The Product Development Process
The following post is from Emily Proos ’15, co-founder of Bluewire Audio, a summer 2015 hatchery business.
The prototype development process is something that many new businesses must go through. As an entrepreneur pursuing my first venture, even choosing a prototype development company was a bit of a daunting task in itself. When my dad and I first created Bluewire Audio one of the first things we looked into was how to develop a prototype. Up until this point our product was homemade using an old pair of headphones and some Krazy Glue. Upon hearing our idea one of our family friends suggested we contact Continuum, a design and innovation consultancy located in nearby Newton. After a brief introductory conversation with them we realized that our product and company was just too small for them; although this was disappointing, they were able to suggest three other companies that typically worked with smaller-scale projects and could potentially help us. We met with all three companies and ultimately made our final decision to work with Ideology, a full spectrum product development firm located in Attleboro, MA.
We have been working with Ideology for almost a year now and have been lucky enough to have a fantastic group of engineers and designers working together to create what is now our prototype. Overall, our product development process has been incredibly smooth, however, there were also a few speed bumps along the way. It is because of those speed bumps that I would like to share the three biggest things I have learned throughout this process.
- Design with manufacturing in mind. Although this is a bit embarrassing to admit, this idea had never even crossed my mind until a few months ago. My lack of experience had my priorities streamlined on just finishing the prototype. I had not even considered that the design should really be something that can easily be made in large scale manufacturing runs. Luckily, this was not the first rodeo for the engineers and designers at Ideology and little did I know this had been one of their top priorities throughout our entire design phase. This should one of the first points brought up when starting the product development phase. Developing a prototype can be expensive, but if the parts, design, and assembly process are too specialized, then the manufacturing process could be INCREDIBLY expensive. Make sure to always consider what the easiest way to assemble to product in mass quantities will be. You will be much happier down the road when it takes less money and labor hours.
- Do not set your mind on one specific path…be flexible. When Bluewire Audio was first started my dad and I thought we knew exactly what the product needed to be and where we wanted to company to go. Little did we know that just a year down the line all of that would change. We had always been set on having the speakers be located inside of the hat, but after just a few weeks working with Ideology we realized that the speakers we were going to use would be too big to fit inside the hat and therefore must be located on the outside. Although we were not thrilled with this at first we realized that this was actually a blessing in disguise because now we have free marketing since the product will be able to be seen rather than hidden inside of the hat. We had a similar situation with our logo design and have ended up with a logo that is a complete 180 from what we had originally envisioned. Although it is hard to relinquish ideas that you are set on, it is important to remain flexible throughout the product development process. There are inevitably going to be changes that need to be made and although these changes are not always initially welcomed, they are also not always a bad thing.
- Be patient. I am sure that everyone who has started a business or even contemplated it has heard this saying: “Starting a business takes twice as long and twice as much money as you think.” Although this rings true for some, I think a more accurate statement is “starting a business takes five times as long as ten times as much money as you think.” If you asked me a year ago how long I thought the product development phase would take I most likely would have said somewhere around six months. Again, this could be attributed to my lack of experience, however I think realistically it is just that you never know what is going to happen in life and something will always happen to derail your progress. We had many things happen that caused this process to take longer than expected; we changed the design countless times, there was a structural change within the company that required us to change the engineers that we were working with, there were other clients that needed projects fast-tracked so work on our project was delayed. As much as you want to proactively plan for the future, the truth is you just never know what is going to happen. All that you can do is have a plan in place, have a plan B and C in place, and be patient.