Posts Tagged "small business"

Hardware Startups: Crowdfunding — The Power of ‘The Crowd’

As the popularity of crowdfunding has grown, hardware startup entrepreneurs in particular have found success tapping into ‘the crowd’ and moving their products from concept to shelves. A successful crowdfunding campaign begins with one key component: planning. Start planning and preparing for your campaign months in advance so that when it is time to go live, you have a well-polished campaign that highlights your brilliant product.

If you are ready to tap into the power of ‘the crowd’ below are four essential items that can’t be overlooked:

student_trainingA Working Prototype

A functional prototype is necessary when you are trying to get people excited about a new product. While people can indeed envision a product from a great description, there is no substitute for the actual thing. This prototype not only shows potential investors what your product can do, it is also necessary for the marketing material on your crowdfunding page.

An Exciting Video

Our second point correlates directly with the previous one, you can’t have an exciting video unless you have a functional prototype. The video portion of your page is where you let your product shine. The more descriptive and creative your video is, the more people are going to get truly excited to contribute to your campaign.

Early Customer Connections

Don’t wait for your crowdfunding page to go live before you start connecting with your customer base—this is too late. Connect early-on with potential customers to help build anticipation for your product and campaign. This is the time where you tap into your connections to form key partnerships. Do you know any industry influencers? If so, connect with them and work on forming a partnership in which they will be willing to help share your campaign with their connections. Remember, crowdfunding is all about tapping into ‘the crowd’, so the more people that see your campaign the better your chances are for success.

Content Creation

Let your creativity run wild! This includes all videos, photos and text; make your content unique and memorable. Also don’t forget to include the “ask” in your pitch. This piece is often overlooked so the message gets lost. A clear and concise “ask”, coupled with a creative campaign means that you are on your way to crowdfunding success.

Setting up your crowdfunding campaign will take planning and hard work, but remember that it is also supposed to be fun. Show potential backers the fun side of your product and your team.

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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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Hardware Startups: Increase Chance for Success by Reducing Risk

November 29, 2016

Building a hardware startup is not for the faint of heart. In an ideal world, we would be able to eliminate all risk and guarantee ourselves success—since that isn’t possible, the next best thing is to find ways to reduce risk as you develop and bring your product to market. By reducing risk in a number of areas you are increasing your chances for success. Below are a few ideas on how to reduce risk for your hardware startup.

3D CAD drawingBuild Prototypes

Developing and building a prototype proves that you can construct and deliver a finished product with the capabilities you want in your product, while staying on budget. A prototype is a baseline for your team and lets you work out any issues early in the design process. During prototype development you will also be able to assess if there are alternate and more efficient ways of building your product—thus, saving both time and money.

Along with prototype development, you want to start the DFM (design for manufacturability) process immediately. This means that you are developing your product to best fit manufacturers’ capabilities and requirements. It can be a costly mistake to build a product with the mindset that a manufacturer will just be able to deliver what you provide them—this is almost never the case. To avoid the (costly) risk of having to redesign your product, start the DFM process congruently with prototype development.

Gather Design Feedback

While you will have an engineering partner working on the development of your hardware product, it is always a good idea to get another set of eyes to review the design. Large corporations have multiple engineers review products to verify the design and provide valuable feedback, before manufacturing begins. A hardware startup doesn’t have the budget of a large corporation, but it can emulate this valuable business practice to reduce risk.

Connect with the Audience

Start building your audience and defining your target market early in the product development cycle. Your target market will be able to provide you with design feedback from a customer point-of-view and also help build interest in your brand. If you wait to connect with your audience until after you launch, you have done your startup a disservice by not building excitement early on and gaining market traction. When you build a rapport with your target market before your product launch, you will have customers ready to buy your product as soon as it’s available.

Building a hardware startup can be challenging; however, with some foresight you can greatly minimize risk while increasing your chance for success.

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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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We’re Thankful For You

November 21, 2016

thankyouThanksgiving is a time to reflect and celebrate—and to honor the holiday, we would like to give a warm thank you to all of our wonderful clients. Without our clients, 3D Innovations would not be where it is today, so thank you. We greatly appreciate your support and all of the feedback and suggestions we have received over the years. As our business has grown and expanded, we know that it would not be possible without you. We want to wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving and a blessed holiday season.

