FACULTY AND CLASS PROJECTS ESSENTIAL TO PRODUCT AND BRAND DEVELOPMENT
Weirdness aside, Al-Salem, who was assigned in a group with Firth-Eagland and three others, saw an opportunity. “No one is doing this except for Dave’s weird solution,” says Al-Salem, who has a background in finance and equity research. There was no real dominant product in the space, Al-Salem explains, which made it a “fun product for our class projects.”
According to Firth-Eagland and Al-Salem, the faculty and coursework at Haas were instrumental and necessary to the development of their brand and product. Up first was an Introduction to Marketing course where their team of five flexed their digital marketing skills to build the brand and test product-market fit. After all, what better place to test a hangover cure than a B-school?
Firth-Eagland says classmates became believers when, after a night of drinking, they still were able to get up for runs at 6 a.m.
“Without that, we wouldn’t have realized what a tremendous opportunity it is from a market perspective, looking at the competitive landscape, understanding that category awareness is really low,” Al-Salem says of a marketing analysis they conducted in the marketing course. Other professors and courses became product development opportunities. They conducted customer interviews in Sara Beckman’s Innovation course and developed a finance model in Maura O’Neill’s New Venture Finance and Advanced New Venture Finance courses.
$25K IN INVESTMENTS FROM CLASSMATES
As the business model came together, Firth-Eagland worked with two Ph.D. students at UC-Berkeley to develop the recipe. He provided his own aggregated research on what he thought would work and the Ph.D. students read it over and offered suggestions. Soon they had a capsule, and Firth-Eagland began interviewing about 60 manufacturers before finding the right fit, an FDA and current good manufacturing practices-compliant manufacturer. What once was a class joke was now a full-fledged product.
“My handful of pocket pills ended up as something a lot more thoughtful,” Firth-Eagland says.
The duo sunk about $25,000 of their own money last fall to launch a site and bring the product to market. The team quickly learned a valuable lesson. “Some people want to sample it first,” Firth-Eagland concedes. So they decided to create sample packets.
One problem: they were out of money. Instead of turning to crowdfunding, they opted for a friends-and-family round. But that quickly became a classmates round that got them another $25,000, primarily from their fellow Haas classmates, to create the higher per-unit sample packets.
The big break for BrightDay came in January when they were able to go live on Amazon Prime. Al-Salem says they have enjoyed doubled revenue growth month-over-month since then. “Admittedly, we started at a low base, but we’re excited to see that it’s been a fantastic channel for us,” she says.
NOT A ‘MAGIC PILL’
Of course, the market isn’t totally barren. Products like Drinkwel, LYTEshow and After PartyPal have footholds in the market. But Al-Salem and Firth-Eagland believe their target market and go-to-market approach sets them apart. Competitors, Firth-Eagland explains, are going after the party crowd. Conversely, BrightDay is aimed at those who want to enjoy a night out and still be productive the next day — “People that say, give me that time back,” Firth-Eagland explains.
“We say, get up in the morning and go for that hike on the mountain. Have your beer at night and enjoy the morning.”
They’ve also begun establishing relationships with hotels to get the product in mini-bars, and with alcohol delivery services. Additionally, the team has been guerilla marketing at beer and wine-fests and building relationships with potential retailers.
Still, the product comes with a word of warning from its creators.
“A lot of people are very surprised the way it works so well. But it’s not a magic pill,” Al-Salem cautions. “If you’re going to drink yourself to oblivion, of course you’re going to feel like shit the next day. But the vast majority of people feel better than they would’ve otherwise.”
Perhaps the biggest skeptic was Firth-Eagland’s wife Christine, who he says was “pumping the brakes” on him considering this path, especially when their own investment was involved. The Firth-Eaglands are a family of four, and the potential risk wasn’t small. But on a four-day trip to Hawaii, Christine changed her tune — and now BrightDay’s biggest skeptic is sending frantic texts and requiring Uber drivers to awkwardly deliver envelopes of pills to the bars and restaurants of Redwood City, California.