Discussing the ideal approach from concept to market

DISCUSSING THE IDEAL PROCESS FROM CONCEPT TO MARKET

The Sinclair ZX80 is quite rightly remembered as the UK’s first mass-marker home computer, making Sir Clive Sinclair a household name and a wealthy man. But what about the other numerous inventions generated by Sir Clive Sinclair’s businesses such as the Micro Amplifier or the Black Watch that failed to achieve commercial success? It may appear unfair to highlight these, but it demonstrates how narrow and hazardous the path from invention to success can be. Even for ones as brilliantly creative, innovative and experienced as Sinclair.

So what measures can inventors and entrepreneurs look at putting in place to minimise risk and maximise profit? Here patent attorney and partner at Barker Brettell, Neil Kilpatrick, and Kristo Shivachev, managing director at Simple Design Works lay out what their ideal approach from concept to market launch would be.

The idea

Kristo: Standing out in the marketplace is critical – consumers are demanding that almost everything they use, and especially everything they are prepared to spend disposable income on, shows at least an element of design.

Neil: Consequently, there is pressure on companies to be innovative and ahead of the curve. I firmly believe that IP is the core way to protect that investment and maintain that lead. If we consider the market innovators and leaders, we see a cohesive approach to design and IP based around a solid design process.

Kristo: But it’s important to realise that even market leaders don’t release industry defining innovations every year. Instead they are constantly developing improvements to existing products, while at the same time seeking out the next big innovation.

Today, few companies have the luxury of a large design and IP budget, but there are best practice lessons to be learnt.

Neil: Exactly – whether the idea is the next big leap forward or an incremental improvement, its chance of initial and continued commercial success can be improved with the right commercialisation strategy.

Feasibility

Kristo: It’s advisable to complete a concept feasibility study, especially for ideas containing technology where functionality needs to be tested, or further analysis is required. Completing this stage greatly helps to establish an understanding of whether the product is feasible before committing to further design work.

Neil: There are also IP considerations at this stage – if an idea has already been patented by a competitor then it is ideal to know this early on. An initial IP novelty or collection search, budget permitting, can tell us this; the key applicant in the field can be identified, along with their focus.

Concept development

Kristo: In the concept development stage we examine and analyse an idea, conduct brief market research and develop the idea to its full potential. Sketches and hand renders are produced to discuss and refine appearance and function, but also so that appropriate and cost effective manufacturing methods can be decided.

Neil: It’s at this stage that the IP side begins to gather speed. Concepts will also have an IP risk and an IP potential to consider. A concept may score highly on cost or use-ability, but may be blocked by a competitor’s patent, rendering it impotent unless we can design around the patent, or obtain a licence. Conversely, a concept that scores high on use-ability, but is costly, may be preferred if it doesn’t infringe competitor IP and has the potential of being protected by its own IP, allowing the marketplace position to be secured and protected.

Intellectual property

Neil: Once the technical features of the design begin to crystallise one or more patent applications should be filed to protect the invention or inventions. Depending on the idea and the budget, one single application covering the product as a whole may be filed, utilising all the preferred and discarded design concepts as optional or fallback positions. First and foremost this seeks to protect the commercial product to stop copycats.

Kristo: This builds on the work done by the design team in creating the concepts. We pass the technical details and drawings to Neil, who then drafts and files the patent.

Neil: But it’s a two-way street. Having the designer and patent attorney working in tandem ensures that key features are described properly and that all functionality of the concepts, in fact all of the concepts, are covered.

With a larger budget, targeted patents can be filed on specific functionality and design features to block competitor development and generate a patent thicket around the core, preferred design. By patenting discarded concepts in addition to the commercial product, competitors are left with nowhere to go.

Kristo: This is where the design team can help. By critically analysing both the concepts and the drafted patent we can put ourselves in the competitor’s position, asking: “how would I design-around this patent application?”. Working together, Neil and I can then work to patch any weaknesses to strengthen the IP and secure the client’s position in the marketplace.

CAD for prototype

Kristo: This stage can involve a lot of problem solving, further research and investigating into how to make something work or manufacture it efficiently. 3D print parts of the design in-house to enable us to fine-tuning and test solutions. Realistic renders of the product created from the CAD model visualises the proposed end result, which can be useful when trying to secure investors or resellers.

