guren.jpgMarc Guren is Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Simple Matters, responsible for company strategy, operations and finances. Prior to launching Simple Matters in 2012, Guren spent 35 years as a technology industry investor, advisor and entrepreneur, developing, financing and marketing technology.

In his previous positions, Guren evaluated and negotiated numerous investment and acquisition opportunities, as well as identified and negotiated strategic partnerships and licensing arrangements with leading technology companies. His past roles include serving as Senior Vice President at Kagan World Media, where he developed and divested media properties, such as a software search company to AOL, and as Vice President at Roy Disney’s Shamrock Holdings, Inc., where he was, among other things, involved with the acquisition, operation and expansion of a leading consumer entertainment software retailer.

Before delving into the business world, Guren practiced high-tech and intellectual property law with Arnold & Porter, afterwards co-authoring a two volume legal treatise on Computer Software Protection Law. Guren has also held positions with several leading investment groups and has been active in Tech Coast Angels, the country’s largest angel investment network.

Guren is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

Vishal Sapru (VS), Research Manager for Energy & Power Systems Group had an opportunity to conduct a Movers & Shakers interview with Marc Guren (MG), Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Simple Matters – Ditto.

VS: Can you start by providing our readers a brief overview of Ditto including the vision behind its formation and its current role in the market?

MG: Ditto® was born because of a real need and our desire for a simple, elegant solution. While working on another product, I continuously was unable to reach my wife by phone or via text. She usually carried her phone it in her purse and did not hear it ring or had left it on vibrate. Other times, she had left it on her desk at work. We realized that there was a solution for this problem—and that’s how the idea for Ditto was born.

At the same time, we also recognized conflict within everyone’s smartphone use—the increasing importance of notifications and not missing an important call, text or message versus not being a slave to our smartphone and missing out on important life events or interactions.  While a significant help, smartphones sometimes interfere with our lives too.

And given the importance—and cost—of our smartphones, we also recognized that it was important not to forget it or lose it. Ditto alerts users when they leave their smartphones behind.

Ditto was also designed to be personal – both in terms of each user being able to define what was important to him or her at the time and on the fly –and being discreet in its notifications (no need for a flashy alert that might interrupt an event or bring undue notice to the user).

Finally, Ditto was designed to be simple. Simple to set up, simple to use and simple to maintain.

VS: Please describe your product/technology for our readers?

MG: Ditto is a small, affordable smartphone notification accessory.  It allows a smartphone user to filter their calls, texts and messages, and get other alerts, all in a personalized and discreet way.  Ditto doesn’t require charging, it doesn’t have buttons, lights or switches. Ditto is not another device to take care of, instead Ditto takes care of you.  Ditto runs on a battery, and when it needs to be replaced, it notifies its user. Ditto is also waterproof and uses can swim with it or use it in wet environments.

Ditto uses a free iOS and Android app that allows users to customize their Dittos – both in terms of “Favorites” and who they want to be alerted of notifications from, with custom vibration patterns, and what types of alerts they want to receive—phone calls, texts, calendar events, emails or timer events.

Ditto also integrates with other leading apps, for example Uber, so users know when their car has arrived, as well as messaging apps including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, WeChat, Snapchat and Instagram. More apps will be integrated with Ditto in the near future.

Ditto also provides an electronic tether, alarm and a timer, and Bluetooth Low Energy® so efficiency.

VS: What is Ditto’s greatest challenge and what strategy is in place to overcome it?

MG: Since Ditto is a new type of a consumer electronics product, the greatest challenge is getting consumers to understand what it is and what benefits it offers to them.  Once we explain why a user would want a Ditto or what it can offer to them, and even more so when they actually touch and feel it, consumers understand the value and purpose. We are focusing on improving our messaging and providing opportunities for “assisted sells” that can better enable us to explain Ditto to consumers.

VS: What is the unique value proposition of Ditto and what are your key competitive differentiators?

MG: Ditto provides the key functions of a smartwatch at a fraction of the price, without being a gadget that needs to be taken care of every night. Notifications are the most important aspects of smartwatches and are indispensable to effective smartphone use. Being able to filter so that a user can personally decide what is important to them at the time and to do so at an affordable price creates even more value for the consumer.

VS: What is your strategy in regards to offering best value to customer for the price, compared to similar offerings from competitors? if any?

MG: There simply is no competitor to Ditto in its feature set or, more critically, at its price point—which is currently MSRP $39.95.

VS: Continued innovation is the key to success in this growing industry. How is the process of innovation managed at Ditto?

