Product Development: Getting Started

November 12th, 2014:

On a regular basis I meet with budding inventors, new product designers and average people who have great ideas they want to bring to market.  These are individuals looking for help to design and develop the “next big thing” and hope to make a small fortune doing so.  The inevitable question that is always asked is “do you like my idea?” or “would you buy this?”.  On one hand this is a very easy question to answer, based on my personal taste and a need for any given product I can offer a yes or no.  The difficult part about being experienced in product development is that my answer is no more valuable than the next guy unless I happen to be a target user. 

So if you have a great idea or a new gadget that you have been toiling over in your garage for years what can be done to validate your idea or gauge it’s potential for success?  Start by discovering the answers to the more broad questions about the viability of your product (ideally before you have been toiling in your garage for 5 years).   Go to your personal network, start with friends and family but most importantly people you know will be brutally honest with you.  Ask them what they like about the idea, what they don’t like, how much they would pay for it.  Next ask yourself how complex is my idea?  Will it take a PHD physicist, two materials scientists and a team of dedicated engineers to make your idea function?  Unless the previous list of individuals is ready and waiting to help you at no charge or you happen to haven an unlimited supply of time and money, abandon this concept immediately! 

Once you have a rough idea that your product might be viable it’s time to start thinking about the other part of this equation that will lead you to success.  This critical ingredient is developing a business strategy for you and your newly formed idea/company.  Key ingredients to this plan include, funding, engineering support, production, marketing, sales and the list goes on.  Are you nervous yet?  While this all seems very daunting people succeed (and fail) at bringing new products to market almost daily.  The good news is that if you are willing to put in the time and effort many of these elements can be handled by one individual.  With a little research and some hard work you can take on much of the work required to get a working prototype ready for evaluation by a broader audience.  Hopefully this gives you a starting point to begin the process, stay tuned in future weeks I will cover the next phase of the development process.

Corey Smigelski, General Manager Goddard Design and Engineering