Prototyping and testing

Kristo: Producing a prototype helps prove the principle and analyse functionality further, giving indications and reassurance that a product will perform as expected or highlight any potential pitfalls. Further adjustments are often required, but they can be made before any production commitments.

Neil: With the core patent or patents filed, the next IP focus is on monitoring competitors, patenting any innovative solutions developed during prototyping, and keeping knowledge of the product. Novel construction or production techniques may also be worthy of a patent application. This ongoing communication is key to ensuring that the final product is properly covered by the patent filings.

CAD for production

Kristo: The existing CAD data is updated along with relevant details which have been added to develop a suitable design for manufacture. Engineering drawings and specifications will be produced, as well as a bill of materials, works instructions, assembly instructions, quality check sheets, and anything else required for product documentation. A final issue controlled version of the CAD is supplied to the client which facilitates tooling and production set-up.

Neil: With the design crystallised, registered designs, which protect the look of the final product can now be filed. The patent will still be unpublished, so one option is to defer publication of the designs to maximise the impact of the product launch and ensure all of the first mover advantage timing can be seized. Market leaders excel at this, with patents and designs for new products timed to be published after the design has been unveiled to the world.

Marketing and branding

Kristo: Understanding the ethos of the business and the target market allows the development of brand guidelines and a marketing strategy. Graphics and videos can be produced to support the promotion of the product, and assist with developing a social media presence.

Neil: The final piece of the IP jigsaw is trade marks. These protect the brand and prevent competitors from riding on the coattails of the innovator’s success. Similarly, it is critical to ensure that the brand doesn’t infringe someone else’s trade mark. Pre-filing clearance searches, domain-name registration and securing the right marks are crucial.

Packaging design

Kristo: Now’s the time to investigate packaging material options, construction methods and apply branding and graphics to the chosen option.

Neil: Innovative or distinctive packaging may also be worth protecting with a patent or registered design right, as appropriate. Patent and design marking can also be considered for inclusion in the packaging. This is a requirement for recovering damages in some jurisdictions, and highly recommended in others.

Manufacturing support

Kristo: And finally the product enters the production process.

Neil: By now all the patents and designs should be safely filed, but any improvement or new developments should be captured and ownership established. Ensuring a strong NDA can help here and reduce the risk and impact of product leaks alerting competitors or disclosing improvements.

Launch

Kristo: Now it’s the time to enjoy the product launch and wait for the market response.

Neil: Or start working on the next product!

To discuss how we can help you develop your idea, we’d be delighted to chat. Contact us through our online form or call 01432 367 617.

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Business advice for start ups

ADVICE, GUIDANCE AND FUNDING: SUPPORT FOR ENTREPRENEURIAL BUSINESSES

No matter what your business size – whether you’re a start up or a global enterprise – we cut to the chase, sort the wheat from the chaff and, with minimal marketing jargon, signpost you to the support you need to get your design idea to market.  Quite simply business advice for start ups and all entrepreneurial businesses.

Q. WHERE CAN I ACCESS BUSINESS ADVICE TO SUPPORT MY START UP BUSINESS?

A. Your first port of call should be your local Chamber of Commerce.

Q. WHAT ARE THEY?

A. A Chamber of Commerce is a form of business network which supports a region or joint regions. Each Chamber provides a voice to the business      communities they represent, amplifying their priorities and concerns.

The 52 Accredited Chambers of Commerce in the UK are represented by the British Chamber of Commerce.  The network exists to support and connect companies, bringing together firms to build new relationships, share best practice and foster new opportunities. 

Quite simply Chambers of Commerce provide business advice to improve the local environment in which they operate.

Q. HOW CAN MY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE HELP ME?

A. Chambers of Commerce can help businesses through: 

Introductions: from creating the opportunity to meet other businesses at local events to high-level introductions to prospects and industry leaders

International trade: Providing advice, support and export documentation.  They are a Global Business Network linked to British Chambers around the UK and the world

Member benefits include HR support, health insurance and enterprise-level discounts

Events: get involved with business awards, national conferences and professional, informal and local networking opportunities

Influence and representation: from Brexit, skills and infrastructure to local challenges such as digital connectivity, the Chamber network raises local business concerns with all levels of government and in the media 

Business profiling: help with strategic partnerships and sponsorship of major events as well as activities at a more local level.  The Chamber will help raise your business profile with your targeted B2B (business to business) audience

Young Chamber: connects businesses to local education providers. It helps to bridge the gap between education and the workplace.