Hau’oli La Ho’omaika’i (Happy Thanksgiving!)

The 3D Innovations Team

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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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Hardware Startups: Overcoming Failure to Find Success

November 17, 2016

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley

hardware startupsBuilding a hardware startup is hard work, and the road to success is often dotted with moments of failure, however these moments of adversity make you stronger as an entrepreneur. We tend to perceive failure as more public than success, and try our best to avoid it so as not to be embarrassed. The simple truth is—no great success was ever achieved without failure. So in order to succeed in the world of hardware startups, you must first understand that failure is just a stepping stone to greatness. Below are three common failures experienced by hardware startups, and ideas on how to overcome these obstacles.

Unachieved Funding Goal

The fact is that hardware startups are costly. Between product development and manufacturing, costs can add up quickly. While some entrepreneurs are able to bootstrap and fund the business themselves, more often than not, hardware entrepreneurs need to seek outside funding to help launch their product. If you are having trouble with funding, here are a few points to consider:

  • Setup a crowdfunding campaign. Not all crowdfunding sites are equal. There are lots of crowdfunding websites out there, and you need to do your research to find which one aligns best with your product and brand. (Here is a Forbes article that outlines the top 10 business crowdfunding websites.) When it comes time to setup your campaign, take the time to plan it out, build your “story” and develop a quality video to help market yourself to potential backers. The more creative and organized your crowdfunding campaign is, the more likely you are to raise funds.
  • Connect with Venture Capitalists. VCs can be intimidating. Many entrepreneurs are less willing to approach VCs because of certain preconceived notions—such as, they are too busy, will ask for too much business equity, or hard to do business with. While these might ring true for some VCs, it most certainly is not true for all Reach out to your business network and try connecting with VCs that have experience in your industry.
  • Talk with industry experts. Meet with and interview experts in the industry your hardware startup is trying to break-in to. These experts have vast experience and might be able to point you towards funding opportunities.
  • Reach out to family, friends and business associates. These people have a vested interest in you and want to see you succeed; therefore, they can make excellent investors. Be sure to approach family, friends and associates in a professional business manner and treat meetings with them like you would any other investor. You want them to know that you are serious about your startup and are ready to put in the time and effort to find success.
Target Market Lacks Interest

The main reason your target market will lack interest is because the product is not meeting their needs. You need to first define what the target market wants out of your product and then structure the foundation of your product around these desires. If you begin to build your audience while your product is still being developed, you will have people ready and eager to buy your product when it is available for sale.

  • Market Research. Early in the product design process, reach out to your target market to solicit feedback. These are the people that you want to buy your product, so you need to be sure that you are meeting their needs. Use surveys, questionnaires and focus groups throughout the product development process to gauge customer interest.
  • Build a Functional Prototype. Take your market research one step further and create a functional prototype, or multiple if it can easily be done, to let potential customers test out your product. Allowing them to test your product for a period of time will let them really get a feel for your invention and the feedback you receive will be more specific and in-depth.
High Manufacturing Costs

As a hardware startup, manufacturing is going to be your single biggest expense. Keeping costs low while your product is new to the market will help you reduce your risks and stay out of the red.

  • Ramp up manufacturing volume slowly. Start off manufacturing your product locally and in small batches. Generally, working with a local manufacturer will result in a higher quality product because you are able to closely monitor the manufacturing process. While sending your product overseas to be manufactured from the offset can be tempting, there are inherent risks and the worst case scenario is that you rush into manufacturing a large order and are then stuck with inventory that you simply can’t sell.
  • Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. When you are researching manufacturing partners keep in mind that many things are negotiable. Yes, there will be unavoidable fixed costs, however there are also negotiable items and many manufacturers are willing to match or beat quotes from a competitor.
  • Have the Deposit Available. Money talks. At the end of the day, the manufacturer wants to get paid. If you have the deposit readily available, you find yourself in a strong negotiating position.

Failure is not permanent and it does not have to be the end. While no one enjoys failing, it is a chance to learn, grow and refocus your energy.

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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 Top 3 Challenges Between Launching & Scaling Your Hardware Startup

October 11, 2016
3D Innovations

Each stage of launching a hardware startup comes with its own set of challenges. While the challenges are unique for each business and each industry, below are the top three universal challenges we have seen arise time and again.

