I’ve had the pleasure to be one of the permanent judges for the first season of Mark Burnett and Intel’s technology reality competition show, America’s Greatest Makers. On our season finale, we awarded the $1 million dollar prize to Team Grush, creator of the Grush Brush, a smart gaming toothbrush. This device not only encourages kids to want to brush their teeth, but also provides data to their parents and dentist so they know the kids’ brushing habits and deficiencies.
So, how did we crown this team a winner amongst so many amazing inventors and makers? Here are some of the qualities that Grush possessed, and that you can cultivate if you want to win in business:
1. Do your homework.
I learned after the competition that one member, Dr. Anubha Sacheti, had read my book, The Entrepreneur Equation, and the team had done extensive research on me and the other judges. That gave them additional insights into how we might view their product and what aspects of their invention we might place value upon. This is the type of preparation that every entrepreneur should engage in, whether before meeting investors, partners or even judges.
The team also prepared throughout the competition. They said that they spent about 10 hours on each question a judge asked them, so they could nail the answer as they progressed through the rounds of the competition. The result was that they were polished and strong in every pitch presentation, something that many of the early favorites struggled with. As I said after the first pitch, “They ‘grushed’ it.”
2. Solve a real problem with a slick solution.
While every parent identifies with the struggle of getting their kids to brush their teeth, poor dental habits are an even bigger issue. Tooth decay is actually the most widespread chronic childhood disease that wreaks havoc not just on the look of a kid’s smile, but can contribute ultimately to other health issues.
This tangible problem was solved in a clever way with the Grush Brush, using technology to map the kids mouth, relate that into a fun game that helps improve brushing habits and ultimately collects data that is passed back to the parents and dentist, if desired, to help improve brushing techniques based on each kid’s own habits and issues.
Having a real solution to a real problem always makes people pay attention.
3. Be the right team to solve the problem.
As execution always trumps ideas, I am highly focused on why a team thinks they are the best suited to bring a product to market. Team Grush had major competencies covered with individuals with not just experience, but credibility behind what they were pursuing. Dr. Yong-Jing Wang had deep experience as a technologist and in manufacturing of products. Dr. Anubha Sacheti is a Harvard-trained pediatric dentist and Ethan Schur has tremendous experience in the video game industry.
This team covered many relevant competencies and projected their confidence and knowledge in a way that made me -- and my fellow judges -- feel like they would be successful in solving their problem and making Grush a success.
4. Consider and take feedback.
Each time we saw Team Grush, the judges gave feedback and suggestions. Grush did a great job of integrating feedback where it made sense to them and leaving the feedback that wasn’t true to what they were trying to accomplish. Finding that balance between trying to take others’ opinions yet staying true to your concept is an art that many entrepreneurs struggle with.
5. Be willing to take a chance.
You miss 100 percent of the shots that you don’t take, and entrepreneurs have to be willing to take smart chances. They took time out to apply for a new TV show and they walked away with a cool million dollars, invaluable mentorship from Intel and national TV exposure. This will likely change the course of their lives, all because they were willing to take a reasonable chance.