Q. WHERE CAN I FIND MY LOCAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE?

A. The 52 accredited Chambers of Commerce can be found at https://www.britishchambers.org.uk/page/join-a-chamber

Q. WHAT IS SIMPLE DESIGN WORKS EXPERIENCE OF CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE?

A. We’re members of our local Chamber of Commerce, and we love it. We’ve definitely taken advantage of the free networking breakfasts and lunches on offer so that we meet local, like-minded businesses. We’ve also dived into the Chambers local database and through this we’ve done business with other Chamber members. We’ve also taken informative training courses and had articles published in our local Chamber digital newsletter. We’re major fans.

Q. WHAT IS THE LOCAL ENTERPRISE PARTNERSHIP (LEP)? 

A. Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) are business-led partnerships between local authorities and local private sector businesses.  The provide business advice to start-ups as well as multi-million pound companies.

Q. HOW CAN MY LEP HELP ME?

A. LEPs play a central role in determining local economic priorities and undertaking activities to drive economic growth and job creation, improve infrastructure and raise workforce skills within the local area. 

Q. WHERE CAN I FIND MY LOCAL LEP?

A. The LEP network can be found at www.lepnetwork.net/about-leps/location-map/  There are currently 38 LEPs.

Q. WHAT ARE ENTERPRISE ZONES?

A. Enterprise Zones aim to support businesses to grow. 

They are designated areas across England which provide tax breaks or business rate discounts. They also have simplified local authority planning, such as granting automatic planning permission for certain industrial or change of use development. 

They have business-ready infrastructures, such as superfast broadband, easy access to transport links and a local labour pool.

Enterprise Zones often have a sector focus, such as manufacturing, engineering, agrifood, construction, healthcare etc.

In short, they are great places to do business for both new and expanding firms. 

Q. WHERE CAN I FIND MY LOCAL ENTERPRISE ZONE?

A. There are 48 enterprise zones and growing!  Find out details at www.enterprisezones.communities.gov.uk/enterprise-zone-finder/

Q. WHAT’S SIMPLE DESIGN WORKS EXPERIENCE OF ENTERPRISE ZONES?

A. We’re proud to say Simple Design Works is situated in the heart of an enterprise zone. And we’re in good company as we have numerous global businesses as neighbours. 

In addition to providing helpful tax relief on our offices and a ready audience of potential clients right outside our door, our enterprise zone has provided a further helping hand for our employees, providing free parking outside the office and great road links to smooth the commute to work.  

The local Growth Hub and Chamber of Commerce office is just two minutes down the road so we have a close working relationship with helpful business advisors. What’s not to like?

Q. YOU JUST MENTIONED GROWTH HUBS, WHAT ARE THEY?

A. Growth Hubs are local public/private sector partnerships led by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPS). They provide business funding, support and guidance.

Q. WHERE CAN I FIND MY LOCAL GROWTH HUB?

A. The network of 38 growth hubs can be found at www.lepnetwork.net/growth-hubs/

Businesses can also call 0300 456 3565 to speak to a business support advisor (9am – 6pm Monday to Friday).

Q. WHAT’S SIMPLE DESIGN WORKS EXPERIENCE OF GROWTH HUBS?

A. Our Growth Hub shares an office with the local Chamber of Commerce and the University of Wolverhampton’s Business Solutions Centre.  Both provides advice and guidance on funding and other business growth support. We’ve popped in to see them on many occasions, to seek advice about funding for our clients and to attend networking and training events. The facilities are fresh and modern, and the staff really friendly and helpful. If we need a quiet space to work, they have pods available to rent. We’re delighted!

Q. WHAT IS THE SMALL BUSINESS CHARTER?

A. They are business schools which hold the Small Business Charter.

Q. WHERE CAN I FIND MY LOCAL SMALL BUSINESS CHARTERED BUSINESS SCHOOL?

A. There are 35 business schools across the UK and Ireland that have been awarded the Small Business Charter in recognition of their ongoing work to support small businesses, local economies and student entrepreneurship. Find them at www.smallbusinesscharter.org/find-business-school/

Q. HOW CAN SMALL BUSINESS CHARTERED BUSINESS SCHOOLS HELP ME?

A. Small Business Chartered Business schools provide advice, events, business tips and support. 

They also have an Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIR) network, a group of individuals who are affiliated with business schools which have been awarded the Small Business Charter, and who have been an entrepreneur at some point.

