Sexy or fishy startup?

The beginning of a startup starts with a small idea, usually a sexy one. During a local startup pitch event, a man at the age of 50, not particularly handsome, yet particularly noticeable among a bunch of much younger entrepreneurs’ faces, climbed onto the stage to present his vision.

He began with a tiny video below:

It was essentially an interactive video for a 3D model of shower&faucet set with voice background introduction. Users can simply play around with the video, such as enlarge it, click on certain specs, or just swirl it for a 180-degree view. The whole thing did not seem to be interesting at the outset, but as he further elaborated his idea, the use case proposal was gradually polished to shine.

  • His 3D product visualization and animation can be fully automated at much lower costs compared with current market offer
  • His interactive video is able to collect user behaviors; basically, every click, touch or hand movement happening on the front end video screen, the man claimed his technology can gather these data points and generate back-end insights regarding customer preferences
  • The solution should be highly ideal for complicated home decor products or home appliances. For instances, if you would like to buy a pricey dishwasher, vacuum cleaner, air purifier, it would allow you to look at the interior structure and even dissect it into different parts for a fun and educative virtual experience
  • The interactive video is designed to be so lightweight that would be integrated with Wechat mini-program or any of your online channels


  • The solution can also be applied as a product manual for setup or maintenance guidance. So customers would get rid of the troubles of reading boring product instruction while brands might obtain data analytics regarding customers pain points in daily usage.

In a sense, everything sounds too good to be true!

Investors soon threw doubts.

Q: May we see the back-end data analytics dashboard?

A: Not ready yet, as we are still prototyping.

Q: Pricing strategy?

A: Not standardized yet, and of course depending on the use case.

Q: How reliable is your technology? How to prove that? Filing any patent application?

A: Yes, we are totally solid and still working on the patent application.

Q: If we can bring you a brand to test your technology, but the pilot project has to be free, will you do it?

A: No!

The discussion stopped nowhere, and the startup did not win the award at the end of the event.

This startup is for sure desperately seeking a paid pilot project associated with a glamorous client name, however, no big corporate is willing to be your lab rat for your technology experiment, unless you have a profound connection with the top decision makers. It is said fortune 500 companies tend to manipulate fledgling startup for a free pilot project or at least reduce the pricing to the minimum. Sometimes the reality would be even much harsher. A high-level executive told a pilot project with a startup is usually just the showcase of an enterprise’s open innovation mind without strong commercial motivation behind. If you think signing a pilot project is already a lengthy process due to the bureaucracy, then leapfrog from pilot to a full-scale implementation, meaning a startup eventually winning a big ticket contract deal, should be a more torturing procedure than you are able to imagine.

On the other hand, a startup can be no angel, either. Some, if not all, boast more than they can offer, and the deliverable would be crappy compared with the dazzling technology concepts they are proclaiming publicly. And it is quite often than not that we encounter those sexy looking startups with fishy soul, bashing the whole fantasy of innovation into a deadlock.


By: Cecilia Wu