As you read through the two lists, you will notice a theme developing between the stages. During the launch phase, the challenges tend to focus on the startup founder and business acumen. As the hardware startup scales though, the challenges tend to focus more on the manufacturing side of the business. This is why the importance of finding the right manufacturing partner for your startup from the get-go cannot be stressed enough.

Challenges when launching a hardware startup:
  1. Funding. Whether you plan to bootstrap or seek outside assistance, funding is typically the main hurdle. Unlike software development, hardware development requires a large amount of capital for prototyping, testing, packaging, and tooling/mold for production manufacturing. The initial round of funding will usually suffice through the development and prototyping stages, but will likely require additional funding once the product is ready for production and distribution.
  2. Lack of Knowledge. Most startups do not have the internal resources and knowledge to plan and thoroughly develop each product development stage. This lack of resources means that necessary design, prototyping, testing, certification, and manufacturing requirements can get overlooked. Main challenges with the manufacturing process include, vendor management and supply chain resources. Both of which are critical to developing a successful startup. In order to combat these challenges, connecting with outside product development firms/resources and experts will not only help accelerate product development but also ensure that these challenges will be manageable and not the downfall of your startup.
  3. Identifying Opportunities. Identifying market opportunities and developing go-to market strategies is another common pitfall. While hardware startup founders are intensely focused on product development, creating a sound business strategy can fall to the wayside. Connecting with distributors and existing sales channels early in the product development process should be happening while the product is still in development. Building these partnerships takes time and the earlier you start, the better.
Challenges when scaling a hardware startup:
  1. Manufacturing & Inventory Management. Scaling up manufacturing requires a larger influx of capital as compared to the launching stage. However, this is a good problem to have since it means that the market has received your product well and demand is abundant. It will also mean that some level of product inventory is required, so having additional space and location for the product is not only necessary, but a vital part of your logistics plan.
  2. Manufacturers Capabilities. Depending on your manufacturer’s capabilities, this can make or break scaling opportunities. Manufacturers may not have enough resources, machinery, and capabilities to meet your product’s demand.  If a manufacturer is not setup for high volume production, then the output required will not be able to keep up with the required amount needed to fulfill orders.  Several well-known and successfully funded Kickstarter campaigns have run into this problem, causing headaches for the company and frustrated customers waiting for their products to be packaged and shipped.
  3. Meeting Demand. Meeting the demand of the market will be dependent upon the manufacturing capabilities. You need a manufacturing partner that will be able to deliver enough of your product on-time and on-budget. If your manufacturing partner cannot keep up with customer demands, your startup, brand and product will suffer —and this could spell doom for your business.

By now we have all heard the saying, “hardware is hard” — however, with proper planning and experts by your side, launching your hardware startup doesn’t have to be impossible.

Have questions about launching or scaling your startup? Send them our way, info@3d-innovations.

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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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Hardware Startups: The Challenges of Scaling Up

September 28, 2016
3D Innovations
IP Licensing

Most entrepreneurs start out hitting the ground running and want to take their idea, build upon it, and scale it quickly; however, scaling hardware startups come with unique sets of challenges to consider. Growing any business has inherent obstacles and the basics must be considered, such as: funding, talent and competition—hardware startups also need to take into account additional vital aspects, such as: sourcing, manufacturing and intellectual property. Scaling is a tricky task—scale too quickly and you can get in over your head, scale too slowly and you risk losing momentum and opportunities.  Below are some common pitfalls to avoid when scaling your hardware startup.

Losing touch with your customer.

When you are growing a company it is imperative that you keep your current customers happy. These are the customers that have made it possible for you to scale your business in the first place and you don’t want to let them down with poor customer service now. It is also extremely easy to start to get “sloppy” as you introduce new product versions or product lines, and these errors will whittle away at your customer retention. The core elements of a successful business are customers and products, so even in times of growth, both should be at the front of your mind.

Manufacturer sourcing.

