Product Ideas 2.0 – Inventors, Entrepreneurs and the Fast Road to First Sale

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Chances are if you ask someone if they have a great product idea they have a pet peeve and a solution for it they are dying to share. This does not make them an inventor or entrepreneur but simply a person with a product idea.  It’s that next step, developing the idea and bringing it to market that will determine whether they are an inventor, entrepreneur or both.

While necessity may be the mother of an invention, lucrative profits are the father of entrepreneurship. Having a great idea with motivation to bring it to the masses is that classic ‘inventor strikes it rich’ story we always hear, but the reality is a little more interesting and diverse.

In breaking down the details of getting a new product idea ready for market we find there are 5 key people/skillsets involved.  If you consider Inventor-Entrepreneur stories throughout history, one person can embody all 5 of these skills, but more typically there are 5 different parties who need to come together for the highest chance at a successful product.

1)    INVENTOR: This is the idea person who experiences a problem and dreams up a good solution

2)    ENTREPRENEUR: An individual or group who identifies the market opportunity and orchestrates the R&D and business activities

3)    FUNDER: A business person willing to put their money at risk for possible gains

4)    DESIGNER: Trained artists and engineers who steer the process, assessing the market opportunity and working thru the product details to arrive at  a great solution

5)    MANUFACTURER: People trained to build the designed parts in high volume then assemble package and ship them to market

The internet has been a great enabler to find, introduce and allow collaboration between the 5 parties and has created the idea of the “lean start-up”. With the web these 5 talented skillsets can come together remotely and quickly develop a napkin sketch into a market ready product.  In the past during the early stages of idea development inventors had to find the right people, typically locally to get together and sort out the thousands of issues that need resolving in any product development.   In 1980 Steve Jobs was a designer first, then entrepreneur, he met an inventor and Apple formed.  The funding and manufacturing fell in place as Apple sold products and grew.  It took years from launch to success.

Today 5 skilled groups with no previous connections can come together and launch technically challenging product in less than a year. Whoever has the idea or comes across an idea can choose the old model to champion it and ride the learning curve or find the other 4 skillsets to increase the speed to market reduce the development costs and increase the chance of success.  

Wherever the starting spark comes from, ultimately the person managing the opportunity is faced with growing the business from an “R&D” organization into a thriving sales and marketing organization, increasing revenue, maturing an organization and growing the customer base they serve.

The power of the internet has made it possible to quickly find the experienced skill types you need and collaborate with them anywhere in the world to arrive at a good product solution much faster than was possible in the past.

For example, consider heated patio stones, three years ago an Ontario inventor with no product development experience contacted Design 1st looking to design and manufacture residential modular patio stones that melted snow. This invention involved custom cabling and outdoor exposure, expertise in cement, electronics engineering and CSA approval experience. Design 1st pulled together the right team, meeting weekly through interactive WhiteBoard tools.  The resulting “Heatstone” was released to market this past fall 2012. But can you imagine trying to design this product 20 years ago without the internet? The inventor would have to call, visit and rely solely on his own personal local network to pull together the right people.  The time to design, prototype, test, find experts and travel allowed only the elite to participate in ventures of this sort.

The internet has become the enabler for skilled teams to collaborate efficiently starting with the inventors and entrepreneurs willing to take risk and explore new ideas. We now have the opportunity for more complex physical products to be built with reasonable budgets and in reasonable time frames.  Miniaturization, global mobile networks, simple to create custom software applications and numerous other technologies including the integration of living cells and bio-technology will increase the access to knowledge experts and integrate into their new product ideas.  

Devices with the capacity to repair themselves; devices that learn and complete tasks for us; devices that change shape, size, color, function to meet our needs and many other enabling technologies are at our fingertips.  Whatever skillset and experience you have, if you enjoy creating then go to the web and find a team designing new products.  There are hundreds of thousands of people and teams now finding each other and exploring simple and more technically challenging ideas and turning them into products.

Governments at municipal, provincial and federal levels see the connections between innovation and new jobs and are now partially funding many development initiatives to help drive the next generation of product innovations.   At Design 1st we are a close knit team of Industrial Designers and Mechanical Engineers and experts at new product design and development. We organize and facilitate the ‘idea to product’ process and connect inventors, entrepreneurs, funders and manufacturers enabling innovative patentable product ideas to come to life. This creates new businesses, jobs and ‘strike it rich’ outcomes for people and web connected teams willing to take risk and have a bit of fun along the way.  

Kevin J. Bailey

Founder and President, Design 1st

Kevin Bailey is a Mechanical Engineering graduate from the University of Waterloo (1984) with a Professional Engineer designation. Kevin is a creative, experienced designer and a proficient Project Manager. He sets up all Design 1st’s projects and oversees clients’ programs through the design, development and prototyping phases. Kevin started with Nortel Networks in 1984 in their outdoor product design departments.  He then moved to telephone and cell phone design developing his skills design and management skills on global programs and working with manufacturers around the world.

Since founding Design 1st in 1996 he has led the successful completion of hundreds of product developments in many markets.  This has given him access into a wide network of local and global companies involved in the supply of physical product.  The work has taken him across industries getting involved in the creation of technical and user focused design, materials, processes and advanced methods for quick execution of successful product to market.  With business understanding and product and process knowledge companies seek Kevin’s out to steer product developments through low risk, creative solutions that are manufacturing documented and ready to launch.

Kevin can be reached at 613-235-1004 x225, or at kjbailey@design1st.com

Expert Bloggers is a marketing feature of Ottawa Business Journal. To participate, please email sales@obj.ca

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