Posts Tagged "startups"

Four Must-Haves When Searching for a Product Development Firm

product developmentBuilding a hardware startup from the ground up is hard work—partnering with the right product development firm from the get-go is vital. Today it seems as though there are a plethora of product development firms out there, however not all are created equal. While you are doing your research and interviewing potential product development partners, here are four things to look for, and measure against.

Experience

You are going to want an experienced firm. Whether you need them for a single stage in the product development cycle or for the entirety of it, you need a firm that has in-depth experience. This experience means that they will be able to foresee potential issues and help remedy them before they become major problems for your startup. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to past clients of theirs to ask about their experience with the firm as well.

Industry Knowledge

Are you going into a niche industry? Search out a product development partner with experience in it. Not all firms can be an expert in every industry out there, we advise you to talk to your network and find a firm that has experience in your specific industry. This will not only assist you in the development of your product, but the additional knowledge brought to the table will help get you up to speed on the industry as a whole.

Professional Contacts

Find a product development firm with a large network and extensive “rolodex”. This network includes everything from Intellectual Property Attorneys to Public Relations Experts. Your startup is going to need assistance from a range of professionals as you work to get it off of the ground. Many first-time entrepreneurs quickly realize that they can’t do it all on their own, and need to bring other professionals on-board to keep things moving ahead.

Manufacturing Partnerships

Manufacturing a new hardware project can be a bumpy road. You are going to want, and need, a product development partner that has established relationships with manufacturers. Most product development firms have relationships with both local and international manufacturing companies, and can help you decide what direction will make the most sense for your business. Also, while the product development firm will have manufacturing partners, that doesn’t mean you are required to use them. If you have a manufacturer you feel will be a better fit, make sure your product development firm is willing to work outside their network.

Deciding on a product development firm to partner with is no small task. You are entrusting your idea and invention to another, and you want to be sure that it is going into the right hands. This crucial partnership during the early formative days, weeks, months of your hardware startup can make all the difference.

Have additional product development questions? 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.

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When is the Best Time to Consult a Product Development Firm?

product development firmBuilding a hardware business from the ground up is challenging, however an experienced product development firm on your side can help you navigate the obstacles that arise along the way. A product development firm should be viewed as a long-term partner for your startup, and work with you to not only get your first product off the ground quickly and within budget, but your subsequent ones as well.

Partnering with a product development firm early in the product development cycle can expedite your time-to-market; however, there are at least three other times in which this partnership is invaluable to your startup.

Technical Expertise

Often times startups are in need of a technical expert to get their idea off the ground. Whether you are a software or hardware startup, the right expertise is necessary and often the difference between success and failure.

An expert with experience in the industry you are trying to navigate will be able to provide you with instrumental insight and get your startup headed in the right direction from the start. As Steve Jobs once stated, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” While a technical expert won’t tell you what to do, their insight will help you make better informed decisions.

Manufacturing Phase

Manufacturing a product is an expensive undertaking, and becomes even more expensive with each misstep. You need to be sure that your design meets manufacturing requirements and is cost efficient from the very beginning. When working with a product development firm, you can prepare early for this step with a product design centered around Design for Manufacturability.

Design for Manufacturability (DFM) is the process of being proactive during the product design phase by considering the manufacturing stage of product development at the start of the design cycle. Early consideration of the manufacturing phase shortens product development time, minimizes development costs and ensures a smooth transition into production.

At the heart of Design for Manufacturability is a group of design guidelines structured to help the designer reduce costs and manufacturing difficulty. The following is a brief list of these guidelines:

  • Reduce the number of total parts
  • Use of standard components
  • Design parts to be multi-functional
  • Design for ease of fabrication
  • Minimize assembly directions
  • Maximize compliance
Patent Preparation

The patent process is extremely regimented and your design documentation must adhere to strict guidelines. A product development firm can make certain that you have the necessary line drawings for the patent filing process. Often times product development professionals work directly with patent attorneys to ensure a streamlined and timely filing for your invention.

