Posts Tagged "hardware startup"

Marketing Your Hardware Product

startups, hawaii, honolulu, hardware, 3D InnovationsIdeally, 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.

Receive Customer Feedback

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.

Build a Community

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.

Create a Buzz

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 info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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What to Expect from Your First Product Development Meeting

product development, hardware startupsComing 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.

Get to Know You

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.

Discuss Your Product Idea

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.

Talk About the Product Development Timeline

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.

 Discuss Your Intellectual Property Strategy

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 info@3d-innovations.com

Additional Information about Product Development

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Building a Hardware Startup Isn’t a ‘One-Size-Fits-All’ Process

startups, hawaii, honolulu, hardware, 3D InnovationsIt 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.

Importance of Customer Feedback

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.

Long Lead Times

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.

Understanding the Product Space

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 info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Product Design: Need v. Want in a Design

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.

Product Design Hierarchy of Needs

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)

product develeopment, hardware, startups, design

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.

Adding Value Through Product Design

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.

References

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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The Secret to Hardware Startup Success (Isn’t Such a Secret)

hardware startup, product designWe 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.

Do you personally experience this issue?

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.

Can you act quickly?

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 right skills to succeed?

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 info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Staying Motivated As A Hardware Entrepreneur

hardware, entrepreneur, startups, product developmentTaking 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.

Make A Plan

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.

Write Down Your Startup Goals

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.

Talk With Your Mentor

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.

Stay Positive

“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.

Set Aside Time to Rest & Relax

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 info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Tips To Help You Launch Your Hardware Startup Faster

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.

I Have A Product Idea—Now What?

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.

How to Avoid Common Hardware Startup Failure Traps

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.

Hardware Startup: Seeing Opportunities That Others Have Missed

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.

FAQ: The Basics of Product Development

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.

FAQ: The Basics of Intellectual Property and Manufacturing

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.

Early Product Design Challenges Facing Hardware Startups

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.

Three Things Successful Hardware Startup Founders Understand

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 info@3d-innovations.com, we look forward to talking with you.

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Three Things Successful Hardware Startup Founders Understand

hardware startupHardware 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.

Below are three things all successful hardware startup founders learned:

Build an Exceptional Product

Hardware startups are built on a product vision. Create a product that not only meets customer expectations, but instead exceeds all expectations.

Far too often, we see companies that over promise and under deliver—leaving a wake of frustrated customers behind them. This is a sure-fire way to fail. If you are promising your customers a certain type of product, that should be what you deliver to them.

Focus on Customers

You cannot overemphasize that customers are key.

  • Do you want people to buy your product? Yes.
  • Do you want to build a strong brand? Yes.
  • Do you want to stay in business? Yes.

…Then focus on the needs of your target market. Take care of your customers.

In today’s social media focused world, a hardware startup can find themselves at the center of a major customer backlash with one misstep. People like to share their experiences with companies (both the good and bad)—bad policies, practices and products can be broadcast around the world in seconds. Avoid this headache by listening to your customers, understanding their needs and acknowledging their product improvement suggestions.

Stay In Your Lane

Entrepreneurs must wear many hats in the early days for budgeting purposes—bootstrapping is often seen as a rite of passage for hardware startup founders. The problem occurs when founders try to take on too many tasks they are unqualified for. If you have excellent sales skills, then focus your energy on that area and leave the product design aspect to your engineer. Building a skilled team around your strengths and weaknesses is the essence of true leadership.

“Great leadership entrusts and believes in a collective, skilled team to produce a better product. Poor leaders succumb to ego and attempt to run all facets of the development and release of a product. The results are typically lackluster and not optimal.” (Startup Nation)

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Intellectual Property Strategies for Hardware Startups

intellectual propertyIntellectual property (IP) protection is an important consideration for any startup, and possibly even more so for hardware startups. Technology and globalization have made it even easier for companies to copy a product or steal an idea altogether.

Patents are a way to not only protect an idea, but to also minimize competition and act as a defense mechanism against infringement claims from others. Having a strong intellectual property strategy or having the patent process started, is a great way to attract or solidify partnerships and funding.

Below are four considerations for your startup’s intellectual property strategy.

File Early-On

Patent rules are strict and adhere to a tight timeline, so it is best to file for patent protection early-on in the development cycle. A provisional patent application is a good “first step” for hardware startups. A provisional application provides the means to establish an early effective filing date in a later filed nonprovisional patent application. It also allows the term “Patent Pending” to be applied in connection with the description of the invention.

It is important to note that a “provisional application for patent has a pendency lasting 12 months from the date the provisional application is filed. The 12-month pendency period cannot be extended. Therefore, an applicant who files a provisional application must file a corresponding nonprovisional application for patent (nonprovisional application) during the 12-month pendency period of the provisional application in order to benefit from the earlier filing of the provisional application (United States Patent and Trademark Office -USPTO).” Once you file a provisional application the countdown clock starts ticking and your next move must be decided within the 12-month period.

