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It is a common misconception that building a hardware startup is a straightforward and linear process: Find a Problem—Design a Solution—Sell the Product—Make Money. In theory this is how it should work, but in actuality, this process is more of a maze with twists and turns on your way to success. What you don’t see in this high level linear description are the many challenges and pitfalls you and your startup must navigate before you “Make Money“.
Below are three challenges that first-time hardware entrepreneurs don’t always foresee.
Feedback is critical during product development. You aren’t going to know if you are on the right track without feedback from your target market. You are going to want people in your target market to test your product (not just family and friends). It is helpful to get feedback that is both honest and actionable.
By creating an inexpensive prototype, and gathering feedback from it, you will be in a much better position as you build your product. This feedback loop is important until the final design is ready.
Developing a hardware product takes time. Product development doesn’t happen overnight, especially if you are gathering customer feedback along the way and making the necessary adjustments. Depending on your product, product development could take months or even years before you are confident that it is ready to head into manufacturing.
Manufacturing is another area that has a long lead time. Whether you decide to manufacture locally or internationally, you are going to be playing the waiting game. The thing with long lead times is that if you know they are coming, expect them, and plan accordingly, they are less likely to derail your journey to success.
To understand your market, you need to research it. What products succeed in this space? Is there a similar product to yours that has found success in this product space? What did their journey look like? Has a similar product failed? What information can you glean from other startups’ success and failure in this space?
If possible, get out and talk to people already in this product space to see what they say about it. By understanding the market, you will get a better understanding of where your product will fit into it.
Each product and each startup will face their own challenges on the way to market; by preparing yourself for these twists and turns along the way, you will be in a much better position to successfully navigate them.
Have additional questions about bringing a product to market? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Building a hardware product, business and brand around any concept is a challenge—however, when you are building all of this around an unknown concept or new product category, you now face the challenges of a true trailblazer. Two popular recent trailblazers that come to mind are the Amazon Echo and Bitcoin. Both products were able to successfully answer the “why is this necessary?” question, educate consumers and carve out a market niche for themselves.
When you build a product that breaks the mold, or is completely new for an industry, you must successfully balance product development while simultaneously educating consumers. Below are a few ideas on how to develop a hardware product around an unknown concept.
All companies want to sell their product or service and turn a healthy profit. If you are too focused on selling to ABC or XYZ you will be tempted to tailor your product to suit these demographics instead of your vision. Before you even start to map your marketing and sales strategy, make sure that your vision, mission and goals are laid out.
If you are building a completely new hardware product, it will feel easier to try to modify your vision so that your business can be easily categorized by the market. With your vision and business game plan laid out though you will find it much easier to stick to your original goals.
Trailblazing companies must first focus on educating consumers about their product before leads can be converted into sales. Educating consumers can come in many forms: blogging, video content and infographics are just a few ways for businesses to reach out and share their business concept without pushing for sales. An education-centric sales approach will allow customers to truly understand your vision and product.
A sales philosophy centered on educating consumers will continually transform and evolve as your target market comes to understand your product and as you find new approaches to reach other demographics.
Developing true innovation takes time. Speeding through the product development process can end in disaster. Instead of focusing on speed, focus on quality. Your hardware product is navigating unchartered waters, and you want it to make a big splash when it is debuted—the best way to accomplish this is with a flawless design.
While slow is certainly challenging for many startups, it is the wiser approach. You want a product that can fulfill both your vision and the needs of consumers. If the hardware product isn’t understood by consumers and has too many design flaws, you will face frustrated and confused customers.
“True innovation is coming up with a product that the customer didn’t even know they needed.” — J. Paul Getty