Joanna Montgomery, Founder of Little Riot won NACUE Varsity Pitch in 2011. Joanna, 29, started Little Riot after completing her Interaction Design degree at Dundee University. Little Riot is a tech startup specializing in human-centric interaction design. They create smart and ‘loveable’ products, that change how we use technology. Their first product is Pillow Talk, a wristband that picks up your heartbeat and sends it to your loved one in real time.
Joanna started Little Riot because she believes the way we use technology needs to change. She said, “Today's digital world is noisy. We're always face-down in our screens, sending messages, sharing photos, awaiting replies. We've become so hyper-connected with each other that we've become completely disconnected from the true core of our being. The most fundamental part of being human is connecting with other humans, and the experience of those interactions.”
She feels that technology doesn't let us sit in the same room as someone and enjoy their company, or glance at them, or touch their arm. She strongly felt the urge to change this.
“When I pitched in 2011, I had a concept for our first product, Pillow Talk,” she recalls. So how did it all happen? “The cash prize I won in the Varsity Pitch competition went a long way towards helping us get our product to market. It enabled us to take Pillow Talk from being just an idea, to a working prototype. The prototype then enabled us to raise our first round of investment.”
Still going strong, Little Riot is about to ship Pillow Talk to 43 countries at the moment. They are also starting to work with children’s’ hospitals to utilise their technology in situations where human contact is not possible. For example, connecting a sick child in hospital with their parents, or sending a mother’s heartbeat into a premature baby starting its life an incubator. “It’s been a long time coming, but there is finally light at the end of the tunnel,” says Joanna.
She recalls that she didn’t quite have a strategy to win Varsity Pitch. “It was only a two-minute pitch, so I just tried to give a succinct and clear view of my business within the allotted time,” she said. ‘It’s a useful skill to have in business - to be able to communicate something clearly yet briefly’.
Her advice for Varsity Pitch aspirers is, “Just put yourself out there. You’ve got to be in it to win it! Enter, then work on being able to pitch your business. Try pitching your business to every person you meet in a different way. Find what resonates with people, which way of talking about it helps the idea click the quickest.”
She sums up her entire Varsity Pitch experience in one word- ‘Wonderful!’
Text: Rituja Rao