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The first step for product development

Typically, you might think entrepreneurs start companies, and researchers develop new technology. But you know what?

There are some people who are trying to do both.

Last week, we visited Lab Start Up 2020 and met with researchers who are starting companies. Many passionate researchers shared with us their ideas, and they are working hard to get their products ready.

Here is the most important tip...

Lab Startup 2020 was hosted by the Korean Ministry of Science and ICT and by the Korea Entrepreneurship Foundation. Here is Hyesun Shin, one of the 800 people in attendance, representing 65 technology startups.
Lab Startup 2020 was hosted by the Korean Ministry of Science and ICT and by the Korea Entrepreneurship Foundation. There were 800 people in attendance, and 65 technology startups were represented.

It is important to speak with customers early in the process because doing so can help you prioritize features based on the actual needs of the customers rather than based on technical sophistication. University labs often produce technologies that are ahead of the market by years, or even decades, and naturally, researchers who become entrepreneurs have a tendency to compare their own work to the work produced in other labs. This can lead to over-engineering a product which is then too expensive to buy or too impractical for reliable, daily use. 

There are two activities that you should do: Market Development and Product Development. Many companies, especially high-tech companies, focus  much of their resources developing their technology, but they do not always spend enough time speaking with customers in the market who might need to buy their product.

Classum booth at Lab Startup 2020
Classum is an interactive communication platform for schools and organizations. They are working with 300 educational organizations in Korea, including universities and private schools. Classum is seeking to extend their success in Korea to become a global technology provider for education.

So how do you calibrate your product and technology development process to arrive at a solution that comes to the market at the right time? Very simple: go out and talk to your customers.

Advisors’ intuition, investors’ opinions, and consultants’ analyses can be useful, but they should always be secondary to the words that you hear from your target customers when you show them a drawing, a prototype, or a sample of your product.

If you develop your product while you develop your market, you will gain the insight that you need to match your core technology to the specific customer needs and build the specific interface elements that will let your customer enjoy their experience. Direct feedback from your customers will let you minimize the time spent in trying to find the right direction for your product design.

So here is the very first step you should take: get your own copy of Giff Constable's Talking to HumansIt will help you avoid the single most expensive mistake you could ever make, which is to design something that nobody wants. 

Credit Tom Fishburne