When you hear ‘transparent touch screens’, high-tech, futuristic shows and movies such as The Jetsons, Minority Report, or Iron Man might pop into your head. You might think, “this technology can’t be real; it doesn’t exist yet. Weren’t we supposed to have flying cars by 2016?” While we still don’t have flying cars, we are one step closer to this high-tech lifestyle thanks to Mary Wolff, CEO & co-founder of taptl. Mary invented the world’s first customizable transparent touch-screen as seen below. These displays can be used as windows, kiosks, directories, TVs, or computers for personal or business use. Read on to get to know more about the brains behind taptl, Mary Wolff.
Your background is originally in law, so how did you transition into the tech world and ideate taptl?
I was originally working at a law firm in Brickell, and a mutual friend introduced me to my co-founder. He told me what he was working on and I was really attracted to the product’s potential to change the world. I started assisting the startup with sales, but I noticed I was happy spending more and more time on it. As the needs for the startup grew, I filled them. Eventually, I committed full-time to taptl and stepped in as the CEO. Since then, taptl graduated from Prosper, the accelerator for women-led startups, and received an Arch Grant in 2015.
Who is your product geared toward and how does it benefit this type of consumer?
Our displays are currently being marketed to the luxury interiors industry, including retail, yachts, aircrafts, condominiums, and homes. Our technology can be used in place of glass or in place of a monitor, so we’re creating an entirely new type of product. They come in sizes 5”-110”, available in HD and UHD, and are environmentally sustainable, with endless applications. It saves space and energy, so now rooms can be oriented towards a window, not a wall, and the glass can be used as an interactive surface. It allows them to do more with the space that they have, which is beneficial in countless ways.
What’s the most important thing you’re working on right now, and how are you making it happen?
Building a team. We have some amazing opportunities ahead of us but I’ve identified our limitations. We just hired a new CMO, which is very exciting because marketing is huge for our type of product. Now, I need to find a CTO to lead R&D and manage manufacturing. To do this, I’m circulating a description through my network and local channels, both here and in St. Louis.
What are three things you’ve told yourself that kept you from giving up?
- “It can’t get any worse than this.” No, really. We’re finally at a great place now, but we’ve gone through hell to get here. “It can only get better,” is a more positive way to put it.
- It’s not really something I tell myself, but I’m cognizant of my investors and the people who supported me and taptl on this journey. If a company is going to fail, I want to make sure I did everything I could possibly do. I hate letting people down, even if maybe they wouldn’t see it that way.
- I think to myself with each plan and opportunity, “What if this works? What if this is the event that will allow me to hit that metric, or reach that goal?” So, I just can’t give up.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t quit because you’re tired, or out of money, or feel lost. You only quit if you’ve established that there’s no need for your product.
What is your favorite part about working in Building?
Building has done an excellent job of maintaining a tech-centric culture. Building also screens startups based on stage, so there aren’t a bunch of startups here that are merely an idea and a website. As a result, there is so much one can leverage from the other startups here, such as introductions, advice, and resources. I’ve learned so much from the other startups here.
What are three pitfalls that are critical to avoid?
- Always do your due diligence on potential team members. The majority of problems we have had at taptl stemmed from our failure to really look at their qualifications, experience, understanding of the industry and even failure to perform a background check.
- Get your operating agreements and all necessary documents in line prior to starting your company and including team members. Also, founder vesting is crucial to incentivizing consistent contribution, especially when the startup isn’t doing well.
- Stay focused, in every sense. Design a 30, 60, and 90-day plan. Set goals daily and do nothing else until they’re completed. If you’re pursuing a market segment, pursue that exact market segment. Don’t get distracted by shiny objects.
Looking out 3 to 5 years, beyond the obvious trends, what do you think will be the next big change in your industry?
I think transparent displays are the future of displays; they will replace that big black electronic thing hanging on your wall that you only use 50% of the time. In 10 years, you’ll see glass that’s also transparent display being used as a traditional window worldwide. Transparent displays are also the best hardware to support augmented reality applications, so you’ll see a lot of revenue being generated from this new space for advertisements and content.
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