NEVER MIND WHAT WE WANT
Debbie Sterling is an engineering graduate from Stanford U.
Engineering wasn’t what she originally wanted to do.
But she was good at maths, so she tried it and found it was actually really creative, she loved it.
But engineering was a male Dominated profession.
Debbie wondered what she could do to change that.
She knew little boys were given construction toys: Lego and Meccano.
She wondered what would happen if she gave these to little girls.
She tried it, and the little girls got bored.
Little girls mainly loved reading and they loved stories.
Debbie decided to give them what they wanted.
She would put books and construction toys together.
She created a character called GoldieBlox, a female engineer.
GoldieBlox had friends who she would build things for.
Little girls would build these things as they read the book.
Debbie tried it out on hundreds of little girls and they loved it.
She found little girls enjoyed engineering if it had an emotionally connecting narrative.
This was very smart.
Debbie’s starting point was the audience.
Never mind what companies wanted to make, what did the audience want to buy.
Then Debbie used exactly the same thinking to sell GoldieBlox.
What does the audience want to buy?
If she’d just launched it as another toy for girls it would have been one more toy amongst thousands.
There’s nothing for journalists or the news media in that.
So Debbie created a cause instead.
“There’s a problem in society: the lack of opportunity for girls to explore and fulfil their potential.”
She provided journalists with research and statistics to prove her case.
She ran stories in Forbes, Huffington Post, The Guardian, Wired, TIME, Ms Magazine, BBC World Service.
She used herself and her experience to create a story.
“Young female engineering graduate fights against male dominated engineering establishment.”
Then she launched a video appeal on Kickstarter, the online site where innovative ideas go to raise money.
Debbie wanted Tim Shafer to be in her video.
He had raised $3 million on Kickstarter for a video game he’d invented. He had 90,000 followers.
With him in it, her video was sure to be a success.
But everybody asked him to be in their videos, and he usually said no.
So Debbie didn’t ask him.
She thought ‘what does he want?’
She asked if he could bring his four-year-old daughter along to the shoot to play with GoldieBlox.
Tim Shafer loved the idea of his daughter appearing in the video.
He brought her along and he appeared in Debbie’s video with his daughter.
Debbie’s goal was to raise $150k in 30 days.
She raised double that amount.
She needed to sell 5,000 units to get the game off the ground.
After the video, she had pre-orders for 40,000 units.
Sales for GoldieBlox are currently running at $300,000 per month.
There are four more GoldieBlox sequels about to go into production.
Debbie Sterling understands that you don’t just make something and hope someone wants it.
You start with what the audience wants.