EIRs feed their knowledge back into the business schools, who in turn improve systems and processes. The groups also help the business schools raise their profile with government and other policy makers, which in turn, provides additional benefits to the SME’s they support. 

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What is crowdfunding?

CROWDFUNDING: WHAT IS IT?

As part of our regular business blog ‘SDW Investigates’ we take a look at crowdfunding – a method of project funding that is growing in profile and popularity. Crowdfunding is a great way of achieving funding for your product development without having to go to the bank and helps you make an early assessment of potential commercial interest in your idea.

Below we cover two of the main crowdfunding platforms, Kickstarter and Indiegogo, as well as Kickstarter’s baby sister, Quickstarter.

Q. What is Kickstarter?

A. Kickstarter is the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects. To date it’s attracted nearly 15.5 million backers and funded over 150,000 projects. At any one time it’s likely to have a whopping 4,000 live projects.

Q. How does it work?

A The aim of Kickstarter is for backers to support projects to help bring them to life. Kickstarter cannot be used to offer financial returns or equity, or to solicit loans, and therefore backers should not expect to profit financially. Some projects funded on Kickstarter may go on to make money but this is not the main aim of funding.

Q. Who owns my work?

A. Rest assured, project creators retain 100% ownership of their work. You’ll still need to protect the Intellectual Property (IP) of your idea though – email or ring us to find out more.

Q. What happens to the money if a Kickstarter project fails?

A. Money is only charged to a funder’s credit card if the project is 100% funded so if a Kickstarter project fails, no money is collected from the backers.

Q. How do I get started on Kickstarter?

A. Here’s our top tips:

1. Do your homework

Look at what has worked previously – ‘Staff picks’ or ‘Popular’ will provide good examples. Not every project will work on Kickstarter – have a look at ‘Ending Soon’ for examples.

2. Set a realistic target

Kickstarter only offers one form of funding – the ‘all-or-nothing’ model. If you don’t meet your financial goal you won’t receive any money so make sure your target is realistic. Better to ask a reasonable amount and surpass it!  Create momentum by asking friends and family to support the project with pledges.

3. Come up with creative rewards

People want something in exchange for their pledges so create rewards and gifts to backers based on the amount they pledge.

If your product is low value you could gift one or perhaps offer a bespoke printed T-shirt or attendance at the launch party. Make sure you carefully calculate your costs so you don’t cancel out your funding.

4. Create a persuasive pitch

Your pitch can make all the difference to how well prospective funders engage with your idea. Tell the story of your idea through great photos and, if possible, create a video. Be enthusiastic! People take confidence from your own passion and dedication to your product.

5. Run a marketing campaign

Social media is a great way to promote your product and, through likes and shares, to amplify your brand voice. A well-produced engaging, fun and authentic short video that tells your product story, creates an easily shareable social media asset.

Ensure you regularly post updates and milestones on your Kickstarter project page. Sustain your marketing campaign with fresh ideas and new content. Look at other successful projects to glean ideas.

6. Listen to advice

Find a business mentor and listen to your backers. Remember that they’re interested in your idea and so represent your potential sales audience.

7. Engage your backers in your project

Involving your audience in the project development (e.g. in prototype testing) creates a sense of ownership which will keep them coming back with further funding. They’ll also act as brand champions and advocates ensuring the product message is amplified to friends and contacts – who by association are likely to have similar interests and may become purchasers when the product is launched.

8. Remember it’s a marathon not a sprint

You may get a flurry of activity and then nothing. Stay focussed, maintain your updates, sustain your marketing campaign and keep the faith. Encourage your backers to spread the word as they have a vested interest to ensure your project succeeds.

Q. What is Quickstarter?

A. Launched in June 2018, Quickstarter is a simple funding tool that places speed and simplicity over detailed planning. Quickstarter describes itself as ‘an invitation to create small projects’ and it can be used as a first foray into making a sketch for a larger idea, or a creative experiment that you want to share. Essentially Quickstarter is for projects you do for fun but it could provide funding to support the development of a prototype for a larger project and be a test of interest in your idea.

