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Failure 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Are you ready to launch a startup in 2018? As the year begins to wind down, many people use this time to assess current goals and make new goals for the year ahead. A new year is often looked at as a fresh start or a new beginning—a time to make a change and forge a new path.
If you are considering developing a product or launching a hardware startup in the new year, we have a few pieces of advice to help you gear up for this adventure and to get you started in the right direction.
Grab a computer and start typing. Write everything down that has to do with your product idea. What it looks like, how it will function, its size, who will use it—all of this needs to be down on paper so that you can review every detail about the innovative idea swirling around in your head.
We suggest that you draft a business plan, however don’t get bogged down by it. Business plans can be high level, and just a couple of pages at this point. A business plan is a great way to take all of the details you have written down, and organize them. A simple internet search for a business plan template can help get you started. With your ideas organized and in one place, you can then begin the process of listing “action items” and getting to work on them.
In the very early stages, a homemade prototype may suffice. Depending on your product idea, you might be able to find the items you need to build a rough version at your local home improvement store. As you build upon your idea and start to assess your target market, you will need to work on a functional prototype.
A functional prototype will allow you to refine your design, gather market feedback, rally financial support (if you are looking for VC or crowdfunding investments) and file a patent.
Many people envision entrepreneurs as “lone wolves”, however this could not be further from the truth. No one person has the skill sets necessary to build a startup completely alone from start to finish—the key is to find quality partners. You might decide to bring partners on full-time or to consult with outside agencies (product development, intellectual property, legal matters, to name a few).
Often, entrepreneurs think that they need to have a firm idea in place before setting up a time to meet with a product development firm, this is not the case. Many times, a product development firm will be able to help you refine your idea and provide suggestions on maximizing the design. A product development firm has extensive experience in both design and manufacturing, so meeting them early-on is advantageous.
The new year is a time to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. If you still find yourself on the fence about developing that product idea, ask yourself this one simple question, Why not?
Have additional product development questions? Please e-mail them to us at email@example.com
A provisional patent application early-on can be very beneficial for a hardware startup if your business goal is to either license your invention or proceed with a patent filing. Before we delve into the benefits of filing a provisional application let’s first define what a “Provisional Patent Application” is—According to the USPTO it is, “A provisional application provides the means to establish an early effective filing date in a later filed nonprovisional patent application filed under 35 U.S.C. §111(a). 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.” Once you file a provisional application the countdown clock starts ticking and your next move must be decided within the 12 month period.
As with any patent application, your application needs to be as complete as possible to be truly beneficial—this means that you must describe and document all variations, alternatives and permutations to your invention in detail. The best way of obtaining this critical information is by turning your idea into a functional prototype. A prototype will allow you to hold the invention in your hands, and make any necessary modifications to your final design. 3D CAD renderings and simulations will also help define the limits of your invention.
Below we discuss the two main benefits of a provisional patent application for your hardware startup:
In the early-stage of product development inventors understand the importance of confidentiality and protecting their idea. While a confidentiality agreement will suffice when talking about your idea with engineering firms and licensing firms, investors can be slightly weary of signing one—and this can make things very difficult if you are seeking outside funding.
“Investors get proposals from many people and if they sign a confidentiality agreement with you, and another who has a similar idea, that could lead to liability on their part where there was no liability present absent them signing an agreement. (IP Watchdog)” Thus, if you want to show someone your invention without any legal protection, the pros and cons must be heavily weighed. If you have a provisional patent application pending though, you have defined your invention and it has a legal filing date, which makes discussing the invention with outside parties much less risky.
“Patent Pending” is a term that is not only legally beneficial, but it gives your invention and your startup credibility. You are creating “perceived ownership” while defining the details of your idea. An idea that has been turned into a tangible invention (i.e. with a functional prototype) is more valuable when discussing potential licensing agreements and funding with outside investors.
