Different Isn't Necessarily Better

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
-Mark Twain


We see many new product concepts every month. For the past nine months, they’ve been coming in a torrent. This happened before… Following the financial crisis of 2008, new businesses and products popped up like crazy. Motivated by creative spirit, the drive to launch new products & businesses and to some degree desperation, countless new ventures were launched. In The Time of Covid, it’s happening again.

Thirteen years ago, most of these new ventures failed… In the frenzy to launch new products in 2021, this scenario will unfortunately repeat itself. While the Big Four Accounting Firms (and the Big Five Consulting Firms) love this, seeing “deal flow” and tons of fees, we see poorly designed products and ill-conceived business models.

The path to failure is characterized by five wrong turns. They’re summarized below:

  1. The inclusion of “features” that don’t improve the user experience in an existing product or create an appealing new segment that customers will find compelling. Examples include adding a display to a can opener (really, it was pitched to us) or an instrumented cat litter box (Really II).
  2. Applying tons of effort and money into IP protection, patents, trademarks, etc., before executing on the basics of design development and proof of concept testing. Trying to “lock us up” with a restrictive NDA before sharing a pencil sketch is a red flag.
  3. Getting lost in the CAD. Otherwise known as creating a design that’s uninformed by real life manufacturing constraints and the compatibility of components, materials and factory capabilities. Just because it can be shown in CAD doesn’t mean that it can be fabricated using existing manufacturing methods.
  4. Bolting on so many accessories, features and options that the industrialization effort requires years of development time. The concept of “MVP” (Minimum Viable Product) should guide the development effort.
  5. Ignoring the fundamental rules of business. Everything needs to be sold. The world won’t beat a path to your door only because your product is novel or unique.

Our ethical guardrails don’t allow us to take a client’s money if we have little confidence that they’ve planned well or have the resources to succeed. While this is especially important for smaller, emerging companies, many of which are self-funded, it also applies to larger enterprises.

So, don’t fall into the trap of “knowing for sure” that your different product is better (otherwise known as arrogance and ignorance) described above by Mark Twain. Do your homework, go long on Voice of the Customer, talk to manufacturers early, and keep it simple.


Jack Daniels

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