Q. How does Quickstarter work?

A. There are nine rules which include:

Rule #1 – plan it in three months or less

Rule #2 – keep the campaign under 20 days

Rule #3 – have a funding goal under $1k

Rule #4 – offer rewards under $50

Rule #5 – your video should be shot over one day only

Rule #6 – no PR or media outreach

Rule #7 – no paid for social media (such as facebook advertising)

Rule #8 – no stretch goals ie an additional goal you set up for your campaign in case you exceed your initial funding goal

Rule #9 – include Quickstarter in your campaign name.

Q. How do I get started on Quickstarter?

A. The same process applies as for Kickstarter (see above) but over a shorter time frame. You’ll need to create a persuasive argument for why people should invest and, for optimum chances of success, ensure you add great photos or sketches of your proposed product, and a video to tell your product story.

Q. Does it need to be perfect for me to launch my idea?

A. No. It’s much better to launch and test the market than take ages and for your project to stultify. It’s free to launch a project on Quickstarter so you have nothing to lose.

Q. What is Indiegogo?

A. Indiegogo provides a platform for crowdfunders to invest in the latest tech and design ideas. It also provides a marketplace of clever and creative ideas, sourced mainly from successful crowdfunding campaigns.

Q. What’s the difference between Kickstarter and Indiegogo?

A. Primarily that Kickstarter only allows for payment to be delivered if the goal of your campaign is achieved (‘Fixed Funding’) whereas Indiegogo provides for both the Fixed Funding model and a model which allows you to keep all of the funds raised, even if you don’t hit your goal. Indiegogo refers to this ‘keep it all’ model as Flexible Funding.

Indiegogo doesn’t curate any of the projects that it hosts which means it doesn’t decide which projects merit funding. It allows for more categories than Kickstarter, which includes causes, and whether a project is funded is up to potential supporters.

Q. What is the rate of crowdfunding success on Indiegogo?

A. It’s estimated that approximately 28% of Indiegogo campaigns reach their funding goal of both keep-it-all (Flexible) and all-or-nothing (Fixed) campaigns. The number rises if the analysis is confined to all-or-nothing campaigns, aligning Indiegogo with Kickstarter success rates, because investors have more confidence in this type of scheme.

Q. Are there fees payable on Indiegogo?

A. Two kinds of fees are payable as well as a credit card or PayPal processing fee. For either funding model Indiegogo charges 5% of the total sum raised along with payment processing in the range of 3 – 5% depending on your location. If you fail to reach your goal, you won’t get charged because you don’t receive anything at all.

Q. How do I get started on Indiegogo?

1. Create some promotional assets

Essential promotional tools should include a compelling video and a thumbnail image. The image is the front piece of your campaign and will be seen prior to clicking through to the campaign detail.

2. Draft a short description

Your description has a maximum limit of 160 characters so make them count. You also have the option to customise your URL link which will help with SEO.

3. Set a funding goal and a deadline

Decide which funding model to use and ensure your funding goal is realistic. Whilst the keep-it-all model may seem tempting, it might not provide you with enough to launch your product. Also investors are more likely to invest with the all-or-nothing model so this increases your chances of achieving your goal.

4. Create a product summary.

This will help investors to understand your idea, the problem it intends to solve and your ambitions for the idea.

5. Create your perks

These are the equivalent of Kickstarter’s rewards. They can be anything but try and make them meaningful to the investor.

6. Build a marketing campaign

You can link your social media sites and your personal website to your Indiegogo fundraising platform which all supports your SEO.

Q. Is there an alternative to these crowdfunding platforms?

A. With sufficient motivation, drive and commitment to its promotion, you can create your own crowdfunding platform. Video game producer Chris Roberts did just that and raised $52 million for his ‘Star Citizen’ game series. Using WordPress and a crowdfunding plug-in, he ran his own campaign whilst using Kickstarter as a back-up.

This helped him avoid the fees that crowdfunding websites traditionally charge. He also found that by creating his own site, it built a close sense of community with all the excitement and engagement that belonging to a community group brings.

In total, 534,000 backers put their money behind ‘Star Citizen’ at an average of $100 each. This was due to the nature of the game which was a PC space simulator aimed at creating a universe you can ‘live’ inside. People viewed the project as a long-term investment and, as such, were willing to invest more and for longer.

To discuss how Simple Design Works can help you develop your idea, we’d be delighted to chat. Contact us through our online form or call 01432 367 617 for a no obligation discussion.

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