With the right partnerships in place, your startup can quickly realize its full potential and get your product into the hands of customers.

Have further questions about product development? Send them our way 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: Building Products Customers Can’t Live Without

product designProduct design is about building a great product, but it also about building a product that people will love. Often times startups believe that designing their innovative product is the hardest part when launching the business, but the task of gaining a loyal customer base can often times be just as challenging. If you have found yourself in the predicament of having a great product design, but your customer base is lagging, below are four items to reflect on.

Problem Solver

Is your invention solving a common problem that a segment of the population experiences on a regular basis? People want solutions to everyday annoyances and chances are that if there is a problem you are experiencing frequently, there are others in the same “boat”. If your product is not solving a common problem, you are going to have the added task of explaining to your customers that they are experiencing this “problem” and don’t even realize it.

Price Point

Finding the perfect price is every startups dilemma. If you price it too low, you eat into your profit margin and customers might get the false idea that it is a “cheap” product. However, if you price it too high you risk alienating the customer base you are targeting. Work with focus groups to help determine the right price.

Ease of Use

Is your product easy to use or does a customer need to read instructions beforehand? Customers want products to have a degree of intuition designed into it. If your product is too complicated or made too cumbersome by unnecessary features, you should think about a re-design. “Design works best when it gets out of the user’s way.” –Neil Gajera

Existence

Is your target customer base aware that your product even exists? If you have a great product, but no one is aware that it is on the market, you have a problem. Getting ahead of this potential problem early-on is the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen. Test your product out with focus groups, give working prototypes to people who will share their feedback with you and their experience with others and don’t forget to market your product. You don’t have to have a large marketing budget to make your product known, grassroots marketing can be some of the most effective and cost efficient.

Great product design is the balance of simplicity and functionality.

Need assistance designing a product? We can help! Send our team an e-mail at info@3d-innovations.com so we can get started.

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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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How to Prepare for Your First Patent Attorney Meeting

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.

Below are a few tips on how to prepare for your initial meeting with a patent attorney. Keep in mind that the first meeting can be free—being adequately prepared means that you will be able to glean as much knowledge as possible from this meeting.

Prepare a brief description of your invention.

The key to this description is to be concise. What does your invention do? What are the main functionalities of your invention? This written summary if often called an “invention disclosure statement”, however it doesn’t need to be formal and can be written in any form. Keep it to a page or less in length, and even a paragraph or two will be sufficient.

Write your description so that someone unfamiliar with the product can get an idea of what it does and the technology behind it. Patent attorneys deal with a variety of technology, but don’t always have an extensive technical background, so you want to be able to bring them up to speed quickly on your specific invention.

Bring drawings or a prototype.

Seeing your invention is a quick and efficient way of describing your product to the patent attorney. A prototype allows the patent attorney to assess the product and understand the exact intricacies behind your invention. Depending on the exact nature of your product, a functional prototype might be just what you need for the meeting. However, line drawings or sketches of your product will also work for your initial meeting. These drawings don’t have to be formal, but they should be thorough.

Conduct your own patent search.

This can sound slightly counter-intuitive since you are meeting with a patent attorney, however you should to conduct your own patent search beforehand. Search patent databases such as www.google.com/patents or www.uspto.gov using keywords from your “invention disclosure statement”.

Print the patent search results.

From your patent research, print and bring the patents that are most similar to your idea. You can either print out the patent references or compose a list of them, so that they can be easily retrieved. This will provide a research starting point for the attorney as they conduct a more formal patent search.

We also suggest organizing the above information into a single file folder and include a business card. This way the attorney will have all of your invention information and contact information in one place.

Adequate preparation for this meeting ensures that you will get the most out of your initial meeting and hopefully gain a better understanding as to whether this route makes the most sense for your invention and stage of business.

