2019 SVP Startup Profile: Dottie
Have you ever left the house in a rush and forgotten your keys, wallet, or cellphone? For you, this might be a minor, occasional inconvenience, but persistent forgetfulness represents a danger to many people’s health and safety, including those who are living with mild cognitive impairment, recovering from traumatic brain injuries, or simply aging. Summer Venture program startup and 2019 B.E.T.A. Challenge finalist Dottie is developing in-home technology to help people struggling with forgetfulness retain their independence while also giving their caregivers peace of mind. I spoke with co-founders Meagan Priest MSEL ‘19 and Oscar Flores MSEL ‘19 to learn about Dottie’s progress in the Summer Venture Program. Here are the highlights of our interview:
How did you start Dottie? What specific experiences led you to pursue this venture?
Meagan: For over a year now, my grandfather has been experiencing memory loss. In one instance, my grandfather went out to the store and forgot an item. When my grandmother asked him about the item, my grandfather couldn’t remember when and where he lost it, and it hasn’t been easy for my family to help him maintain his independence as it becomes harder for him to remember things. Being at Babson for the past year, I was always encouraged to find solutions to problems I see in the world. When Oscar and I were discussing my grandfather’s struggles and potential solutions as MSEL students, we were inspired to create Dottie.
Oscar: Meagan and I started working together on Dottie in January. We’ve been quickly moving forward with developing the technology and we’ve been blessed with a lot of good connections. I believe we’ve received an enthusiastic response from the people we meet at events because the problem is so real and so close to so many people. They all want to help us solve this problem.
What activity or resource from SVP has helped you the most so far?
Meagan: The office hours with BASE (Babson Alumni Supporting Entrepreneurs) have been super helpful. Through BASE we’ve been able to share the business struggles we’ve had and where we think Dottie is headed and then receive fresh perspectives from BASE experts in various industries. I think it’s easy to stay on one path as an entrepreneur if you don’t talk to anyone new, and we have always come away with new insights about Dottie whenever we get feedback from the BASE entrepreneurs.
Oscar: I really liked the Lunch & Learn we had with angel investor Joe Caruso. Having Joe visit SVP to answer our questions really demystified the lies and myths surrounding the angel investing process.
In what ways have your SVP peers and mentors supported you and your venture?
Oscar: Our mentor and advisor Clynton Caines is an absolute rock star. He’s able to think about Dottie’s future and technology pivots before we do, and we often find ourselves realizing how valuable his insights are weeks after he initially shares them with us. He doesn’t just feed us the answers, but instead asks questions which point us towards reaching the solution he probably knew all along.
Meagan: Being around so many entrepreneurs and mentors in SVP, the moment we have a question someone in the program will refer us someone who’s been in our shoes before. We get so much valuable information from our peers, whether it’s simply sending us relevant articles or going the extra mile in connecting us with friends they know who can help us. It’s invaluable to be in this network where people offer help before you even ask!
Oscar: The greatest example of this was when we were looking for people to participate in a beta test. The Blank Center’s Antonette Ho made an incredible connection for us with another founder who offered to help us find participants for the testing and has since continued to support Dottie’s growth.
What major milestones or accomplishments do you hope to achieve during your time in SVP? Or have you reached any already?
Meagan: During SVP we switched technologies, so we are readying our Version 3 prototype. As you walk by our new device before leaving your house, it will remind you of three items such as your phone, wallet, and keys. We are looking to get as many beta test sign-ups as possible by the end of the program.
Oscar: Coming back to Clynton’s guidance, he told us early on in the program that we should focus on building a customer base that has tested and validated the core proposition of the product. We were going all over the place for the first couple of weeks of SVP, but we’ve since brought on a developer to help with the prototype as we focus on conducting beta tests. Looking at the feedback we receive in the beta tests, we want to decide what the best next steps and opportunities are for Dottie.
What is a valuable challenge or learning experience you have faced as a founder?
Meagan: For me, a big obstacle and motivation is that my grandfather inspired this product but he may never be able to use it. There are times where I want to rush ahead and have a finished product ready to help people, but I have to take a step back and really make sure the product is solid so it can have the greatest impact on people’s lives.
Oscar: As an entrepreneur, I’ve had to learn to accept that a lot of my preconceptions are wrong. A lot of times you start with a vision in your head of how your business will develop, but reality is the greatest equalizer there is. Learning to approach business with the assumption that my expectations will be challenged has been valuable.
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, or for yourselves at an earlier stage?
Meagan: There are times in entrepreneurship where you really think you’re not good enough, but know that you are. Know that you are doing the best that you can in the moment, and that everything will eventually fall into place if you keep taking small baby steps. Sometimes it can be discouraging looking around at your peers’ business success, but you shouldn’t compare yourself with them. Once you start adding up all the little steps you take each day and putting yourself out there more, that’s when big things can happen for you.
Oscar: I agree with Meagan that comparing yourself to others is setting yourself up for failure. There will always be someone who is way more successful than you are and developing a business way quicker in a more difficult field. But Bill Gates didn’t just sit down one day and build Microsoft overnight. Especially when you are first starting your business and making that initial progress, comparing yourself to the superstar entrepreneurs can be dangerous. Instead, try to appreciate the small victories for your business every day.
Meagan: Also, don’t be afraid to talk to people about your business! Even if you are in the early stages, you never know who could be your next investor or someone who could benefit from using your product. I’ve seen the value of this firsthand because Dottie’s first beta tester was a woman who overheard me talking about our product in a Wellesley nail salon.
Where can we find Dottie online?
Oscar: To learn more about Dottie, visit www.meetdottie.com!
Meagan: We are always looking for people to beta test our product which helps you remember important items; you can sign up on our website!
If you enjoyed learning about Dottie’s progress in SVP, check out some of our other SVP team profile blogs! To meet the entire SVP cohort and celebrate their progress, join us for the Summer Venture Showcase on Thursday, July 25th. RSVP at this link. We can’t wait to see you there!