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Taking the leap into manufacturing is a big milestone for a startup. Once you start to search for a manufacturing partner, suddenly it all seems real. Manufacturing is not cheap, and one misstep here can severely hurt or completely crush your business. Finding the right manufacturer is not easy, but with proper planning and research, it can be done. Below are four tips to keep in mind as you are research potential partners.
Start your search for a manufacturer that has experience in the industry your product is entering. For instance, if you are manufacturing a baby spoon find a manufacturer that has a great deal of experience in the baby product consumer market segment. Having a manufacturing partner that is knowledgeable about the industry you are entering means that they will be up-to-date with best practices, safety standards, and will have the able to offer helpful insight.
Not all manufacturers will be able to scale with your business. As your startup grows, the number of units you need will increase as well. Your initial manufacturing partner might be great at prototypes and low volumes, but higher volumes may pose a problem. Minimize production delays, by meeting with other potential manufacturing partners that are able to adequately meet higher volume needs. You don’t have to stick with just one manufacturer.
Depending on your product, one manufacturing strategy is to have multiple open partnerships with manufacturers. Your once very attentive and grateful manufacturer might put you on the back burner when a bigger customer comes along. A vendor list with manufacturers you can utilize or bounce between is a good idea. This keeps pricing between them competitive and the diversification minimizes your business risk.
Your manufacturer is critical to your business, so open communication is mandatory. It is imperative that you know them, and trust them, before working with them. This is true whether you are manufacturing close to home or in another country. Phone calls and emails are great, but a visit to their location is highly recommended. Visiting the facility lets you meet the factory workers and see the facility. You want to feel comfortable that your product is in the right hands, and an on-site visit will do just this.
Don’t forget to check their references. Make those phone calls and get your questions answered by people who have experience with this potential manufacturer.
Now here is what your future manufacturer wants you to know.
Have additional questions about manufacturing your product? We can help. Send us an email with your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
When it comes to designing consumer products, the best approach is to consider your end-user throughout the entire design process—which is commonly referred to as “Human-Centered Design”. This means that you are focusing on the problem that your audience is facing and designing a streamlined solution. While additional features might be great marketing tools, most often than not less is more, the more streamlined your product and the more it addresses their current need, the better.
Famed design firm, IDEO, first coined the term, “Human-Centered Design” and have been using this approach to design many recognizable products, such as: the first computer mouse for Apple in 1980 and the Palm Pilot in 1998. IDEO’s main tenet is empathy for the end-user of their products. They believe that the key to figuring out what humans really want lies in doing two things:
IDEO defines human-centered design as a creative approach to problem solving that starts with people and ends with innovative solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs. In their Field Guide to Human-Centered Design IDEO states, “When you understand the people you’re trying to reach—and then design from their perspective—not only will you arrive at unexpected answers, but you’ll come up with ideas that they’ll embrace.” Below is the central philosophy of human-centered design.
Phase 1: Observation
The first phase is about observing the target audience or end-user going about the activity you are aiming to design a solution for. You are identifying patterns of behavior, pain points, and places where users have a difficult time accomplishing a task—this is where your opportunity lies.
Phase 2: Ideation
This is the brainstorming phase. Come up with solutions to the problem you have identified. Think of solutions that directly address the needs and desires of the people you are designing for. Maybe you already have a solution in mind, but are there any other options out there as well?
Phase 3: Rapid Prototyping
This phase is to make sure that the solution you have in mind is right on target. Your prototype at this phase doesn’t need to be a finished product. You need a prototype that makes your idea tangible and allows you to gain valuable target audience feedback.
Phase 4: User Feedback
This is the most critical phase of the human-centered design process. You want to get your prototype into the hands of your target audience. Without input from your end-user, you aren’t going to really know if your product solution is on target or not.
Phase 5: Iteration
The insight collected during the user-feedback stage is now implemented and it either impacts your design, where you need to make changes, or it validates your original design.
Keep iterating, testing, and integrating user feedback until you’ve fine-tuned your solution. This may take a few rounds, but don’t get discouraged. With each iteration you’ll learn something new.
Phase 6: Implementation
At this point you have thoughtfully and carefully design a product that solves a real need for your target audience, now it is time to launch it into the marketplace.
When it comes to developing and designing your product, don’t forget the “human” aspect. To build a truly innovative product you don’t need to start with fancy technology, you can start by simply understanding people.
Have product design questions? We are happy to help! Please send us an email at email@example.com
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
When it comes to developing a hardware product, it is easy to get bogged down in the design details during product development. While the details certainly do matter, if you focus solely on them from the start it could spell trouble for your startup later on. Having a big picture mentality allows you to get a complete grasp on product development as well as other major decision milestones, such as: manufacturing, sales, partnerships and marketing.