The earlier you file a provisional patent application, the quicker you limit your exposure and prevent others from cutting off your rights (i.e. by filing for a similar invention before you do). The “Patent Pending” term shows that you have established priority for the idea/invention.
Developing a product should be viewed as a marathon and not a sprint. Taking your time early in the product development process to protect your invention will be immensely beneficial for your hardware startup later on.
We are delving into the archive and sharing our top four blog posts pertaining to developing, launching, and scaling a hardware startup. These articles touch on everything from the complexities of launching a hardware product to the scaling of your startup. Enjoy!
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, here we discuss 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.
Building 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.
Early-stage hardware startups are faced with complex challenges, a flurry of information and questions, many questions. To sum it up, hardware is messy. However, with technological advances and a shift in barriers to entry, hardware has never been easier than it is today.
Technology is enhancing the ability for fast experimentation, prototype development and manufacturing. Years ago these steps in themselves took months, today 3D printing along with a plethora of other advancements means that you can test designs and prototype in days or weeks. So what exactly makes hardware complex?
A 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.
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.
Do you have questions pertaining to your hardware product idea? We would love to help, send them our way at firstname.lastname@example.org
The startup community is flowing with fantastic ideas, but if you want investors to take your pitch serious then you need a prototype. Investors have figured out that asking for a functional prototype is one way to separate the ‘wannabe’ entrepreneurs from serious players. As the old adage goes, “talk is cheap”. Entrepreneurs who are prepared to show a prototype to investors, whether angel investors or a crowdfunding community, demonstrate that they know how to execute.
Having a prototype shows that you have already tested the idea, worked out the design challenges and researched manufacturing partners. Completing all of this before seeking funding brings a new level of credibility to you and your startup.
If you find yourself sitting on the fence as to whether or not you should go ahead and develop that prototype, here are a few points to consider…
The benefits and advantages of a physical prototype should not be underestimated. Building a prototype will help you validate your product early-on and gain credibility.
Do you have additional questions about the prototyping process? Please feel free to contact us at email@example.com
Starting a business is hard. Beyond the long hours and sacrifices, many entrepreneurs have to overcome the nagging feeling of self-doubt. You question everything… Is this startup worth it? Will it be successful? Should I have a backup plan? What am I doing? It is particularly hard when you are in the very early stages and share your great product idea with a trusted friend, and instead of words of encouragement, they say “Get real”. Those two little words sting, and they open the flood gates of self-doubt. However, there are ways to overcome self-doubt and the naysayers.
Life is a journey full of twists and turns. Don’t be afraid to get out there and make your business idea a reality.
3D Innovations is a full service Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” – Lee Iacocca
If you have recently been hit with an idea that you feel has commercial value and you want to take this idea one step further and build a business around it you might be asking yourself this crucial question…”Do I need a prototype?” Although you are not required to have a prototype to file a patent application, having a prototype simplifies this process and makes the process of going from an idea to a tangible business much easier.
What is a prototype? A prototype is a depiction, example or even a finished and functioning product. You need one if you intend to test your idea, to improve your product and its component parts and ultimately to show or demonstrate it to investors, manufacturers or buyers for example.
Why should I prototype my idea? Prototyping gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your idea to potential buyers, get feedback from test groups and refine your product design. A prototype is almost seen as a necessity these days when you are trying to obtain funding from investors. A tangible object that investors can see function provides a better understanding of the product and its value.
It is also important to note that prototyping lets you finalize the best design possible before sending your product off to be manufactured. You will undoubtedly find flaws in your initial design and having a prototype lets you work out all of these kinks beforehand.
How much does a prototype cost? The answer to this question depends on a number of different factors, such as: size, components and complexity. To get a better idea of what your specific idea would cost to prototype we suggest that you find a firm that you are comfortable with, potentially has experience in the industry you would be going into and really understands your vision for the product to get a quote.
*If you would like to chat with us further about prototyping, the product development process or obtain a prototyping quote from us please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional information about prototyping can be found in the links below:
3D Innovations is a full service 3D Engineering/Design company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.