Meet the Judges: John Vaskis
The Cool Idea Award judges are technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, instructors, and some are even past Cool Idea Award recipients. All of our judges have a story worth sharing, so we sat down with each for a quick Q&A to help you get to know them a bit better.
This week we’re chattin’ with John Vaskis, Senior Director of Hardware at Indiegogo. John helps hardware-based businesses execute successful crowdfunding campaigns whether that be through PR outreach, finding a manufacturing partner, gauging consumer interest, or any other activity that helps startups get off the ground.
What are you looking forward to most about being a Cool Idea Award judge in 2017?
Seeing all of the awesome products that always come through the contest every year. The innovation that happens with the Cool Idea Program always blows my minds—it feels like you’re looking into the future.
Tell us about your background—what’s something about your professional life that we wouldn’t necessarily know by looking at your LinkedIn profile?
I originally went to college for computer science to create video games; needless to say CS and me were similar to oil and vinegar. I did get into the video game world, though, on the business side as my first real job.
What’s the best piece of entrepreneurial or business advice you’ve received and how did it help you?
When I started my first job I was told to simply “get out there” because I knew no one, had no network, and I was told that would be the quickest way to learn. That proved to be very useful. This industry is based upon connections, so I suggest to everyone to make as many of them as possible.
What entrepreneurial or business advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs and startup companies?
Data is your friend but not the end all. Test everything that you do, but make sure to document what works and find out why. Always be ready to pivot when you find something that works even when it wasn’t your part of your initial plan.
What companies or individuals are breaking the mold when it comes to innovation? What are they doing differently than others?
While Tesla (with Elon Musk at the helm) is usually the company that most think of as innovative in the automotive industry. Ford (with Mark Fields) has been ahead of the game thinking about car sharing, adding technology to their cars very early on, and seeing changes in the market much earlier on than most.
What are the most valuable resources available for innovators, inventors, makers, etc.?
All of the different resources that are out there on the internet helping with product creation. Both Bolt and HAX frequently put out quality content to help inventors navigate the space. Social media in general is a great way to connect to influencers and most are willing to help you out.
What qualities will you look for in a good Cool Idea Award applicant?
I am always looking for innovations that have the potential to change lives in a significant way. I gravitate towards products that one will use on a consistent basis. And, the further down the production cycle you are, typically the better.
What’s your all-time favorite product and why?
The original Nintendo—not the retro one that they just released. It was the first product that I found myself addicted to it and there was so much software innovation unleashed in that device. I have purchased every major video game console since.
What product do you think has had the biggest positive impact on people’s lives and why?
The smartphone—it has opened up communication and knowledge in a way that no other device has to this point.
What’s your favorite Cool Idea Award-winning product and why?
Compliant Games had a product that really connected with me. Adding an interactive gaming component to help improve and monitor one’s health is innovation that I can get behind.
What’s the most random thing you’ve ever watched all the way through on Netflix?
I pay for Netflix to watch Tommy Boy and that is about it. I wish I was kidding. We even did a Knowledge is Power at Indiegogo where I used it as a sales training movie—haha.
Stay tuned for more one-on-one discussions with the Cool Idea Award judges. In the meantime, check out the Cool Idea Award website to learn more about our manufacturing service grant. If you have a project you’d like to submit for consideration, apply here.