Planning ahead is always a good idea when it comes to building a hardware product and launching a startup. A preliminary design plan is a good first step to help you get a firm grasp on the “big picture”. With a preliminary design you clarify budgets and timelines—which leads to better decision making as you head towards commercialization.
“A preliminary design (pre-design) focuses solely on the decisions that impact the big picture for your product. This includes your product’s cost, profit margin, performance, features, development feasibility and manufacturability. A pre-design ignores any details that don’t impact the big picture for your product. You can worry about those later. After you complete the pre-design you need to accurately estimate all of the costs required to launch your product. This includes the cost to develop, prototype, certify, scale, and most importantly the cost to manufacture your product. Knowing these costs ahead of time will allow you to plan the best strategy forward” (Predictable Designs).
By starting with a preliminary design, you will be able to focus on the big picture and the overarching goals you have established for your startup, as well as:
Take the time now to plan ahead—your startup will thank you in the end.
Have questions about your preliminary design plan? We are happy to help. Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
Ideally, marketing your hardware product should come before your product launch. You want to find and connect with your target market as early as possible. “Early” often means before your product design is even finalized. Building this relationship early-on is beneficial for both your product design and product launch.
Below are three reasons why you should be thinking about marketing throughout the early stages of product development.
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; thus, 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.
Around every successful product is a community rallying around it. In today’s global competitive marketplace, having a strong network and community interested in your product cannot be overlooked or overstated. A community will share your product launch information, help you create a buzz and end up being your first customers.
Crowdfunding has grown to be extremely popular because of the sense of community it gives hardware startup founders. Using a crowdfunding campaign for your startup lets you build this community before you even have a product ready to be shipped. While crowdfunding does have its drawbacks, its ability to build a community and rally support is a primary benefit for your hardware product.
Have you ever found yourself on a website that said something along the lines of, “Launching soon! Join our mailing list to be the first to know about our launch”? We all have the desire to be the “first to know” and inevitably add our email to the mailing list. This is an example of a startup building their community and creating a buzz. Creating a buzz gives customers a sneak peek about what’s to come and builds that sense of anticipation.
When you use customer feedback early-on, you start to create a buzz with your product testers. From there you want to build on this interest and loyalty. Social media is a great way to start creating a buzz for your product.
Thinking about your marketing strategy early-on, and developing a marketing plan, will help ensure that you have a supportive community by the time you launch your product.
Have additional questions about product development or marketing? We are happy to help. Please send an email to email@example.com
Coming up with a product idea is exciting, but making the decision to pursue and develop it, is truly exhilarating. Many first-time entrepreneurs want to jump right in and get to work building their product, only to realize that they may not have the exact skillset necessary to develop the product all the way. This is where a product development firm is brought in to aid in the process. It can be nerve-wracking sharing your idea with someone else, and we all like to have a general idea of what we can expect in initial meetings.
While each product development firm has their own template for initial meetings. You can expect a variance on the below.
Just as you are eager to get to know the product designer, they are eager to know more about you. This goes beyond your product—they want to know the backstory of how your product idea came-to-be. They want to know what you are passionate about. They want to know your skillset, where do you excel (sales, marketing, accounting)? This information will allow them to get a better idea on where their services will be utilized the most efficiently.
In your first meeting you are going to want to get as detailed as possible when discussing your product idea. You may think that the littlest details may not make a difference as you start developing an idea, however, every detail matters. Provide as much detail about your product requirements as possible. A good development company will be able to ask you the right questions throughout the development process to help you narrow down the requirements and focus on the functionality. You don’t need to know all of the technical details about the product, just how it needs to function.
While TV and the internet can make you believe that products are designed, manufactured and launched overnight, this isn’t how it works. Developing a product takes time. While the exact amount of time to develop your product depends on the idea and the intricacies of it—in general expect to be spending weeks to months on product development.
Just like you, product development firms want to make sure your product is protected from copycats, so they will want to discuss IP and what your initial feelings on it are.
Most hardware startups find themselves thinking about intellectual property early-on and wondering if it is truly necessary for their invention. If you are planning to manufacture your product abroad, considering a crowdfunding campaign, wanting to speak with potential investors or find yourself constantly worrying about someone copying your invention, then meeting with a patent attorney is a great idea. In many cases, having a design or utility patent will be beneficial for your startup in the long-run.
