The truth about product development

 The truth about product development

As an entrepreneur, I usually get one of two responses when I tell people I'm creating a hardware product. “Wow, that's awesome! It must be really exciting and fun to build a product”. Or “that sounds great, but I don't even know where I'd start in developing a physical product”. The second of the two is usually how start-ups feel themselves when they start thinking about developing their idea right into a physical product.

Prototyping is one of the key steps when developing a physical (or non-physical) product for market and, aside from the obvious, it allows you to test your concept for functionality, test drive it with users to gain valuable feedback on features, form and fit, but also allows you to prove to investors that it is a problem worth solving as there is a large enough group of people experiencing the problem who're also willing to pay for it. The issue for an entrepreneur though is how do you survive some of the challenges that are thrown at you when you're developing a prototype.

One of the first challenges I faced was actually in trying to source the right design team to take my concept from idea, to create and then prototype. From the first company I worked with that charged a high fee to just re-sketch my idea and place it into a four-page document for me, through to the solo designer that disappeared mid-development and couldn't be contacted for Four weeks, to the design firms that desired to charge rates that could simply be paid by established companies with deep pockets.

It's answer to find a development studio that intrinsically understands the difficulties faced by start-ups – having funding and proving traction to raise funding for the next stage of development. If a development studio understands this, then they are able to clearly step out the development milestones for the product and break out the costs into separate milestone points. Using a development studio that performs this allows the startup to focus their product development in shorter sprints, allows them to get to their next funding milestone sooner, having to break the bank along the way.

Developing a hardware product is probably one of the most expensive things a start-up can function on due to the cashflow necessary for multiple iterations in the prototyping cycle, and sometimes multiple pivoting, that can occur along the way. Unlike software that requires slight tweaks and adjustments to existing code, pivoting a hardware design means sometimes beginning with the very beginning of the product development cycle, that is achingly expensive. Trust me, I've done it.

The other challenge is not having a technical background within the type of product you're developing, meaning it can take longer to get through the prototyping stage as you're teaching yourself what you actually need to know as you're developing the merchandise. If it's specialised, finding the right resources or appropriate people within that field can be quite difficult and adds unnecessary time for you to your overall development and prototyping cycle.

The above points would be the reason why industry accelerators like MedTech Actuator, are extremely coveted. They provide expertise, connections and money to develop your product and help guide to you every step of the way. It's also why crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo, Kickstarter and Birchal are extremely popular as they allow startups to boost the valuable funds they need, simultaneously proving demand for their product, which allows them to subsequently prototype and launch their product.

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