Have additional questions about patents, prototypes or line drawings? Please send us an e-mail, 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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Three Technologies Transforming the Hardware Startup Landscape

Over the last five years hardware startups have found it easier to find their footing, reach customers and develop a product without “breaking the bank”. The transforming business landscape for hardware startups can be attributed to advances in technology. Where it once took thousands of dollars for a digital design and prototyping alone, today it can be completed at a fraction of the cost. Below are three technologies that have increased in usability and popularity, and in doing so, transformed the way startups are built.

Digital Designs

3D digital designs are allowing startups the freedom of testing and design validation before building a prototype. While designing a product is a trial-and-error process, digital designs allow you to quickly navigate this stage and settle on a final design that meets both your customers’ needs and manufacturing requirements.

Digital designs speed up the product design process, and ensure a smooth transition into the manufacturing phase. With DFM (design for manufacturability) in mind you can design a product that will increase your manufacturing efficiency while saving you both time and money.

Additive Manufacturing

3D printingNo list related to technology would be complete without the mention of 3D printing. This technology is the “golden boy” of engineering and product design at the moment—and rightfully so. This single technology has shifted supply chains, disrupted the traditional manufacturing process and has allowed startups the freedom of iteration at a reasonable cost.

What exactly is 3D printing? It is defined as, “the action or process of making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many thin layers of a material in succession.” As the material selection continues to expand, so does the application use for additive manufacturing. 3D printing at one time was used specifically for prototyping, and while this is still where it is the most popular, it is moving into the manufacturing domain with short-run production.

Crowdfunding

Starting a business once required bootstrapping or venture capital investment; however, crowdfunding has changed all of this. A well designed product, coupled with a carefully curated crowdfunding campaign, can garnish unprecedented funding to launch your business. Kickstarter and Indiegogo have helped launch some of the most innovative startups.

Crowdfunding might not be the right fit for every startup or every product, but if your idea is a nice fit for this type of funding support, you could be looking at significant help in manufacturing and commercializing your product idea.

The cost prohibitive nature of starting a business has been on the decline and now more than ever, people with an innovative idea can make their product dream a reality.

“When you find an idea that you just can’t stop thinking about, that’s probably a good one to pursue.” — Josh James, Omniture CEO and co-founder

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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 Complex Relationship of Innovation and Commercialization

Innovation and commercialization are similar yet vastly different.  You can have an abundance of ideas, but having the structured process in place to bring them to fruition is key. The path to commercialization is littered with potholes and roadblocks, but you don’t have to navigate them alone.

Often the process of moving a product idea out of the “idea” stage is challenging, so many inventors tend to discard the idea and move on. However, with the right resources and structure in place, you can get your idea off the ground and headed towards commercialization.

“It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.” – Scott Belsky, co-founder of Behance.

Below are a few items to consider when developing the support structure for your business.
  1. Community Resources. Look around at your local community and see what resources are in place to help you develop your business idea. Depending on your idea you might be searching for a tech incubator, a business accelerator, mentoring, training programs or networking events. While many inventors dream of building a business in Silicon Valley, the truth is that your local community might be the best place for you to start.
  2. Service Providers. In line with community resources, your local tech incubator or accelerator will be able to put you in touch with professionals in your community. For example, product development experts, programmers, lawyers, CPAs etc. Incubators and accelerators will have knowledge and experience working with these service providers, and be able to guide you toward the ones that meet your specific business needs.
  3. Funding. Most startups need funding at one point. This assistance might come in the form of grants, venture capitalists, tax breaks or R&D funding. Research what type of funding makes the most sense for your business and your goals.
  4. Intellectual Property. Patent research should not be overlooked at the very early stages of forming your business. Before you get going and commit yourself to developing a product, you want to be sure that someone else does not hold the rights to it. (Take a look at how Herbavore, a startup client of ours, approached the entire patent process.)

