Over the years PDT has partnered with many startups, but the explosion in popularity of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo has brought a whole new group of people to our door with financial backing to realize their entrepreneurial dreams.
Unfortunately, we've also witnessed some all-too-common mistakes by newly funded campaigns, starting from the most fundamental: don't begin your Kickstarter too early, before you've laid the foundation required for any successful product launch. Product development is an exciting but challenging and multi-faceted activity. It is not uncommon for an entrepreneur without previous manufacturing experience to be surprised by the cost, time commitment and rigor these projects demand.
So before you jump into crowdfunding, please consider a handful of critical points every startup should consider with respect to product development.
We suggest not launching on Kickstarter, Indiegogo or any other crowdfunding platform unless the product is already in the product development process and you have a realistic understanding of how long the development will take and the potential cost involved. Do not rush your product to a fundraising platform. The more time spent on the product's early development stages, the less time will be spent on it during later stages of production/manufacturing, where changes can make both timeframes and costs skyrocket. Since you will be developing in the public eye, you want to make sure you are prepared to meet the expectations of your backers.
Recommendations: Hire a Tech Development Specialist or Product Design Firm that has been through this process before. This person or team can both manage the technical development of the product, liaise with partners, and communicate accurately with backers on project status as it pertains to development challenges, changes or design decisions.
You should always be looking for investors, whether for a plan B to a crowdfunding campaign or to combine with crowdfunded money. Even what are often considered successful crowdfunding campaigns fall short when product development is completely reliant on funds risen via crowdfunding. the cost of things like tooling, manufacturing and shipping tend to catch people by surprise when it's their first development project. Crowdfunding is a great way to get some funds for the product as well as raise awareness, but your budget will more than likely fall short. Always have a plan B and be developing plan C.
Recommendations: Many large metro areas now host "Shark Tank-like" events where angel investors seek out opportunities to invest in entrepreneurs and their ideas. Find these events and make your case there. If for no other reason, it will force you to organize your pitch that you will be giving to backers, retailers and your consumers.
It can take as long as 6 months to get FCC or UL approval, so you have to make sure to understand what testing your product will require before estimating delivery dates to backers. Additionally, regulatory testing facilities do not want to test a prototype; they have to test the actual product from the factory before it can get the appropriate approval mark. This will require you to manufacture a small sample size, possibly up to 1,000, for quality assurance testing and performance testing to meet Consumer Product Marking criteria.) (FCC, UL, CE, etc...) Plan for both the cost and time needed for this step.
Required for all US commercial electronic devices
Required for all retail products; Plan for at least $40,000-$50,000 (price varies)
Required for medical products
Various other certifications may be necessary depending on the product
Recommendation: Hire a Product Design Firm or Tech Development Specialist that has been through this process.
China is cheaper... Sometimes. Consider these major barriers before choosing a manufacturer overseas:
Language: Obviously, if you do not speak the same language as your manufacturer, communication will be a huge barrier to overcome. One simple misunderstanding can cost thousands of dollars. Google Translate can be a good tool, but you have to use with caution. Certain words simply do not translate over to Chinese.
Intellectual Property: China does not honor IP like the US does. If you submit your full design to one firm, you run the risk of them ripping off your idea and never being heard from again. If you have a complex design, hire multiple firms to build your products so no one entity has access to your entire design.
As a rule, it's a good idea to translate your email to Chinese and then translate it back to English to make sure your information is translated correctly. One simple misunderstanding can be a costly and time consuming matter.
Recommendation: Hire a Product Design Firm or Tech Development Specialist that has been through this process. It is best to hire a Product Design firm not only for their expertise in the design field, but also the connections they have overseas and the dedicated professionals they have on staff for these programs.
Tooling is not the only cost you will incur before your product starts rolling off the assembly line. When the time comes to manufacture your product, the manufacturer will likely require you to pay in advance for all components needed for the build. Depending on your bill of materials, this can require a deposit of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Recommendation: Make sure this is in your financial plan.
While manufacturing overseas may save you money, shipping can eat away at those savings. Understand the costs and time required for both air freight and ocean freight. Also, if your product incorporates any sort of electronic or battery that require special testing or certifications before shipping, know that in advance. Click here for more information on international lithium battery regulations >
Air Freight: Of course air freight is faster; however air freight carriers charge by weight and size, so it is cost prohibitive almost all of the time.
Ocean Freight: Ocean Freight is considerably less expensive, but plan for 3 to 4 weeks for your delivery.
Recommendation: Be sure to consider costs and timing when choosing how your product will ship.
There are many pros and cons to both selling through a retail distributor and selling via the web, but we're going to focus on how this decision impacts the product development process here.
If you decide to sell exclusively on the web, there are not many impacts on the development process. However, if you intend to sell to retailers, you must plan for additional activities and costs. Retailers tend to follow a cycle during which different requirements for the manufacturer are expected to be met by a certain date. These vary by industry, so you'll have to do your research to understand your unique requirements, but we've included a sample process here to give you an idea of the scope and time requirements to expect.
Short Run Manufacturing for Testing
Deliver to retailer
Ship from China
Obtain Parts for Short Run
Launch crodfunding with prototype
- Business plan
- Financial plan
- Product roadmap
Begin building functional prototypes for CES
Prove product existence to retailers
Retailers solidify planograms
To create a successful product all on your own? Or to make money? Many products fail because inventors hold on to their "baby" for too long. If you have a chance to sell your product and make a profit, sell it, make your money and move on to your next idea.
Also, lots of inventors cave to feedback from backers or friends and make changes to their product mid-production. This is the quickest way to blow both time and money. The best practice is to get your product developed and sent out into the market while incorporating these modifications or additions to a 2nd generation of your product.
Have a 3 to 4 generation product road map. Always be thinking ahead of the curve and incorporating those advancements into the NEXT version. Remember, the most important thing is to get your product out, and start making profits.
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