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Product Validation: When to Persist, When to Stop

How can you tell whether your idea is worth pursuing? Try using validation techniques to find out, before spending too much money

Inventing can be very fulfilling and enjoyable, but can come with many ups and downs. I first fell in love with inventing when I was 16, I came up with my first 'real idea', or so I had thought. A close family member had been diagnosed with skin cancer and it was an upsetting event for all. For some reason I got to thinking 'how could this have been avoided?' My solution: Moles are considered the most vulnerable areas of our skin when exposed to sun, so why not cover our moles? Sunscreen is one thing, but how often do we forget to apply, and how quickly is it wiped off? I thought, what if there existed a dabber type of pen which allowed one to frequently dab on a UV protective material, with an adhesive that stuck to our skin for long periods of time.

Do Your Research

First Things first, do your research.

  • Start with Google and see what sort of competition already exists. If your first search results turn up dozens of different products that are identical to yours, then perhaps there isn't enough room in the market. At the time, had I of typed in UV protective tape then I would have discovered there were already players in this space.

  • If your search results come up dry, then you may have found a niche in the market, next try a Google Patent Search. Google Patent searches are a wonderful tool that indexes patents from all around the world, allowing you to see what has already been patented.

  • I foolishly Googled a company online that helped inventors. You paid this company $200, they took your idea around a boardroom, did their research and if they thought it had merit, they would put it into production and give you a royalty, somewhere around 30%. My hopes were high, but when their report came back, I discovered there were already UV protective tapes, etc. on the market. This money could have been used for better had I have just done my own research.

Conversations with Family and Friends

Don't be shy, ask around.

  • One thing that has hurt me in the past, is not telling anyone about my idea, and instead taking steps to develop the product only to find out it wasn't a good idea. I can understand if you don't want to disclose your idea on social media for the world to see and for others to potentially steal your idea, but friends and family are different. If you are worried still, have them sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) which is a legally binding agreement between two parties.

  • One thing to keep in mind, is your family and friends may not want to hurt your feelings, they may sugar coat their opinion of your idea. Remember, this is more detrimental than the truth, ensure they attack your idea and find any flaws or issues; you want their honest opinion.


Power in numbers

  • You've passed the first two validation steps! Next, is crowdfunding. I personally love this validation technique because it can validate your idea at a very low cost yet be seen by a large number of people. My favourite crowdfunding platform is Kickstarter, though Indiegogo is also a reputable platform.

  • If you are worried about someone stealing your idea, I would recommend securing a Provisional Patent first, this will give you a 1 year window to decide whether you want to proceed with a Utility Patent. The best part? A Provisional patent is reasonably priced compared to a Utility which costs in the thousands of dollars. I personally use The One Stop Invention Shop, they are reputable and do a great job.

  • Next, create your MVP (Minimum Viable Product), shoot a quick video, write your script and launch your Kickstarter! I would recommend allocating around $500 for social media marketing campaigns and reaching out to social media influencers who have a high volume of followers (just make sure they are real followers, you can typically look at the number of likes and comments on their posts to confirm this).

  • Normally a campaign of 30 days is preferred, this will give your potential supporters enough time to find your campaign and back you without having it lag too long.

  • By the end of your campaign, there should have been enough people that viewed your product for you to know whether it is a good idea or not. Do not put on your rose coloured glasses, if your campaign was only 80% funded then think long and hard whether you want to really pursue this idea. Remember, Crowdfunding sites can also create a bit of an aura, an excitement around a product. In the real world, once your Kickstarter for example is finished, your product may not sell as well on Amazon, or your website. So if you do not crush your campaign goal, I would think twice about continuing with your idea. Validation is key, the people will let you know whether your idea is great or not!

Fini! This has been my experience with developing products, I typically learned the hard way but there have been many lessons along the way which I wouldn't trade. So good luck and don't be afraid to ask around.

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