Often times inventors and entrepreneurs are viewed as people who lock themselves away to develop an idea, but the truth of the matter is, it takes help from a wide range of people to get an idea on the road to commercialization. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. If you need a certain skill set that you don’t possess, find someone who does—asking for help might just be the thing that sets your idea on the path to 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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What a Startup Accelerator Can Mean for Your Business

Startup accelerators have gained immense popularity and have a proven track record of helping startups launch their business—however, you might be asking yourself, “Does an accelerator make sense for my business?” Below we aim to bring clarity to what an accelerator is and highlight what you can expect from an accelerator program.

What is a startup accelerator?

Definition from Harvard Business Review: Startup accelerators support early-stage, growth-driven companies through education, mentorship, and financing. Startups enter accelerators for a fixed-period of time, and as part of a cohort of companies. The startup accelerator experience is a process of intense, rapid, and immersive education aimed at accelerating the life cycle of young innovative companies, compressing years’ worth of learning-by-doing into just a few months.

There are four distinct factors that make a startup accelerator unique: they are fixed-term, cohort-based, and mentorship-driven, and they culminate in a graduation or “demo day.”


Startup accelerator attributes from Harvard Business Review


Startup Accelerator Expectations

Startup accelerators are not all created equal. TechStars and Y Combinator were the first two startup accelerators to emerge, and in essence, have set the bar for all other accelerators. In an accelerator program you can expect, at minimum, these four things:

  1. Rapid rate of development. Since accelerators are for a fixed period of time, business plan development and product development happen at a faster pace than they normally would. The goal is to get your startup off the ground, and to do that you speed through the very early-stage business related activities. With all startups, “time is of the essence”, however in an accelerator this could not be more true.
  2. Intense learning curve. Expect to be challenged. First-time startup founders can expect to learn a great deal from experts and others in their cohort. Frequent seminars will expand your knowledge base and motivate you to develop and grown your startup idea.
  3. Mentorship. Many accelerators have mentors available in all areas of business—legal advice, product development advice, and general business advice are just a few examples. Some of the larger accelerators have CEOs and Founders available for their cohorts. With an accelerator you can expect to have the guidance and mentorship needed to get your questions answered.
  4. Funding. It is important to note that while some accelerators provide funding, not all do. If funding is a motivating factor for you to join an accelerator, seek one out that provides seed funding or early-stage financing. Most accelerators do either give you access to venture capitalists to pitch your startup and/or help you refine your “ask” and develop your pitch deck.

“Accelerators are playing an increasing role in startup communities throughout the United States and beyond. Early evidence demonstrates the significant potential of accelerators to improve startups’ outcomes, and for these benefits to spill over into the broader startup community.” (Harvard Business Review)

Have additional questions about startup accelerators or product development? Send them our way, info@3d-innovations.com

*Cited: What Startup Accelerators Really Do (Harvard Business Review)

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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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Don’t Rush Product Development to be First-to-Market

There is a lot of pressure and hype put on hardware startups to be “first-to-market”, however being first isn’t going to be worth it if you have to rush product development. Being first to market does indeed garner attention and initial praise, which can boost your company early on. The problems arise when you are first-to-market but your product design is flawed.

Blackberry v. Apple

Case in point, Blackberry dominated the smartphone market until Apple released the first iPhone in 2007. Before the release of the iPhone, Blackberry held the market share because it was the first company to create a smartphone that was, relatively, user-friendly.  For Blackberry, being first-to-market gave the company a boost for eight years and they set the standard for smartphones, however, their lack of innovation and market complacency left the company vulnerable.

While Apple wasn’t the first-to-market, their innovative product design and focus on the customer allowed them to quickly take over a majority of the smartphone market. They took their time to develop and test their phone design before releasing it to the public—and the rest is history.

Product Development Takes Time

The road from initial concept idea to commercialization is not something that startups can afford to rush through. By rushing through this critical development period, you risk manufacturing and releasing a product that is flawed, and manufacturing a flawed product is an expensive error.