Manufacturing can be the Achilles heel for hardware startups. One misstep in the vetting process or in contract development with a manufacturer and your business can sink. If you don’t have experience going through the contract manufacturing sourcing process, it is critical to find advisors or consultants that have. You are going to want to embrace competition and have multiple manufacturers bidding on your project. Your meetings with manufacturers are as much about pitching to them to get them excited about your project, as it is about doing your due diligence on their facilities and experience.

Streamlining a strategy.

At the beginning, your hardware startup will have one goal in mind: To successfully develop a product and get it onto store shelves. All team members will work towards this single goal on a daily basis. As you begin scale, your strategy and goals will transform, change and multiply. The fluidity of your new goals can make it hard for founders to take their mindset from that of laser-focused product development to business high-level. As your list of goals begins to grow, your strategy will shift to taking the top three or four-high level goals and focus teams accordingly.

Scaling a business is rewarding. Taking the time now to plan and prepare for sustainable growth will serve your startup well.

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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: GoPro Mount Accessory [Case Study]

3D INNOVATIONS CASE STUDY

The challenge: Develop a hands-free GoPro mount accessory.

Our 3D Innovations team worked closely with a group of young entrepreneurs during Startup Weekend Honolulu 2015 in the product design and development of a hands-free GoPro mount accessory. With only 54 hours to develop and prototype the idea, time was of the essence.

go pro accessoryThe initial concept was to develop a clip that would attach a Go Pro camera to the front of your hat for hands free video action shots. Using our 3D Design process, we were able to take the initial idea and develop a functional design. Numerous factors needed to be accounted for throughout the product design phasesize, weight and materials. 3D Printing technology was utilized to accommodate the rapid product development cycle. Several versions of the prototype were produced in a short period of time, which allowed the team to test and conduct customer validation studies.

With the final design, this accessory can now replace over a dozen mounts for GoPros, iPhones, audio recorders and lights. The easy to use and compact hands-free mount design makes it easy to take along on your next adventure.

Using our 3D Design and 3D Printing process, we were able to save over $4,000 in prototyping costs while reducing the development time from weeks or months to just days. The utilization of 3D printing technology led to significant cost savings, which allowed the team to develop several versions that were validated through the customer discovery process and led to the final production-ready design.

Results: Designed and developed a functional prototype in 54 hours.

“Working with 3D Innovations allowed us to turn our concept into a prototype and help win the 2015 Startup Weekend Honolulu event. With the assistance from 3D Innovations, we have a concept that can be brought to life through crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter. This will help us raise the necessary funds to mass produce this product.”

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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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Five Questions to Ask a Potential Product Development Partner

September 12, 2016
3D Innovations

product developmentFinding the right product development partner to assist you as you take an idea from concept to product is a major undertaking—and can often be the difference between success and failure.  Product development is a collaborative endeavor, and you want to have a team that is able to clearly communicate, develop and deliver your product on time and on budget.

Here are the five key questions that you need to ask while searching for the right product development company.

How will we define clear requirements?

It’s crucial to be able to clearly define the goals of the engagement early-on. Many times entrepreneurs will need to set these goals before talking with product development firms, so that they are in a better position when asking for, and comparing, proposals.  Depending on the scope of the project, a firm might ask the client to engage in a preliminary “discovery” phase to gather all baseline requirements before submitting a formal proposal. This “discovery” phase is most often used when there is extensive research or testing involved.

What is your related expertise?

Are you looking for a partner that has experience in a particular field, a specialty or quick turnaround? Lay out the characteristics of your ideal firm and begin your search with this criteria in mind. Be cognizant of the fact that you may not find a firm that meets all of your criteria perfectly. It is best to approach companies that are suited to projects your size—a firm with 500 employees might not be an ideal match for an entrepreneur with a $30,000 budget.

How well do you adapt to change?

There is no doubt that the product development path is fraught with obstacles and challenges. A firm that is able to be flexible will serve you well. Flexibility is important for a number of reasons—scope-of-work, design and deadline changes occur frequently and you don’t want each change to be a “battle” between you and the firm.

What method do you use for setting deliverables?

A common understanding of deliverables is necessary to demonstrate results. A lack of agreement on deliverable from the onset is a big factor in dissatisfaction from both parties. Without set deliverables, debates about quality and expectations are bound to happen—which leads to frustration and wasted time.

