Friday, February 15, 2008

Linda Marroquin of FrogPad Solves the Keyboard Problem for Mobile Devices

Linda Marroquin talks about the alternative keyboard market for mobile devices, bootstrapping the company and her plans for growing the company in the future.

What is FrogPad?

It’s a one handed keyboard that’s very easy to learn. It’s a breakthrough in technology that you can learn in only seconds. We’ve been manufacturing and selling the product for over four years. We’ve been self funded by yours truly. We have a USB version and a Bluetooth version both in left and right handed models. Probably 50% of my buyers are Mac users. 40% are mobile innovators interfacing to tablets or mobile phones and 10% are for those with assistive technology—stroke patients, Amputees. Of all the alternative keyboards available, no one has sold as many units as we have.

How many have you sold?

10,000 units.

Where did the idea come from?

The inventor was a Japanese man who was trying to translate text. He would hold the text in one hand and would try and type with the other hand. He found that was hard to do and so he invented the FrogPad concept to help with one-handed keystroke translation.

What will make this product take off?

In the last year and a half, I’ve been waiting for the launch of a particular technology – the multi-touch screen which Apple launched on the iPhone. The second thing I’m waiting for is the market for wearable computing. This year the government will buy 1.4M units for the military so the market is here. I’m getting orders from companies supplying government applications and orders. The military is buying 1.4 million wearable computers this year according to IDG. You can get to 40 words per minute in about 3 weeks of practice. It’s easy and fast to learn. I’m not going to replace the computer keyboard, but rather be considered for use with the mobile device. 19 billion mobile devices will be manufactured in the next 4 years. This is a niche product, yet the niche is huge.
So how will you take advantage of this?

Immediately, I want to develop two new products. First, on your iPhone now you have a keyboard and when you go into keyboard mode it takes you into single touch mode. We can leverage the multi-touch screen for our use. The multi-touch screen allows us to develop a downloadable version of the FrogPad called SoftFrog that would let us leverage the keys like the ones you have on the iPhone on a multi touch display. We could develop a “FrogPad lite” version. The second is to develop a newer version of my Bluetooth unit. I want to develop a sleeker looking FrogPad that’s more iPhone looking and could be wearable.

I always want to hold onto the shirt tails of Apple because they have a go-to-market strategy with Apple to get into their stores. This next month Apple will release the SDK for the iPhone. It’ll take us 6 months to develop SoftFrog. Also, I want to put it on the Apple Dashboard. I also want to put it on the Apple tablet. A tablet is a one handed device because you hold it with one hand and then type with the other. My one-handed keyboard will work with a wide range of products including computers and mobile devices. It enables portability. Paul Allen is developing the Flip Start. It’s a full PC that’s miniaturized.

What is your business model for the new products?

For the downloadable version it will be licensing. Automotive GPS and home automation/entertainment are key markets. Along with gaming and all mobile phone applications. Also the keyboard can be licensed to Volkswagen, Sony, etc.

Have you talked with the people at Motion computing?

I haven’t. I’ve used the last four years to prove the model. People are buying it. It’s a solid product. We don’t have product that comes back. Now I’m starting to look for money. You know as well as I do, that business development is an expensive endeavor. Each product will cost about $250K each.

What is your current staffing level?

Just me. I outsource everything.

Who do you need to hire to fill out the team?

I’ve already identified them. Some of them are on my advisory team. I need a CTO to help develop the new products. My best skills are in sales so I could use someone for the CEO/COO position. We need someone committed to the military market, another focused on Apple, and the last is for K-12 and assistive technology– for those who are disabled. Right now we have over 10,000 soldiers coming back from Iraq who have lost an arm.

What other markets could you pursue?

I’m also interested in pursuing the gaming industry. It can integrate now with the XBOX and Playstation 3. I need to get the word on it. I could use funding to get the word out on that.

Best regards,
Hall T.

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