Zero Edge Pro & the “Why” of Everything

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Last week, we launched our new product Zero Edge® Pro to the world. In doing so, there were a few things that were on my mind that I wanted to write down and share with you. These are some of the things that I’ve learned while working at this company that will likely stick with me for the rest of my life.

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Let’s Talk About Drones (yes, really.)

How many times have you seen products created by companies and struggled to answer the question of “Why?” I often ask myself that very question. Ok, so you made a new [insert product name] but what is the reason that product exists? Or, it’s very obviously a knock-off of another successful product. All too often, I struggle to find the answer to that question.

Sometimes, though, companies completely nail it out of the park. Do you remember the Lily drone? I remember Ryan showing me their initial product video for the first time. It stood out perfectly not because of its impressive production value, or the presence of a famous actors’ endorsement. Actually, it didn’t have any spoken words at all. It simply showed the product in use, and how it transformed the number one obstacle inhibiting many people from buying a drone. That obstacle was the vast fear of having to learn how to fly a drone and subsequently the fear of crashing that drone. Lily marketed their drone not like a drone at all, but like a camera, showing how it is operated using no remote at all, that its waterproof, can take off from literally anywhere (including in the water) and that even Grandma can use it (yes, they showed Grandma operating a drone!)

Lily Drone and Grandma

Stop and think about every other drone on the market (at least the ones that didn’t copy Lily’s technology.) Why do they exist? How many drones are “just another drone” with no real “why” behind it, other than maybe they saw the market cap and thought there was opportunity to grab a piece of the pie.

The lesson? If we (the manufacturer) don’t know why we created a product, how is the consumer supposed to answer that question?

The Hidden Why Behind Zero Edge Pro.

This brings me back to Zero Edge Pro. Candidly, when the idea was first introduced to me, I really didn’t understand the purpose of the product. Ok, so we have frame sizes, color options, and a new fancy backlighting system. “It’s cool, but how is this really SI,” I thought?

It wasn’t until I actually talked with one of our dealers about the screen before it became blatantly obvious the piece that I was missing.

It wasn’t until I actually talked with one of our dealers about the screen before it became blatantly obvious the piece that I was missing. After explaining the concept to him, he stopped and said, “You have no idea you just changed my entire business model.” I stopped in my tracks. What? How? It turns out, the reason that we developed Zero Edge Pro, and many of our other products was actually very simple and boils down to a single word: custom.

You see, the thing that I had overlooked was the very reason that we invented Zero Edge in the first place. To give our dealers the ability to offer customers an amazing experience by allowing them to create a unique design statement around what was traditionally more of an eye-sore (the velvet covered fixed frame.) Zero Edge Pro was simply the next iteration in the future of that “why” (so-to-speak) enhancing our dealers ability to provide their consumers with an incredible experience, by giving them the power to choose. The problem was, fixed frame screens never gave the dealer the ability to customize.

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By giving our dealers the power to choose, our consumers then get an incredible experience unlike any out-of-the-box system could provide. You want an ALR screen with Ferrari red trim at exactly the size and ratio you need to fit perfectly on the wall? Done. How about a backlighting system that works perfectly with Philips HUE, so you can do things like set your color to red with Alexa commands, like “Alexa, it’s Star Wars time”? Easy.

The why? It is all about the experience.

Making Stuff is Hard

Those of you who have peered into the machine that is SI, you already know what I am talking about. We change gears really fast, and sometimes it’s weeks, days, and yes even hours before launching a product to the world. Ask us the story about when we launched the first Zero Edge. What do I mean? The truth of the matter is that making a product that has never been done before is not easy. At SI, we try really hard to get it right the first time, and we’re willing to put the blood, sweat, and tears in to make that happen. There’s no template to work from with what we’re doing, and sometimes that means changing directions even at the last minute to get it right.

…we thought it would be a fairly simple piece of the puzzle. We thought wrong.

A great example of this is the tensioning system for Black Diamond® and Short Throw screen materials on Zero Edge Pro. We had a design in place for how it would work, allowing the screen to be shipped un-assembled, and then put together on-site. We had tensioning bands already developed, and we thought it would be a fairly straightforward piece of the puzzle. We thought wrong. Our first bands functioned fine, however there was a major issue: when fitted into the material, the lay of the bands was inward rather than outward. That means when you attempted to lay the frame on-top of the material to attach it, it would rest on-top of the bands as well. A very small detail that had to be corrected to achieve a seamless and headache-free installation process. New bands had to be designed that were molded so that when resting, they would lay flat toward the outside of the frame rather than the inside.

men who built america

Robin and Ian are two very hard workers. They also do male modeling as side gigs.

Other times during the product development process, we met with customers who gave us very valuable feedback in how we go to market with presenting the different configuration options. The goal is always to be simple, but sometimes during development, you get lost in the weeds. So, quite literally last week, a day before we launched the new pricing models, and based off of some very valuable customer feedback that would completely simplify how the 3 bezel options were priced, we completely changed direction. Not the most fun process, but it had to be done.

The lesson I learned here? When you’re trying to do something that’s never been done before, it’s not easy. Making stuff is hard.

The Why Behind SI

In the time that I have been with SI, I have learned this one simple fact: that there is a reason for every single decision. Those reasons are driven by some seriously cool things. Primarily, that reason is that our dealers are our family and that everything we do should ultimately benefit them and by doing that, we are changing the world. They are the why SI exists.

Secondarily, that reason is to create life-changing experiences. This is, more or less, a “filter” by which we operate. Every idea or product that comes to the table gets passed through the question, “How does this improve the experience?”

To sum it up, this is my motto for SI: World-Changing Products, Life-Changing Experiences.


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