Have questions about developing a product idea? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional Information about Product Development
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 email@example.com
Product design is a delicate balance between what the entrepreneur wants the product to be and what the end-user actually needs. Need v. Want comes up in our everyday life, and it is no different when you are designing a product for consumers. Often, the entrepreneur will think that they know what the customer needs, but without actively asking potential customers they could be missing the mark.
Recently we came across the Design Hierarchy of Needs, from Stephen Bradley, (writing for Smashing Magazine) which is based on the same concept as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. “Abraham Maslow’s, the American psychologist, is most famous research examined human motivation. In 1943 he published his paper; A Theory of Human Motivation. In this paper he revealed his understanding of human needs and proposed that they formed a hierarchy from the most basic to the most complex. He suggested that in order for a human being to be satisfied they must meet of all their needs. However, the most basic needs must be fulfilled before higher level needs can be met satisfactorily.” (Interaction Design Foundation)
Stephen Bradley took Maslow’s concept and amended it to provide a useful guide for developing products which deliver high-levels of value to the customer.
Functionality. Before anything else, a product must be functional. It must meet the most basic needs of the customer. “Designs that meet only basic functionality needs are considered to be of little to no value. A design is expected to meet basic functionality needs; doing so isn’t considered anything special.” (Smashing Magazine)
Reliability. Once your product design has fulfilled the basic functionality requirement, it can now move up to reliability. At this level your product is expected to successfully preform a function, over and over again without failing. Your product should exhibit stable and constant performance. If you have a product that works 90% of the time but fails the other 10%, it is not meeting the customers reliability needs.
Usability. Now that your design is reliable, it is time to examine its usability. Can a customer pick up your product and easily figure out how to use it? For example, are the buttons easy to navigate, is it easy to understand, is the product design forgiving if an incorrect button is pushed? “Usable designs are perceived to be of moderate value. We do have some basic expectations of usability, but we recognize that many things don’t quite work as we expect or would like.” (Smashing Magazine)
Proficiency. “Designs regarded as proficient are perceived to function at a high level. A design that allows people to do things not previously possible and to expand on basic functionality is considered to be great.” (Smashing Magazine) Is your product allowing your customer to do things that they once were unable to? If your product is adding value to their everyday life and making things easier, you are on the right track.
Creativity. Once the lower-level needs have been met, your product design can focus on creativity. An iconic corporate example of success at this level is Apple. Their products meet all of the basic needs and then excel when it comes to innovation and creativity. Designs that meet creative needs are perceived to be of the highest level.
Just like in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the Design Hierarchy of Needs can be looked at with a critical eye. Will consumers buy a product that useable but not necessarily reliable all the time? Or a product that is highly creative but not exactly proficient?
The Design Hierarchy of Needs is a good starting point during the product development process. As an entrepreneur, you can look at your product, or product idea, through this lens and determine where your product excels, and which areas need a little more help before your product design is finalized.
We don’t often like to disappoint our hardware startup friends, in fact our entire business is built around making our clients happy by exceeding expectations. When it comes to the secret of hardware startup success, however, we don’t have some profound hidden away piece knowledge to impart upon you, in fact, we bet this secret is something that you have heard at least a hundred times. Maybe you jotted down a quick reference note for it or maybe it went in one ear and out the other. This secret gets thrown around in conversations and presentations, but it is not always given the respect it deserves or the attention it needs. The secret we are referring to is “find a solution to a common problem experienced by many”.
We bet you just read that sentence and thought to yourself, “Yes, I have definitely heard that before”. The thing about the secret to startup success, is that it is not a secret at all. We work with countless hardware entrepreneurs that have an abundance of product ideas, and often one of our first pieces of advice comes in the form of two questions, “What problem are you solving?” and “What segment of the population faces this problem regularly?” The answers to these questions can help determine if your product idea is poised for success.
If you are currently mulling a product idea around in your head and deciding if it is worthy to pursue, ask yourself the following three questions.
If you are personally experiencing this issue, there is a good chance that others are as well. Casually ask friends and family if they notice this problem and if they have ever thought of a solution to it. You might be surprised at how many people experience this issue, but have probably just decided that “this is the way it is” and haven’t given any real thought to a solution.
The thing with startups, is that they can, on average, act quickly and pivot just as fast. Large corporations undoubtedly have the funds, but moving fast is not something they can do. So are you in a position in which you can quickly and efficiently design a solution and launch it into the marketplace? Moving fast gives you a head start, and often, it is before the big industry players even notice the problem.
Do you have the skillset necessary to act quickly? Think about your network, do you know others that can help or offer advice as you get going? Keep in mind that no one has all the skills necessary to succeed. This is what teams and product development partnerships are for. Understanding your skills and limitations will help you know where you need assistance and where you can take on a majority of the responsibilities.
