Electronic Product Development: A Comprehensive Guide
Launching an entirely new hardware product is often a lengthy and complicated task. Although hardware development has often been regarded as complex, individuals and small companies are now more capable of developing such products than ever before.
Feeling like you are losing ground as you take steps forward in the development of your product is natural.
Here are some tips for how to design new products, regardless of whether you are an entrepreneur, an inventor, or the owner of a new startup business.
Keep It Simple
Optimising your product will help you get it to the market in a timely manner without breaking the bank.
Hardware startups are prone to various obstacles and setbacks stemming from product complexity!
Even as an entrepreneur or an engineer, you may find it difficult to fully understand the significance of specific product features. In many cases, minor features can significantly affect your project’s price and timeline.
It can be difficult to predict the future implications of certain decisions you make regarding your product.
Asking your primary developer to simplify your product may result in a conflict of interest. After all, their earnings increase as the complexity of your product increases.
When streamlining your product, it may be best to work directly with independent experts. They can help you better understand the long-term effects of any initial product decisions you make.
Strategies for Developing New Products
If you want to manage product development and properly assess the quality of the work being done, you will likely need the help of a technical advisor. This tends to be true regardless of the strategy you intend to follow.
Such an advisor can assist you with making technical decisions and guide your main developers. Most professional advisors should understand the entire development process, from idea to market. Having someone like that on your team is of tremendous value, regardless of whether you are an experienced engineer.
Produce the Product Yourself
It is extremely rare for one person to possess all the necessary skills for developing an electronic product from scratch.
However, the more independent you are while developing your product, the more money you will save. For this reason, it helps to do as much of the development as your skill set will allow. Of course, being aware of your own limitations is also important. If your skills are substandard in certain areas, but you try to do the work on your own anyways, you risk the chance of developing an imperfect product.
If you delay the development of your product while taking the time to learn new skills, that will set back the introduction of your product to the market. Bring in experts to help in the areas where your knowledge is lacking, but make sure you always have a say in all decisions related to your product.
Work with Technically-skilled Co-founders
Starting a hardware development business along with a co-founder who has technical skills is definitely a wise choice. If possible, at least one of the founders you launch your startup with should have experience in product development. That way, the development of your products can be properly managed from the top down.
Working with the right co-founders is absolutely necessary if you seek venture capital from seasoned investors. A startup is much more likely to succeed when it is backed by a team of founders rather than a solo entrepreneur.
For most hardware companies, an ideal founding team would consist of a hardware engineer, a programmer, and a marketer.
It may sound like bringing on more co-founders is the perfect solution to your problems, but doing so may also introduce some risks. Not only is building the right team of co-founders time-consuming, but it is also quite difficult. Thus, putting together the perfect team could end up consuming a lot of valuable time that could otherwise be used for product development.
Ideally, your co-founders should complement your skills. It is also important to enjoy being around each other. Since you will likely have to work together for an extended period, it is essential that you are compatible.
The main disadvantage of having cofounders is that it reduces your equity in the company. An organization's founders typically share equal stakes. Before taking on other co-founders, be ready to give up a large percentage of your business.
Outsource Work to Freelance Engineers
Hiring freelance engineers is a good way to fill any technical voids in your team.
Hiring numerous engineers with different skill sets may be necessary since the development of most products requires the work of multiple engineers. A founding team member will ultimately be accountable for managing the projects these freelancers will work on.
Make sure you hire an electrical engineer familiar with the type of electronics your product needs. Not all electrical engineers have experience with circuit design due to the large scope of the industry.
If you hire a 3D designer, they must be familiar with injection molding; otherwise, you will likely end up with a prototype that cannot be mass-produced.
Contract with a Development Firm
It is usually best for startups to avoid large design firms since such firms charge astronomical rates for new product development.
Even if you can afford to get your product developed by a big development firm, it is a good idea to save on such an expense and save those funds for other uses.
Fortunately, many smaller, lesser-known design agencies will develop your product at a much more affordable price. The cost of hiring these smaller firms is typically close to that of hiring freelancers. However, you can benefit from more oversight and a greater degree of quality assurance.
Even if you hire a design firm for help, it is important to remember that you should never limit yourself to sitting on the sidelines while someone else takes care of all your product development.
To understand the development of your products and the various design choices being made, you must be involved in the development process, at least to some degree.
Join Forces with a Manufacturer
Another option is to team up with a manufacturer located overseas that already produces products similar to yours.
Manufacturers with large production capacities have their own engineering and development departments. If you can find a company already making a similar product, you might be able to broker a deal that could save you a lot of time in terms of engineering, product development, prototyping, and even manufacturing.
Taking this approach will allow you to lower your upfront development costs. However, manufacturers will amortize these costs, meaning they will charge more per product unit. You will have to slowly reimburse manufacturers for the development costs they incurred.
The main risk of taking this approach is that everything related to your product will be combined under one company.
A manufacturing agreement will certainly be sought by the company you partner with, at least until their costs are offset. However, it will be nearly impossible to transition to a cheaper manufacturing option even when your production volume increases.
It is also important to consider the fact that most manufacturers will likely prefer to own the intellectual property rights to your product either in whole or in part.