden, we're having these conversations that we just weren't having. Yeah, there's something there where it's all been nostalgia coupled with the kind of prompting of conversation and connection that we've kind of lost, I think.
CHRIS: And I think just to clarify a little bit on what Mike's saying, is, you know, this mixtape will be our first product launch, and then we're hoping to move into collectibles for artists and labels. So, shortly after we launch this tape, we're hoping to launch some kind of pilot with a label where you will be able to buy a version of this for your favorite music artist at a merch table in a concert, possibly online. Our dream is to have these sitting there on the table with T-shirts, and records, and other things that artists sell so you can express for the artists that you love. This is a way of expressing your fandom.
LINDSEY: Jordyn, heading over to you, this feels like maybe the first consumer product that has gone through the incubator, would you say? Or how do you think about it?
JORDYN: Yeah, if you're a consumer --
LINDSEY: Or is it different than other types of products?
JORDYN: Yeah, the first incubator project we did with Senga was, I think, what you would call prosumer. So, it was sort of a consumer thing but directed at folks who had kind of freelancing in sort of a business context. It's got a lot of dynamics of the consumer. But this one, for sure, is the first pure consumer play. Though now that I'm thinking about it, you know, AvidFirst had some consumer elements to it, but it was, you know, it was, like, more complex tech [laughs] [inaudible 10:46] totally different thing --
LINDSEY: But definitely the first of the physical, physical [inaudible 10:52]
JORDYN: Oh, sure, the first of the physical thing. Right. Absolutely.
LINDSEY: Does that change any of, like, the approach of the programming, or it's kind of --
JORDYN: I mean, no, not fundamentally, though it does add this layer of operations that you don't have with a pure software play. So, we have to be, there is a thing that needs to get shipped to people in the world, and that takes timelines, and it takes --
LINDSEY: Supply chain.
JORDYN: Yeah, exactly. And Chris is doing most of that stuff. I don't want to, you know, this is not, like, the main focus of our team necessarily, but it intersects, right? So, this isn't the first one of these types of products I've worked on personally in my career. But there's something, like, really, for me, very fulfilling about, like, there's software. There's a big component of software. There's also this physical object that needs to exist in the world.
And partly, what's so compelling about Goodz is that it gives you the promise of a physical, like, the sort of good aspects of a physical product, a thing you can hold in your hand and look at and really connect with in that physical way. But it has this dynamic digital, like, essential quality as well. So, it's very compelling as a product because it sort of marries the things that we like about both the physical world and the digital world, which is partly why the team was really excited about working on it [laughs].
LINDSEY: Well, that was going to be my next question is, you know, what stood out to you about the Goodz application for the incubator and the interview process that made you and the team feel like this was going to be a great project to work on?
JORDYN: Yeah. So, I think just the team really resonated with the sort of idea in general, and it seemed fun. There was, like, it's a very positive thing, right? It isn't so much about solving problems and pain points. And, sometimes the, you know, when you're very focused on solving problems, it can feel a little doomy because you actually have to, like, immerse yourself in the problems of the people that you're making software for. And sometimes, you start to feel like the world is just full of problems.
What Goodz is doing is sort of it is solving a problem in a sense, but not in that kind of way. It's really, like, a fun upside kind of thing, which I think a lot of the folks on the team were very excited about. But, like, the software component, actually, is very interesting to us from a technological standpoint as well. There's a lot of opportunity here to do interesting things on the backend with an object that's essentially functioning as a bookmark out in the world. What all can you do with that? There's something super compelling and technically interesting about it.
And I think, also, the team was just sort of excited by Chris and Mike, you know, the energy and the kind of background they were bringing to the table was also super interesting. And then, above all else, what I say every time you ask me this question, which is stage fit, y'all, good stage fit. They're right at the beginning. They haven't built the product yet [laughs]. Gotta say it. It's a good stage fit. They know who they're building for broadly but not super specifically. Got a good vision but, like, haven't made that first step with the software. Perfect stage fit for us [laughs].
LINDSEY: Great. So, Chris, we were talking a bit before about how you two have been collaborators in the past, worked on business ideas before. Why bring this idea into the thoughtbot incubator? What are you hoping to, you know, achieve?
CHRIS: One of the main reasons why we wanted to bring this into the incubator was just for support, momentum, and then, also, I would say, validation for our idea. I mean, we came to the incubator with a very, yeah, I would say it was a fairly developed idea that needed to be proved, and we, quite frankly, needed help with that. You know, Mike and I have our own expertises, but we don't know how to do everything. We're more than willing to jump in where we need to go.