Have additional questions about developing and launching a product into the marketplace? We are happy to help! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Taking the leap into entrepreneurship is a major change and a bold move—you are now focused on building a hardware startup around your product idea, which is both intimidating and exhilarating. In the very early stages of product development your motivation is through the roof because you are seeing a product that was once only clear in your mind become reality. However, as you progress through product development, and beyond, it’s normal for your motivation to fade at times because being an entrepreneur is also stressful.
When you feel your motivation start to slip, here are five ways to help reignite that fire within you to keep pushing forward.
What is your personal mission statement? Your hardware startup should have its own mission or vision statement to help identify goals—and so should you. Once you have a clear mission statement for yourself, write it down and post it somewhere visible as a daily reminder of the goal you have set for yourself.
Now take this mission statement and make a plan around it. How will you accomplish this? Write down your short and long-term goals. Keep in mind that your written plan is a living document and should change as you do and as your business matures.
It’s easy to get tunnel vision and focus solely on your product when you are in the trenches of product development. However, at times, it is necessary to step back and remind yourself why you are doing all of this. What problem is your product solving? How is it making life easier? Is it benefiting a greater good?
If you have a business partner, communicate these goals with them as well so that you are both on the same page about where you see this product and startup going.
Mentors are motivating. They are cheering for you from the sidelines and want to see you succeed. A nice chat with your mentor over a cup of warm coffee might be just what you need. Mentors often have more experience and different ways of viewing things, so getting some helpful advice or viewpoint could help you get over your temporary slump.
If you don’t have a mentor, or your mentor isn’t readily available, a TED Talk or an inspirational podcast are two other options.
“Choose happy”. Life can get hard and it can feel like the weight of the world is right on your shoulders, but with the right attitude and a smile, you will prevail. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to launching a hardware startup or becoming an entrepreneur. What works for you may not work for anyone else. So with opinions, ideas and theories coming at you from all angles, remember that ultimately you in one in control of your business and life.
Not everyone gets to do what they love for a career, but if you play your cards right, you have the chance to live the entrepreneurial dream. There will be days you want to quit and situations that seem impossible to navigate, but by remaining positive you will be able to channel your inner strength needed to reach the finish line.
Never underestimate the benefit of a good night sleep. Tasks and goals are easier to accomplish when you are well rested and ready to take on the day. Starting each day recharged and rested will ensure that you are able to reach peak productivity and make decisions with a clear mind.
Ready to develop your product idea? We are here to help! Send us an email at email@example.com
Building a startup from the ground up is hard work—it takes total commitment, sheer determination and a great deal of research. To help you on the last aspect, we have gathered a few of our most popular blog posts related to starting, managing and running a hardware startup for your reference.
For first time entrepreneurs, the product development journey may seem challenging and fraught with obstacles. With so much information available it can be confusing as to what needs to be done first and who you can turn to. In this post we discuss the first five steps of product development to help you dig in and get to work.
Yes, hardware startups fail and no, that doesn’t mean that yours will. By making yourself aware of the common reasons hardware startups fail, you are preparing yourself, your team and your startup to avoid these roadblocks. The adage may say that “hardware is hard”, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible—we would even dare say that launching a hardware product has never been easier than it is today.
Newcomers to an industry have fresh ideas, new perspectives and innovative ideas. These newcomers are not weighed down by industry norms and the mentality of “it’s always been done this way”. These fresh faces often see opportunities that industry veterans miss.
One thing we have learned over the years is that, no matter the industry, first-time entrepreneurs have some of the same questions and concerns when they first get started. In this post we discuss three frequently asked questions related to product development.
First-time entrepreneurs, and even seasoned entrepreneurs, have questions when it comes to protecting their intellectual property (IP) and moving forward with manufacturing. No two products are alike; therefore, a custom-tailored strategy is necessary when it comes to navigating these two areas of product development.
It doesn’t matter what industry you are going into or if you are a first-time entrepreneur or serial entrepreneur, you are bound to encounter one or more of these challenges along the way. By understanding what lays ahead as you start your product development journey, you will be better equipped to successfully navigate it.
Hardware startups have many moving parts and are exponentially harder to launch than a typical software startup. Between product prototyping, testing, material selection, manufacturing and quality control (just to name a few), many days it seems like there just isn’t enough time to get it all figured out. There is a lot of time and energy that goes into launching a product before it hits store shelves.
These articles will help you get started and answer many of your preliminary questions as you begin your startup journey. You can also find additional information related to starting a business over on our blog. As always, if you have a specific question and want to chat with an expert, we are happy to help! Send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, we look forward to talking with you.