A 5-point Checklist
They don’t call it hardware for nothing. It’s no secret that creating a hardware start-up comes with its own unique set of challenges. These can often seem insurmountable when you look at the stats: 97% of consumer hardware will fail or become “zombies”– the “walking dead of the venture ecosystem,” earning revenue but not successful enough for an IPO or to be the next million- or billion-dollar exit.
Where do hardware start-ups go so wrong? It all starts with your minimum viable product (MVP), your first entry into the market which often determines your success or failure. Here are a few steps to take to get a successful hardware MVP to market, and to ensure you don’t become another statistic.
Know thy customer
It should be a no-brainer, but do your homework. Sure, you may have a sleek and beautifully-designed product that you think people will snap up right away. But have you really delivered something people want? Ask yourself two critical questions about your product, from a customer’s perspective:
- Why do I need this product?
- How can it help me?
Create different customer personas and map their journey. What are your customers thinking and feeling, and how is your product the solution?
You also must cover the basics. Who is your target market? What are their spending habits? What price would they pay for product? Conduct an analysis of the competitive landscape. What makes your product unique compared to everything else out there? Have a clear position and messaging about why your product is the answer to what your target market has been craving.
Supply and demand
You are creating the supply, but that’s only half the battle. How will your target market know your product exists? Start building demand as early as you can, pre-MVP. Create marketing collateral. Set up social media accounts. Participate in pitch competitions. Featuring and pre-selling a product on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogocan not only get the word out, but also has the benefit of generating some additional funds for you. Any buzz you can generate, in whatever way, will build up anticipation so that come launch day of your MVP, customers will flock to be the first to try it out.
The real MVP
You may want your product to have every possible feature right out of the gate, but it’s important to prioritize the features that are critical to the customer’s journey and those that are simply nice to have. In order for a customer to be fulfilled, ask yourself:
- What core feature do I want the user to experience?
- What action will they need to take to achieve this?
- What features can I add later to further improve their experience?
Your MVP is just that – a minimum viable product. It doesn’t need to have all the bells and whistles, but it must:
- Satisfy the user’s need or pain point
- Have a well-designed user experience
- Be able to be manufactured quickly and easily
Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3
When you’ve addressed the points above, get your MVP out there so you can start receiving real customer feedback. You may find that what you considered your core feature wasn’t actually what customers wanted. Or perhaps they really liked a secondary feature that you didn’t consider important. The only way to know is to test the MVP in the market and see the results.
Users are also more likely to point out features they don’t like or negative experiences they have than good ones. But don’t let this deter you. This can help you fix problems early and retain those users, rather than lose them for good. If users had a positive impression of the product, you’re in luck. They’re more likely to come back, and you can wow them even more with the next version. There’s going to be a lot of trial and error, but this helps you get the best possible version of your product out there, and to keep those customers for life.
And, it should go without saying, you need to test your MVP for reliability, safety and efficacy.
Version 2.0 (and 3.0, and 4.0…)
Once you launch and get feedback, you should quickly iterate and be ready to launch the new version within 12-24 months. A second version doesn’t mean you need to add several new features. Rather, perfect the features that are already there to satisfy your core user base and add a new feature or two to appeal to a larger market size. Show that you listened to your users’ feedback. Each version should be ironing out the kinks, building on the success of the previous version and removing the parts that failed.
Need some help? The Altitude Accelerator is here to support your hardware start-up, no matter the stage or size. We’ve curated a selection of product design & development companies across the GTA that can help get your MVP to market faster:
Links to the firms above:
C2P Inc. http://c2p-inc.com/
MAKO Design + Invent http://www.makodesign.com/
Neuronic Works https://neuronicworks.com/
StarFish Medical https://starfishmedical.com/