But having people with expertise to work with has proven to be incredibly helpful, and just having kind of fresh faces to bat ideas around with after he and I have been staring at each other for months now on Zoom calls and meetings. And just, you know, being able to talk about these ideas with fresh faces and new people and get new perspectives has been so very, very helpful.
I think something that's also great from the momentum standpoint is that because there's a time limit to this experience, we've got the time that we have with you guys, and we've been able to set goals that I think are very achievable for things we want to occur in the next couple of months, and it feels like we're going to get there.
And I think by the end of this, I mean, our hope, and I think we're on track, is to have a functioning physical product that we're going to offer to consumers with a digital backend to support it, which is, in my mind, amazing. That'll totally validate this idea and prove if we have something or not.
LINDSEY: I was going to ask if you're open to sharing what those goals specifically are. Is that it? Is it that by the end, you have --
MIKE: Is that it? Lindsey, that's a lot.
CHRIS: It's a lot. I mean, yeah. I mean, we're going to have a physical object in the world that you can buy via an e-commerce site --
JORDYN: Sounds like we need Lindsey on the team if Lindsey feels like this is so achievable. [laughter]
CHRIS: Yeah, yeah. Lindsey...yeah. We're in the beginning [crosstalk 15:47]
LINDSEY: I meant, is that the goal?
CHRIS: That is the goal.
LINDSEY: Is that all?
CHRIS: I was going to –-
LINDSEY: Is that all you got?
CHRIS: Mike, do you agree?
MIKE: Yeah. Is that the goal? Yes, that is the goal. I mean, you know, when we sat down with the thoughtbot team kind of week one, you know, they're sort of like, "All right, let's define kind of the experiment." So, we refer to them as experiments, which I think is helpful because, like, what are the experiments that we want to be doing during our time here? And, you know, we talked about it a lot.
And yeah, I think it's, you know, having a physical product out in the world, having a website in which to sell it. But also, it's really like Chris was saying, it's like, it's market validation, and just making sure we actually have something that people want. It's like, you know, running a startup takes so long and, like [laughs], you know, you'll do it for so many years. It's like bands when people say, like, "Oh, that's an overnight sensation." It's like, you know, that band has been slogging it out in tiny, little venues for four years before you ever heard of them.
It's like, that's what so much of the startup world feels like to me, too. It's like, "Oh, you're just getting started as a startup?" It's like, "Well, we've been working on this forever." And I know how long this can take. And so, I think we want to learn as early as possible, like, is this something people actually want? Because if they don't, like, we'll just go do something else. I don't want to spend years making something that people don't want.
So, I think the biggest goal, for me, is just validation, and then that is sort of how we get there is like, okay, how do we validate this? Cool. Let's identify some, you know, assumptions of personas that we think are people who do actually want this and then try to go sell it to them. And all the implications from that are, okay, well, you need a website where somebody can buy it. You need a physical product that somebody can actually buy. So, all those things sort of come out of that, but, for me, it's like, proving that assumption, is this thing real? Do people actually want this? And everything else is like, okay, how do we prove that?
LINDSEY: Jordyn, what does that look like in these first few weeks here? User interviews, I assume, how are the user interviews going?
JORDYN: Always. Always. So, you know, we kick it off by just, like, doing the exercise where we list everybody who might want this. And the team, you know, it's a fun product. Everybody brought their own assumptions and ideas to the table on that. You know, we had a lot of different scenarios we were imagining. It's super fun getting that stuff out of people's heads, just, like, what are we all thinking?
And then, you know, we get to negotiate, like, okay...I always encourage everyone to think, like, if everyone else on the team was on the moon, you had to make a decision about a market segment to pick; which one would you pick? And then we kind of argue about it in a productive way. It really helps us get at, like, what are the dynamics that we think matter upfront? And then we pick one, or, in this case, we have a few. We have a handful.
And we're running interview projects where we just recruit people to talk about people that meet this persona, talk about a specific problem. We're in the middle of that right now. And it's fun, fantastic. These conversations are super interesting. We're validating a lot of the things that Mike and Chris, you know, walked into this with, but we're learning a bunch of new things as well.
And, like, really, part of the aim there is to validate that there's a hole in the market that we might fill but also to hear the language people are using to describe this stuff. So, when people talk about buying music, merch, you know, making playlists, et cetera, like, what language do they use to talk about that? So that we make sure we're speaking the language that our customer uses to describe this stuff. And we're, you know, we're right in the pocket of doing that, learning stuff all the time.