Product development stage

A quick overview of the product development process: After you work on your product idea, you want to then get a 3D digital design of your idea. With a digital design you can simulate certain factors and see how a final product would look. Once you have a 3D design ready to go, you then move on to prototyping. The prototyping stage can take a few iterations to get everything working to your specifications—this is where 3D printing really shines. Once you have a functional prototype and a design ready for manufacturing, you can then start down the road to manufacturing and commercialization.

Whether you are a startup getting ready to launch your first product or a company working on a new product line, the advice is the same: don’t rush product development. Use the product development stage to create a flawless design, even if that means you are not first-to-market. Being the best-to-market drives staying power, while being first-to-market with a flawed product can provide initial success, it often drives being first-to-exit.

Have additional questions about product development? 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.

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Product Design: Adopting a Startup Mindset

A startup mindset focuses on innovation, creativity and curiosity—incorporate this mindset into your product design to push boundaries as well as the status quo.

Adopting a startup mindset for product designWhat is a Startup Mindset?

A Startup Mindset is a different way of thinking—looking at a problem and finding a solution. The key to this mindset is creativity. Entrepreneurs know how to get creative, their startups depend on breaking the mold, so creativity is a way of life. Below are a few of the top characteristics of a Startup Mindset.

Curiosity. Startups thrive on being curious and looking for unique solutions to problems. Challenging conventional wisdom is what they do best.

Disregard for the State Quo. This is what pushes the boundaries of innovation. Entrepreneurs have no time to conform to the “status quo” and instead focus their energy on displacing those that are too complacent in their industry.

Overcome Fear. We all experience fear; it’s how we channel this emotion that sets us apart. Successful entrepreneurs understand that they need to forge ahead in the face of fear. As the common startup mantra goes, “Fear is temporary. Regret is forever.”

Speed. In today’s competitive business landscape it pays to be fast. The faster you develop your product and get it into the hands of consumers, the greater your chance of success. Startups are nimble and this gives them a distinct advantage over their competitors.

Dream. Entrepreneurs spend their time imagining what could be. They dream about the future and explore possibilities.

Applying a Startup Mindset to Product Design

Anyone can apply the Startup Mindset to their business—whether you are an entrepreneur just starting out or work at a large corporation—this mindset is for everyone. The ultra-competitive product landscape of today demands that you encompass a startup mentality. Some of the most innovative breakthroughs in recent years have come from startups with little funding, experience or resources. Seize this startup mindset and apply it to the design of your next cutting edge product idea.

Do you have additional questions about product design? We are happy to help! Send your questions our way, 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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Preparing for Your First Product Development Meeting

Once you have developed your product idea as far as you can on your own, it’s time to meet with a product development firm—but how do you prepare for such a meeting? Below are a few suggestions on how you can prepare for your first meeting with a product development firm and/or product designer.

Sketch It Out.

Whether you are able to draw your idea on paper or make a homemade prototype, bring a visual reference for your product idea. This will ensure that you and the product designer are on the same page from the get-go. (We have seen everything from napkin sketches to homemade prototypes, so don’t feel pressure to make a perfect prototype for the meeting).

List The Functional Aspects.

What is the product’s functionality? By listing out the functional aspects of your product you are clarifying its goal and also preparing yourself with the information you need for a patent filing.

Understand The Patent Filing Process.

Become familiar with the patent process and decide whether or not you are interested in filing a patent for your invention—design or utility patent. This step does not have to be complete by the time of your meeting—product development firms can actually help you develop the design documentation.

Bring All Decision Makers To The Meeting.

If you have a co-founder or someone else helping you develop your idea, bring them to the meeting. They will be able to ask their own questions and provide additional answers to the product designer’s questions. Having all decision makers present for the initial meeting, as well as all subsequent meetings, is always a good idea to help speed the product development process along.

Write Questions Down.

This seems simple enough, but in the excitement of the initial meeting you may forget to ask some questions that you need answered—writing them down will ensure that you remind yourself to ask them.

Bringing an idea to life takes both time and tenacity. Get the development of your product off on the right foot by making your first meeting count.

Have additional product development questions? Please e-mail them to 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.

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