Prototyping and Product Development
The following post is from Fifi Shi ’18, a Butler Venture Accelerator team member.
“You can make a great prototype without an engineering background. For me, it was very helpful to work with engineers at the beginning to design a prototype, then to build it myself at the Artisan’s Asylum. Now I can drive the conversation in future designs of the product because I know how it works.” Bryanne Leeming M’16, the founder of JumpSmart hosted a Butler Venture Accelerator peer to peer session to share her experience in prototyping and product development.
JumpSmart is creating an electronic mat that kids can program into games, designs, and animations they play actively on their feet. Without any experience in engineering, Bryanne chose to build her own prototypes. She started with a paper prototype to simulate the electronic mat and test with kids at a local school. After developing new prototypes this summer at the Artisan’s Asylum, she now has two electronic prototypes: one that looks like the design of the final product, and one that functions like it. These make it easy to let kids try them out, observe them playing on the mats, and get feedback on the product. She also pointed out that it is really important for entrepreneurs to be engaged in the design of their products, even if they are not familiar with that area of engineering.
After creating the prototype, she tested it out in several YMCA after-school programs, at TEDx Youth, at a FIRST LEGO League competition, and with the Girl Scouts. She tested with around 400 kids from age 8 to 12. During the prototype testing, Bryanne got a lot of useful feedback that helped her improve the product. Parents showed concerns that the mat was too large and may be hard to store. This led to an iteration of the product to replace one large mat with multiple smaller tiles that link together.
At the end of the session, Bryanne gave us some tips on how to create and improve prototypes:
- Don’t be afraid to show others your early prototypes, and talk to as many people as you can.
- Make sure you understand how the prototypes are made so that you can fix them if they break and so that you can be creative when you’re working with engineers on the future versions.
- Test your prototypes as much as possible. You will be amazed at what you will notice as potential customers use your product.
- Two websites that she recommended: Artisan’s Asylum and instructables.com
Last but not the least, you need to try it out! Don’t be thinkers, be doers!