MG: We are constantly listening to our customers about how they are using their Ditto and how it can be even more helpful to them.  Ditto users are integrating Ditto into their daily lives and our goal is to make it even more valuable for them. This involves adding functionality to the app (and thus the device) and also offering ways to personalize it even more.

We are also looking to integrate with additional apps that can have a special use with Ditto.  We have been approached by companies that have devices or equipment that triggers alarms or alerts.  While these may be sent to a worker’s smartphone, that worker may not get the alert because their phone is not on them or they are in a noisy environment, such as a factory floor.  Other devices around the home such as baby monitors or medical devices may also give similar alarms where having a Ditto can be helpful or critical.

The hard of hearing individuals have also found Ditto to be extremely useful to them.

VS: What do you want the company to accomplish in the next couple of years and how would you define success for Ditto?

MG: We view Ditto as an affordable universal notification device. We would like to see it become more ubiquitous among users and among apps or other devices that trigger important alerts.

VS: What is your key value proposition that provides your firm a major competitive advantage over other players in the industry?

MG: Functionality, simplicity, elegance and pricing. Ditto is also updatable over the air which makes it seamlessly keep up with the times and new smartphone software updates.

VS: Could you elaborate on the acceptance or adoption of your product/technology in the marketplace and are there any positive client testimonials that can be shared with us?

MG: The reviews that we’ve gotten on Amazon, Facebook and Twitter have been very favorable.   We’ve been getting regular 4 and 5 star reviews.  Users are raving about Ditto and when they start using it, they don’t want to be without it. Media also regularly reviews the product and the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive as well. In fact, when Kathy Lee Gifford got her Ditto on the Today Show she loved it and simply said “I’m taking this baby home.”

VS: Do you foresee the acceptance of your technology in the marketplace to have an influence on the direction of the overall market going forward?

MG: Yes, definitely.

VS: As a general conclusion, what do you think the future holds for such product/technology and, more specifically, what role can we expect Ditto to play in shaping the future of the industry?

MG: We are creating a new area of usage, one that should continue to be accepted and relevant as long as there are smartphones and other devices that trigger alerts. By doing so, we can make these devices and the whole Internet of Things more relevant to our daily lives.

VS: What are your company’s marketing and product positioning strategies? Do you plan to form any strategic alliances with other client companies?

MG: We are marketing directly and through online and retail channels and partners. We also work with distributors, companies that are selling promotional items. We are exploring other sales channels and are actively seeking partners who envision how Ditto can help bring value to their particular product or service by offering a unique alert/notification mechanism for their customers and users.

VS: What is unique about your company in regards to offering the best and differentiated service experience to customers?

MG: Ditto cares! We constantly work to make sure that customer inquiries are answered quickly, their feedback is taken into consideration with updates, and that they are happy with the product.

VS: Please describe the importance and focus of your company towards building and strengthening the brand equity of your offering?

MG: Both Ditto and Simple Matters are branded trademarks. We believe that Ditto conveys a clear meaning and can be synonymous with notifications.  Simple Matters speaks for itself because simple does really matter. This message resonates with consumers

VS: What kind of customer feedback mechanism do you have in place to ensure that the product development and innovation matches market and customer needs?

MG: We regularly review our social media and support tickets to better understand customer use cases and suggestions as to how Ditto can be improved or enhanced.

VS: How do you compare yourself with top competitors in regards to offering Best-in-Class solution, with a full complement of features and functionality?

MG: Ditto stands alone in this regard – especially at its price point.

VS: What is/are unique features of your product/technology that address unmet customer needs and competitors are unable to replicate and replace?

MG: Unique features include –

  • Ditto contains patent pending technology
  • Its design and operation are unique, both physically and technologically
  • It is not another gadget to charge or take care of
  • It is waterproof
  • It is updatable over the air so it can keep pace with changes in smartphone software

VS: What is your key value proposition that provides your firm a major competitive advantage over other players in the industry?

MG: Simple Matters – in design, function, operation and price.

About Frost & Sullivan

For six decades, Frost & Sullivan has been world-renowned for its role in helping investors, corporate leaders and governments navigate economic changes and identify disruptive technologies, Mega Trends, new business models and companies to action, resulting in a continuous flow of growth opportunities to drive future success.

Frost & Sullivan

For six decades, Frost & Sullivan has been world-renowned for its role in helping investors, corporate leaders and governments navigate economic changes and identify disruptive technologies, Mega Trends, new business models and companies to action, resulting in a continuous flow of growth opportunities to drive future success.

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