For example: Is a prototype a required deliverable? If so, do you need it to be a proof-of-concept, or a functional model? Going into details such as this will help clarify deliverables for both parties.

What will our acceptance criteria be?

Breaking larger projects into phases is common and payments can be contingent on the phase being “complete”, therefore both parties need a clear understanding of what “complete” means. This leads back to deliverables—have they been met and are both parties satisfied that they were met in a complete manner? Scheduling final review meetings are an easy way to stay on track with deliverables and to know when each phase has been completed.

The above questions will not only help you find a product development partner, but will set the foundation for a successful, productive and profitable relationship. In the end, you want to get your idea off the drawing board and into the marketplace on time and on budget.

*If you are searching for a product development partner for your next project, contact us 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.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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The Benefits of a Functional Prototype

September 6, 2016
3D Innovations

Rushing through the product development phase can be tempting because all hardware startups want to launch as soon as possible, however one step you can’t afford to skip is that of building a functional prototype. Building a prototype does take time, but in the end, the amount of time and money it will save you makes up for the extra couple weeks. If you find yourself on the fence about creating a prototype, here are a few facts to consider.

Why prototype my idea?

industrial_design-handleRefine your design. While a product idea might look great on paper or when speaking about it, the actual design might need to be reworked. Your design needs to be functional and manufacturable, and a prototype can make sure that both of these requirements are met. There is no better time to work out the “bugs” than at this stage, when changes are still inexpensive and easily made.

Gather market feedback. Get your functional prototype into the hands of your target market. Asking customers to imagine a product can be quite a challenge and the feedback you receive will not be all that beneficial. On the other hand, presenting this group with a prototype lets them touch your idea and get a real feel for the product and its functionality. With accurate market feedback you will be in a better position when it comes to finalizing the design and launching your product.

Rally financial support. Are you planning on reaching out to VCs or crowdfunding your product? If so, a functional prototype is a must. VCs want to see that you can deliver an actual product and are ready to move into manufacturing. Crowdfunding campaigns are much more successful when they can demonstrate functionality with a prototype.

File a patent. Obtaining a patent is a way to secure your intellectual property and in doing so there are many documents that need to be filed. Having a prototype will make technical drawings easier and you will be better able to describe your product in the USPTO application.

While there are many more reasons to build a prototype, these four stand out because of the real financial impact they have on your startup. When it comes time to launch your product, you want to be confident and prepared for what lies ahead.

Ready to take the leap into prototype development? We can help! Contact us at info@3d-innovations.com to get started.

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

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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Hardware Startups: Can I Patent My Invention?

August 29, 2016
3D Innovations

IP_patentA patent for your invention is useful, in that it gives you exclusive rights to the idea/product (for twenty years), allows you to license the invention and provides a strong market position. However, to obtain a patent your invention must meet certain criteria. Here are a few important questions to ask yourself in determining whether your invention is patentable.

  1. Did you invent it? A patent can only be applied for by the actual inventor or co-inventor. If you were not the inventor, but contributed financially, you will not be able to patent the product on your own. If the inventor was employed by another person or company to develop the invention, the patent will still be issued under the inventor’s name. However, ownership of the patent will be with the employer.
  2. Is your invention useful? Under U.S. law the invention must be “useful” to be eligible for protection. To meet this requirement the product must provide some benefit and is capable of use. It is important to note that most inventions meet this criteria.
  3. Is your invention “non-obvious”? If your product is already common knowledge in its field, then it would not meet this requirement. This determination is made by deciding whether the invention sought to be patented would have been obvious “to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which the claimed invention pertains”. Determination of whether a particular change or improvement is “obvious” is one of the most difficult determinations in patent law.
  4. Does it fall under a patentable category? Patents are available for processes, machines, articles of manufacture, and improvements to any of those classes. If your idea is in regards to laws of nature, physical phenomena, abstract ideas or non-useful objects, it will not be eligible for a patent.
  5. Has your invention been disclosed to the public? If so, your invention will not be patentable. This requirement states that your idea must be “new” and not discussed publicly prior to the date of the filing. If you invention has been made available for public use or disclosed in a prior patent application it will not be eligible for a patent.

Have additional questions regarding the patent process? We highly recommend a visit to the USPTO website. We are also able to help answer any questions you may have, please e-mail them 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.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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