Congratulations! You belong to a select group of people who have a great new product idea and are taking action to make it happen, having thousands or maybe even millions of people benefit from it. It doesn’t really matter if it is a business product idea or that your solution serves society as a non-profit. The process to get from idea generation to product development is mostly the same. So, how do you go about turning your physical product idea into something tangible that people can use to solve a problem or fulfil a need?
In this post, I will describe step by step how you can get your idea off the ground without spending a dime or even getting paid for it.
Evaluate your product idea.
If, by any chance, you already mentioned your idea to others and have received a lukewarm response, here is probably why: Clarity.
Before you reach out to people, take the time to put your idea on paper. With paper, I mean any tool you are comfortable with for documenting your idea and develop it to a more mature stage. There are sound arguments for this. Describing your thoughts in text, in a way that makes sense when you read it back, forces you to articulate the details. This helps to see the shortcomings or challenges of your concept, devise solutions, and create a list of questions to bounce off at others.
Students of Utseus discuss a product development project with Henk Werner at TroubleMaker in Shenzhen.
Having the description and sketches worked out well provides other people with the information they need to give high-quality feedback. It also simplifies the process of protecting your Intellectual Property and it increases your chances of onboarding the best co-founders and team members once you are ready.
Brainstorm your business model.
If you haven’t done so yet, it is now time to think about the business model. This is also important when it is your goal to start a non-profit or when your product helps people in developing countries improve their quality of life.
Questions you can ask yourself are:
- Who will pay for your product?
- Why do they pay for your product? What problem does it solve for them?
- How will the product go from the factory to the client? What are the steps in between? What do these in between steps cost?
- Must your product be suitable for recycling from a legal perspective? Or does it make business sense to develop your product according to cradle to cradle standards?
There are enough questions to answer while contemplating your business model. An interesting resource to learn more about this topic is the video series of Strategyzer.
Okay, great work so far! You can now explain how your product works, in which way it adds value to your users, and why it makes sense to invest in making it happen. It is time to see if your product excites people enough to open their wallets. It is time to answer the most important question in every product development journey: Is there a market fit for your product?
Collect feedback from your potential customers.
Early feedback from customers is invaluable. Their information can prevent you from making costly mistakes. Many inventors wait with this until much later in the development process. By then, they have invested months or years of work and lots of money. I don't want you to make that mistake.
Getting early insights into this question is easier than many people think. Simply call a few people who might be interested in buying the product once it is ready. There is no need to dive into the details of your product during these calls. Keep the talk about the purpose of the product and have the customer do most of the talking.
Have a look at your research and select people who belong to the group “Who will pay for your product because it solves a problem for them” and say something like:
“Hey (name), I’m working on developing a product that solves (this problem) for you. Would you be interested in buying this once it is ready?”
If your idea is still received with a lukewarm response, ask questions to find out why.
- Ask how they currently solve this problem, and in which way it beats your product idea.
- Also ask who they think would be someone that would buy.
If they think your product is a great idea, ask what the benefits are they see in your product.
- Ask how they currently solve their problem and how your product differentiates from this way.
- And then ask what it would be worth for them to solve their problem with your product.
This way you get insights into your product idea from the people that matter most, your customers. You can even ask them to place a pre-order. Some will pay up front, helping you fund the development.
Armed with the confidence of knowing that there are real people with real money that cannot wait for your product to be ready, it is time to take your project to the next level.
Get high-quality co-founders onboard.
Start building your team. You are reading this post, so you are looking for some help, right? After preparing your base, good co-founders are the best form of help you can wish for. Especially when they possess qualities that complement your shortcomings. Tony McAuslan of Innovation Drive Queensland wrote an excellent post on the why and how.
Team building during "Women in Python" at TroubleMaker in Shenzhen.
Get yourself ready to thrive.
You are now well on your way to bringing your product to life and making the world a better place.
You are now also ready to apply for the next cohort of Innovation Drive in Australia or China.
Over 40 outstanding mentors from different industries cannot wait to share their experience with you. And a team of kick-ass coaches is available to you 24/7 to drag you to the finish line of our Hardware Accelerator Program.
I know I am.
I will even give you my private phone number, so you can call me if you feel stuck at 3 am to help you slay the challenge!