John recently agreed to meet with me to discuss a technology-based idea I am pursuing. What I gained from this discussion will greatly help me be more successful and, from that perspective, I wanted to share this insight so that if you have an idea or concept you might gain a solid direction on how to start down the path of bringing your ideas to life. Not to say this is everything you need to do but think of this as a launching point. We will move together through the rest!
1) There are a lot of great ideas out there. You and I have heard and come up with a bunch of them. We might have even seen a few of our ideas which were born years ago be developed by others. Well, the first thing you have to get over... your idea, like many others are nothing nor will they amount to anything until you execute on them.
Do research on the web, check out the US Patent Office website (http://www.uspto.gov) for any patents touching or surrounding your idea, and share your idea with a few, trusted individuals to help qualify and build on your idea. It would help if the ones you share this idea with are knowledgeable in the field where your idea or product falls.
When you do your research be sure to ask the right questions. John used an example from a recent blog from Swamp Fox to explain this one: Henry Ford said, If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. By asking the right questions to his potential customers he learned they wanted to get to town faster and be able to get back home sooner after selling their goods. Ford, hearing this need, developed a stripped down, basic car for the masses to help them do just that, replace their horses for basic transportation to and from town. Please read the blog entry by going to: http://swampfoxinsights.blogspot.com/2007/08/henry-ford-if-i-had-asked-people-what.html. The right questions should further help you define your target market and sales channel.
2) One of the first questions John asked me was what will motivate anyone to by this product. Just because the idea is a no-brainer in an entrepreneur's mind doesn't mean a hill of beans if a defined market set or demographic will not purchase large numbers of this item. The motivation to purchase should come from an inner need of the buyer to make the purchase. What environment, place, circumstance, event, etc. does a person need, want, or require the item you are developing. You must define when and where people will want to buy your item and set up a sales channel to direct your product to those people so when they make up their mind or realize your product is what they want or need that you are there to sell it to them.
3) Keep it simple. With every additional step or process you add to your idea or product the difficulty and frustration rate goes higher exponential. Do not complicate a simple idea or process with extra bells and whistles. Stick to the core reasons for your idea coming about. If you developed a paper cup, make a cup, not an insulated, covered, spill proof, with a lid cup. Make your cup, sell your cup and get profitable. After you are profitable you can come back and add whatever else to the cup your paying customers want.
4) Who is your competition? Your idea or product is more than likely a reconfiguration of ideas or products already on the market. What are those products on the market and why would anyone purchase your product over something else? If there is a market for your idea or product, re-invent it by reconfiguring a product or solution (your idea) that re-defines the market. By developing or re-inventing a market you will gain and hopefully retain market share and success. The first out of the gate, historically speaking, is usually always first.
5) Remember your resources. There are a lot of resources available to you to develop and explore your ideas. If you are a high tech, knowledge based entrepreneur then you have Greenville NEXT (http://www.nextgreenville.com) made up of some of the most talented and resourceful entrepreneurs in the country. You have SC Launch! which was created to facilitate applied research, product development and commercialization programs, strengthen South Carolina’s Knowledge Economy and create high wage-earning jobs by executing the mandates of the South Carolina Innovation Centers Act of 2005. (http://www.sclaunch.org) There are more resources than I can list in this article, I would suggest you contact the Greenville Chamber of Commerce for more details on who and what can best support your execution of your idea into a reality.
In summary, The only thing holding you back is yourself. You have no reason not to pursue your idea if you feel strongly about it and if you feel your idea or product will be accepted by your public. If you do not know if it will be accepted, then find out by asking the right questions and doing research on your idea. This will enable you to define who your public is and how to sell to them based on their times of motivation. When you sell to them, sell a simple to use product at whatever price that will get your venture profitable. Come on, how simple is that!
For those who are not familiar with John Warner:
John Warner is President of Swamp Fox LLC, publisher of Swamp Fox: News of the Southeastern Innovation Corridor and producer of the annual InnoVenture Conference. John is on the Board of the SC Venture Capital Fund, and is President and Co-founder of Capital Insights LLC, a Greenville, SC venture capital firm. He served as Chairman of its most successful portfolio company, Earth Fare, Inc., a southeastern chain of organic grocery stores. He holds numerous other business and community leadership positions.