In this early period, it is also best to keep quiet about your invention. You want to avoid publicizing your invention. This does not mean that you cannot meet with potential partners or product development firms, but instead that you don’t want to share your idea online or start a crowdfunding campaign just yet.

File as the Invention Evolves

Many times the invention that you first envisioned, completely transforms during the product development process. This means that your initial patent or patent application may not cover new features that have been added on. This will leave your final product under-protected or not protected at all.

If the product is evolving quickly, consider filing a provisional patent application or a series of provisional patent applications within a year before filing a utility patent application.

Consider a Design Patent

While utility patents make up 90% of patents issued, design patents have been steadily on the rise because inventors are realizing that the exterior design and overall aesthetics of the invention can easily be replicated as well. Protecting both the design and functionality of an invention is necessary for long-term success.

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), “design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture”. In short, this means that design patents cover exactly what is shown in the drawings, nothing more.

Like a utility patent, a design patent also lets you use the phrases patent pending and patent issued on all business-related material. Once you have been granted a design patent, you are then able to secure rights for the next fourteen years. Another important thing to keep in mind is that design patents are relatively cheap to file and maintain, as compared to a utility patent.

A design patent, coupled with a utility patent, offers a range of IP protection on both the inner workings and exterior design of your product.

Consider Other Brand Protections

Patent protection is only one part of your IP strategy. A registered trademark will help protect your brand as well. A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from another—think along the lines of logo and tagline. A recognizable trademark can be extremely valuable for distinguishing your business from the competition.

Depending on the exact nature of your startup, a licensing agreement, copyright and/or trade secret protection could also be considered during your intellectual property planning and overall strategy. Speaking to a Patent Attorney early-on will let you discuss your options, weigh the benefits and build a custom strategy for your startup.

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Four Common Startup Roadblocks to Success

hardware startupFailure is hard and certainly no one goes into building a startup thinking that they are going to fail—however, it happens. While failing is in no way enjoyable, that doesn’t mean that it does not have its benefits—in terms of learning what not to do. We can all learn from failure, we can even learn from other startup’s failures. Below are four areas where hardware startups have faltered. Making yourself aware of the challenges associated with each of these areas, you are more likely to make educated decisions that (hopefully) allow you to avoid failure altogether.

Wrong Design

Entrepreneurs are designers at heart—they want to design a product, methodology or experience for their target market. They have a brilliant idea and want to introduce it into the marketplace. Design failure can arise rather quickly if the startup founder is not willing to modify their original design idea to meet the needs of customers or manufacturing.

If your customers are asking for your product to function a certain way, feel a particular way or look a specific way, you are going to want to modify your design. At the end of the day, you want people to both purchase and enjoy your product.

When you are working towards commercialization of a product, the goal is to be efficient, minimize costs and get your product onto store shelves quickly—DFM (Design for Manufacturability) works to do just this. With DFM you work out any potential issues before manufacturing planning which saves both time and resources. If you fail to design your product with manufacturing in mind, you are making your startup extremely vulnerable to hefty manufacturing costs and even the potential that it is not able to be manufactured at all.

Reluctance to Get Prototype Feedback

Plenty of hardware startup founders refuse to let anyone see their product until it’s time to launch. Many are afraid that someone will steal their idea, that potential customers won’t like it until it’s perfect, or they want to get a big head start against the competition. Whatever the reason, failure to get feedback is often fatal for a startup.

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.

Product/Market Fit

It doesn’t help your startup if you have a beautiful product that works flawlessly if the market for it just isn’t there. For example, if you are positioning an electronic gadget for the 65+ year old crowd you are going to have a hard sell if they are not well versed in the latest technology trends, or if you are targeting the 18-25 year old crowd with a gadget that is overly cumbersome you are going to face an uphill battle. The solution to this is to find out what appeals to the target market you are aiming to capture and design/modify your product to grab and hold their attention.

Funding

This list would not be complete without the mention of funding. Funding is the primary stumbling block for a majority of startups. Developing, manufacturing and launching a product takes time and money. Whether you are turning to crowdfunding or looking for investors, you are bound to face a hurdle or two.

If your goal is to raise capital from investors, be prepared for rejection (a number of times) before you succeed. The process almost always takes longer than you think it will, so start early in your quest to find an investor.

If crowdfunding is your plan, be sure that you show up with a nearly flawless campaign. Your video, content and prototype need to be ready to go. Your goal is to show potential investors that you have a plan laid out, it is well researched and that you are ready.

Starting a hardware company comes with a unique set of challenges. If you can navigate these four common roadblocks, you will be in a much better position for a successful product launch.

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