And it helps us kind of hone the messaging. It helps us know where to go talk to people about it, how to talk about it, but it's, you know, it all kind of fits together. And it's just this, really...the early stages. It's just a bunch of us in a room, a virtual room, in this case, sort of, like, tossing ideas around. But out of it crystallizes this sense of alignment about who this is for, how to talk to them about it, and with a goal.
And, you know, Mike and Chris walked in with the exact right mindset about this, which is, yes, it's experiments. We need to validate it. Let's make sure there's a there-there. If there's a there-there, let's figure out where it is [laughs], like, all those things. And we're running these experiments, and it was really [inaudible 19:36]. We got down to business quite quickly here. It was really great.
LINDSEY: Like you said, it's not necessarily a problem or, you know, the typical framing of a problem. How do you start those user interview questions around this? Do you feel a gap between the physical and the digital sound? [laughter]
JORDYN: No, no.
LINDSEY: It's maybe not it [laughs].
JORDYN: Yeah, no. Well, I can tell you what our startup questions are. One of them is, tell me about the last time you bought music merch. Go for it, Lindsey. Tell us.
LINDSEY: The last time I bought music merch, I went to a Tegan and Sara concert a few weeks ago, and I bought a T-shirt.
JORDYN: Tell me about buying that T-shirt. Why'd you buy it?
LINDSEY: Because I wanted to remember the show and my time with my friends, and I wanted to support the artists. I know that buying merch is the best way to support your favorite touring artists.
JORDYN: So, it's just, you know, we could spend the rest of this time talking [laughter] [crosstalk 20:34], and it would be awesome. So, it's really a lot of things like that.
JORDYN: You don't ask, "What problem are you trying to solve by buying this t-shirt?" Right? Like, that's not, you know, but we ask you to tell us a bunch of stories about when you did this recently. You know, and if you make playlists for friends, you know, that's a different persona. But we would have asked, you know, like, "Tell me about the last playlist you made. You know, who did you share it with? You know, what happened after that? What happened after that? What happened after that?" It's a lot of questions like that. And there's just nothing better. People love to tell you what's going on with them. And it's great [laughs].
LINDSEY: Yeah. As you all have been doing these interviews, Mike and Chris, have you been surprised by anything? Any interesting insights that you're seeing already?
CHRIS: I mean, I haven't done really much in the way of user interviews in the past. This is a really new experience for me. And then we're, obviously, not on the calls because that would be weird and probably intimidating for people. But we're getting lots of highlights from folks who are doing them, you know, in our daily sync.
And I'm surprised at how many, like, really intense, like, playlist nerds we have found even just in, like, the few people we've talked to, like, in the best possible way. Like, people who are like, "I make playlists all the time." Like, you're talking about, like, a vinyl fan or, like, a...Jordyn, what's the story? It's, like, the guy who there was so much out-of-print vinyl that he started a vinyl label just to get the albums in vinyl. [crosstalk 21:56]
JORDYN: Yeah. There were a bunch of releases that he feels really passionately about that were never released on vinyl that he knew would never be released on vinyl. And so, he started a vinyl record label. And we just found this guy [laughter].
CHRIS: Is that indicative that that's, like, an entire persona we're going to, like, target? Absolutely not. But it's just, like, it's amazing that even just in the few user interviews we've done, that we've found so many very passionate people. And it's sent me down, like, a TikTok rabbit hole of, like, TikTok, like, music nerd influencer-type folks who are posting playlists.
And they, like, hundreds of thousands of likes on these videos that are literally just, like, screen with text on it that you're supposed to, like, pause the video [laughs] and, like, look at, like, the songs that they're recommending. And it's like, who does that? And it was like, these people do that. And it's like, so there are...it's been very encouraging to me, actually. I was worried that we were going to find not as much passion as we had suspected, and I think the opposite has proven to be true. So, it's exciting.
CHRIS: Yeah, I completely agree with Mike. It's been so encouraging. I think, for me, what we're doing is an idea that I'm very excited about and have been very excited about for a long time. But hearing the responses that we're getting makes me confident in the idea, too. That's great. I mean, I think that is everything that a founder needs, you know, is excitement and confidence.
MIKE: Well, and just the whole user interview experience has, like, made a lot of my other conversations sort of I've tried to frame parts of them as user interviews because I'm talking to a lot of, like, label folks now, and artists, merch people. And, you know, I ended up just sort of, like, asking them, I mean, yes, trying to explain the product and work on kind of partnership stuff, but a lot of it is really just geeking out with them. And just, like, hearing their thoughts about, like, what they love about merch because these are people that clearly think about this stuff all the time. So, it's definitely kind of, like, tuned my other conversations into trying to get unbiased feedback.
