For Startups… when passion meets execution Tips From the Trenches

On several occasions recently, I’ve had the opportunity to share what it means to be an inventor and entrepreneur with middle and high school age children. They love the product stories, hearing about the successes as well as the mis-steps. It’s their chance to see in person what happens from idea to finished product in a more hands-on entertaining way than reading about it in books. They find it unfathomable that a product could take more than 10 years of work to reach the marketplace since that represents a longer time span than most of them have been on the planet.


“It takes as long as it takes” can be financially absorbed by corporations that have the resources for sustained periods of experimentation. James Dyson’s vacuum cleaner, for example, took 15 years and 5000+ prototypes to complete. That’s fine for him but entrepreneurs and start-ups are working with more limited time and money constraints.


One way or another, all ideas will go through a development process if they’re ever to transform into real products. As an individual entrepreneur having to boot-strap projects over the years, I’ve learned that a far better use of resources is to focus on concept development rather than product development. Product development is expensive since it includes services from professionals with the technical skills a project may need at some point. Concept development costs very little and with some effort, this process is within the grasp of anyone committed to doing the homework.


The goal of concept development is to test the merits of a new idea as thoroughly as possible so that informed decisions can be made on what to do next. A series of steps will basically confirm whether the idea is innovative… it works… it can be made… the target consumers like it… and it can turn into a profitable venture. None of this involves any secret sauce or rocket science, just focus, organization and research. I call this the “Product Plan.” At the end of this process, there will be one of several outcomes:

•  Your idea is determined to be commercially viable and you advance to the next


•  Your idea needs some modifications and you go back to the drawing board and

revise accordingly.

•  Your idea is found not to be viable, and while this may initially be

disappointing, you are now free to let it go and move on to a better idea.


These are all successful outcomes that cost little or nothing and can be completed in a relatively short time frame.


At the same time, there is a subjective aspect to this process since no two individuals will approach it in the same way. Consider these three points:

•  You have a unique set of skills, assets, goals, and limitations.

•  Whatever the product idea, your approach must take into account your

resources and your goals.

•  Your assets and approach converge within the context of your product’s

industry, marketplace, and the state of the economy at any given time.


Put these together and it becomes clear that there is no single formula, quick answer or common path that applies to every person and all ideas. The good news is that whatever your resources, if you avoid abdicating your responsibility for doing this work and take charge from the outset, you will not only be following your passion, but will have the satisfaction of executing it.



© 2013, Elizabeth Pierotti

The Inventing Life


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