By Brandon Peters
Every imaginative person has one: an idea for a gadget or invention that will change the world and make them billions along the way. But for every Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Michael Dell, how many multitudes fall by the roadside? The majority of ideas don’t even make it past the planning stage, and for those that do, the attrition rate is horrendous as they move along each stage from planning to production.
Time is one huge factor. Nurturing a dream isn’t easy in an extremely multitasked world, and the right time for some ideas often comes and goes without the would-be innovator being able to cash in. For another thing, entrepreneurship involves a lot of decision-making where you’re essentially alone, and this breeds a lot of uncertainty: You can have supportive friends, family, and loved ones cheering you on, but at the end of the day, it’s about you and your idea and how you want to make it real, whether you’re tinkering with a gizmo in your garage, crafting a widget at your kitchen table, or writing code while in your pajamas. While it’s true that communities of like-minded people exist both in the real world and online, it’s a rare innovator who’ll be willing to divulge the details of his work, especially in an age when more people than ever play fast and loose with intellectual property.
The good news for tinkerers is that in the modern digital world, none of this has to be the case. Competition has done its job on the business process outsourcing industry, driving down costs and increasing quality, and the days are gone when outsourcing was something only the big boys did. Starting from the base idea, everything from research to development to production and marketing can be farmed out to professional outfits, compressing the amount of time needed and multiplying the amount of expertise you have access to.
Research for your idea is the easiest and cheapest to outsource, whether at such competitive freelancer sites as freelancer.com or odesk.com or at more costly but dependable outsourcing specialists like Brickwork. Using these services Though it tends to be on the expensive side, gadget development can also be outsourced through various specialty engineering firms such as Continental Design. Prototyping your device can also be done via a whole slew of outfits if 3D printing on your own is not an option. As for intellectual property concerns, confidentiality is key to the success of these businesses, and they have a lot more incentive to respect intellectual property than an online forum or community would have.
Money is another major limiting factor for entrepreneurs, and here too the information age has given entrepreneurs a powerful tool: crowd funding. Kickstarter and Indiegogo each have their pros and cons, but both are great ways to get your startup capital. Crowd funding also works well not just for raising money but also for marketing the product and getting audience feedback. If you’re worried about protecting your intellectual property, though, and you’re capable of raising the capital on your own, you can check your concept’s viability cheaply online using a neat trick found in The 4-Hour Workweek.
As far as production goes, though some outsource manufacturers are willing to produce in small quantities, prices still generally go down with production volume. This puts more pressure on the entrepreneur to sell volume, and a corollary to the famous Steve Jobs adage on customers not knowing what they want until you show it to them is that customers can’t want something unless they know it exists. There are some notable ways of achieving this.
The default for tight budgets is social media, though for tech products and innovations, which usually require at least some explanation regarding their use, you generally need an engaging and information-rich medium. Some agencies, like Max Borges, specialize in introducing tech products to the marketplace, and first-time tech entrepreneurs with a good-sized ad budget should definitely consider going with such outfits to avoid the learning curve for this kind of marketing.
Another information-rich advertising method that does well with gadgets is Direct Response Television, or DRTV (the kind of TV advertising that asks customers to directly respond to the company). While its results can go beyond the actual direct responses (for every unit sold on TV, anywhere from 3-15 units can be sold via retail), this form of advertising can be costly, and it’s best to consult specialists in this field of advertising, like Koeppel, in order to avoid wasted advertising spend.
In today’s fast-changing business climate, long and leisurely product development time and the learning curve of trial-and-error advertising are luxuries the tech entrepreneur doesn’t have, and leveraging your cash in order to use other people’s time and experience while keeping a lean, low-overhead setup is a great way to fast-track your business to success.
Brandon Peters is an entrepreneur, a writer, and an avid observer of both the oil industry and alternative energy. As an entrepreneur, he’s tried his hand at everything from construction to car repair, from food carts to a hobby shop. After exploring the myriad possibilities of the Internet, he’s now working on the Next Big Thing.