LINDSEY: Yeah. Everything is a little user interview now.
MIKE: Yeah, exactly.
LINDSEY: Get that angle in there. All right, so some early validation and excitement. That's really cool to hear. Any challenges or, you know, other kinds of learnings early on? Anything that's been invalidated?
MIKE: I don't know that we're there yet. [inaudible 24:02] Chris, I don't know. I'm happy to find that some things are invalidated, but I don't really feel...you know, some of the personas that we decided or maybe just one of the personas we decided to pursue, I think we're having a hard time having those user interviews kind of really bear fruit, but that's helpful, too, actually. I mean, it's like, okay, well, maybe that's not a group that we target.
JORDYN: Yeah. It's about, like, [inaudible 24:24]. I encourage folks not to think about this like a 'no, not that,' and instead think of it as like a 'not yet.' And that's, I think, the dynamic here with a couple of the personas we were interested in. It's just been turned into kind of, like, a not yet for reasons that we very quickly figured out, but we'll get there. It's just a matter of figuring out we had some other personas take precedence because they're more sort of red, hot in a way, right? It's just easier to get in contact with these people, or it's, like, clear what they're going for or what they need from the market.
So, you know, we have this whole list, and it was not clear at first who was going to kind of stand out. But we've kind of found some focus there, which means, invariably, that there's things that are falling out of the frame for now, and you're kind of de-prioritizing them. But it really is, like, a we'll get to that [laughs]. We'll eventually get to that.
LINDSEY: Yeah. And part of the process, who's going to rise to the top right now?
JORDYN: Yeah, exactly.
LINDSEY: Do you have anything you can show and tell with us today or not yet?
MIKE: So, Chris has been hard at work on all the physical side of this stuff and going back and forth with our manufacturing partner and all that good stuff. But we have a final version of the mixtape product.
LINDSEY: For when this gets pulled into the podcast, Mike's showing us a physical card.
CHRIS: It's a small card, and we call them Goodz. And it's printed on three-millimeter plywood using a UV printing process, super durable. And this is something you can put in your pocket. You're not going to wreck it. I think you could actually (Don't quote me on this.), but I think you can even, like, put it through a washing machine, and it would be fine. Embedded in this card is a chip that can be read by your phone, and that's pretty much what we're working with.
MIKE: Yeah, so the idea is you just sort of tap this, and it'll take you to a streaming version of a playlist. And then Chris has also been making these adorable crates. And [crosstalk 26:10]
LINDSEY: The little crates I love.
MIKE: And we actually have some wooden ones, too, in the testing that's [crosstalk 26:15]
LINDSEY: And then the mixtapes get stored in the little crates [crosstalk 26:19]
MIKE: Yeah. So, you could have --
LINDSEY: Throw it on your desk.
CHRIS: Each crate can hold about, I think, 15 of these things. What's really cool about this product on the physical side is we are using a tried-and-true technology, which is NFC chips. These are things that make Apple Pay work, make Google Pay work. They are in your E-ZPass when you drive through a toll booth. This is stuff that's been around for years. So, we're just kind of leveraging this technology that's been around for so long in a new way.
MIKE: Yeah, I think it's similar to kind of the evolution of QR codes, right? It's like they were sort of around forever, and then it was, like, COVID and restaurant menus kind of kicked those into mainstream. Like, NFC has been around for a long time. It's very tried and true. It's affordable. But I want to say Apple only turned it on by default, like, the NFC reader in the iPhone in the last, like, 18 to 24 months, right? Like, it started...like, it's been around for a while, but they're sort of slowly kind of...and now you just sort of see it everywhere. People are using it on the subways in New York to scan for tickets or for accessing stuff.
I was also just showing Chris has been prototyping with the ability to sort of keep these on a key ring. So, we have, like, a little chain hole on them. It is [inaudible 27:22] to sort of have this on your backpack or, you know, on a key ring, or something like that. And friends could kind of, like, come up to you and just, like, scan one that looks interesting.
CHRIS: And yeah, something that's awesome about this is you don't need an app. You don't need to download anything. As long as your NFC reader is on when you scan this, it will bring you to the music that it's linked to, which I think is awesome. So, I mean, my dream is to have these, like, hanging off of people's backpacks so I can, like, scan them in the subway or, you know, it's such, like, an easy thing to do. And it requires so little technical time on the user's end to be able to do it.
LINDSEY: Oh, we got a question here. "So, Moo used to offer NFC cards. What made you decide to do the thicker plywood model?"
