Key copying kiosks from start-up KeyMe are available in stores across the US, including 7-Eleven, which was its first big retail partnership.
For burgeoning retail product entrepreneurs, the difference between success and failure can lie in just a few key meetings with retail executives. The seal of approval from these trusted brands offers immediate exposure to millions of customers — both online and in-store — while also signaling to customers that they can trust the quality of your product or service. For KeyMe, that retailer was 7-Eleven.
When KeyMe — which allows customers to copy, save and share keys via a retail kiosk and a mobile app — first got started, we went door to door into mom-and-pop grocery stores and corner bodegas in Queens, New York, with a prototype kiosk, hoping to get some customer data. We got a few stores to try us out, and before long we had commercial-ready units under development and had gotten the ear of a large brand-name VC.
In the past, when we had presented the opportunity to disrupt an antiquated but lucrative $7.5 billion offline locksmith industry, we got a lot of interest. They loved our tech, our team and the opportunity. The roadblock, however, was always the same: “Are retailers going to want this?”
In an attempt to address this concern, the VC firm introduced us to the head of 7-Eleven’s Innovation Group. If we could convince him to give us a pilot, the VC would help fund our first round.
This was the biggest pitch in our company’s history. After all, that seal of approval works both ways. Failure would send a signal to other retailers that we weren’t ready for the big-time or, worse, that there was something dangerous lurking in our tech or our financials that made 7-Eleven pass on us. This pitch needed to be perfect.
But before we broke out the projector and practiced our PowerPoint skills, there were a few key lessons we had to learn.