CHRIS: Durability is really what it comes down to. We wanted something that felt like an object that you can have and treasure. Like, these have weight, you know, these feel like something, not just a piece of paper. This is something that you can have and [inaudible 28:22] your desk, and it's not going to fade in the sunlight. It's not going to disintegrate over time. This is something that's going to last.
MIKE: Yeah, the cards would definitely, like, as I would sort of carry them around and show them to people and stuff, the cards would start, you know, breaking. It's like having a business card in your pocket, right? Eventually, it's going to kind of wear out. And plus, we had, like, the stickers were visible on the back of them. And we were, like, having the sticker just completely disappear inside the wood; it just feels a little bit more like magic.
LINDSEY: Well, thanks for demoing there. I put you on the spot a little bit. But they are...I had seen them in the Slack, and they're very cool [laughs]. So, I had to ask if we could show them off a bit.
MIKE: Of course.
CHRIS: I think another thing to think about, too, is we've been talking a lot about the user experience. But if and when we get to the point of making these for artists, artists will be able to collect so much data off of the way that people buy and collect and use these things over time, which is something that we're really, really excited about. And also, you know, we're working on a way to make the link in the object updatable over time. So, artists will be able to change what a card points do to inform their users about the latest and greatest thing.
LINDSEY: Very cool. Jordyn, what's next on the programming agenda for Chris and Mike?
JORDYN: It's really sort of we're in this, like, iterative cycle. So, we're talking to folks. We're working on the website. The conversations we're having with people are informing how we're framing this first experiment with the mixtape, how we're marketing it, who we're marketing it to. I think next up is probably a Google Ad experiment to really see if we can piggyback on some stuff or at least figure out a new consumer product. It's so tough, right?
It's also not a thing people are searching for. So, we have to come up with some experiments for how we get people to that website [laughs]. So, you know, Google Ads funnels is just something you kind of have to do because it's very interesting to figure out what people are responding to, what people are searching for. But we're going to have a bunch of other experiments as well and non-experiments. Outbound experiments: can we go to people? Can we get listed in a gift-buying guide for the holidays? Or, like, we don't know. There's a bunch of experiments we need to do around that, which is really just this iteration.
We won't stop talking to users, but, you know, everything we're hearing from them will inform where we go and how we talk to the folks in those places where we end up. And really, it's just about starting...once this is up and, you know, there's, like, an orderable thing, there's, like, a whole data cycle where we start to learn from the stuff we're testing; we actually have some real data for it, and we can start to tweak, iterate and change our strategy.
But the bigger thing, also, is this bigger platform. So, the next thing really, the big next thing, is to sort of start to scope and create an architecture idea. What's it going to take to build the actual backend thing? And it's the thing that thoughtbot really [laughs] excels at, which is software. So, you know, that's the big next kind of project. Once the mixtape experiment is sort of out and in flight and we're getting data, we really need to turn our attention to the technical backend.
LINDSEY: Exciting. Another comment/question from Jeff, who maybe needs a user interview. "Love the crate more than the actual albums. Maybe offer collections of artists."
MIKE: Yeah, that's the plan.
CHRIS: Yeah, definitely. It's a good idea. Yeah, it's, I mean, and labels get to, especially, like, small indie labels get really excited about doing, like, crates worth of collections of different artists or, like, you know, digging through their back catalog, their subscription services. There's a lot of different angles for sure about that idea.
LINDSEY: [inaudible 31:55] Chris and Mike, going into this next section of the programming, for anyone watching right now, or watching the recording, or listening to the recording, any action items from them? You know, are you looking for any user interviews or have any survey or any destinations you'd like to send people yet?
CHRIS: Not quite yet, but soon, I would say. Well --
MIKE: I mean, [inaudible 32:19] plug the website, I mean, you know, I think we've got, like, an email to sign up from there, right? The URL is getthegoodz.com and I [crosstalk 32:27]
LINDSEY: Goodz with a Z.
MIKE: Goodz with a Z.
CHRIS: With Z.
MIKE: So yeah, if you want to go there, you can sign up. I think there's an email signup on there to learn more.
LINDSEY: Perfect. All right. getthegoodz.com email sign up. To stay up to date on Goodz and the incubator, you can follow along on the thoughtbot blog. You know, as always, send us any questions you might have, and we're happy to get to those. But otherwise, thanks for listening.
And thank you all — Jordyn, Chris, and Mike. Thanks so much for joining today and sharing and being open about your stories so far.
MIKE: Thank you.
CHRIS: Yeah, thank you, Lindsey.
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