Do you have a startup idea you’re ready to turn into profit? It’s not enough to have an idea alone. You need to take action to turn that idea into a concrete product. Let’s face it: your “idea” isn’t worth much at all. It’s products, plans, and action that has real value.
Up to 90% of startups today fail. In a world full of great ideas, you need to be competitive and ruthless. All startups think they won’t be part of that 90% that doesn’t make it, yet so many fail in the first year. If you’re not careful, you’ll fall short of that top percentage that survives to see another day.
There is no room for mistakes in the world of startups. You need to build something people want to use. You need to protect your idea and build a strong foundation. Without all of these steps, it’s easy for your business to fail before it even gets off the ground. What are the most important steps? This guide will lay them out clearly so you can finally turn your startup ideas into products that actually sell.
1. Write everything down
Your idea is worthless if you don’t take any effort to protect it. Theft is a very real thing in the world of startups, and you don’t want someone to take your concept and run with it. You need proof of not only your idea, but when you came up with it in the first place. Start by writing down everything you can. Include the following in your initial documentation:
- When you thought of your idea
- What it is
- How it works
- How you’ll make it
- How you’ll market it
When you take steps to patent your product officially, this documentation will be key. The rumor of the “poor man’s patent” in which you mail yourself your idea in a sealed envelope. This is not something that’s actually respected in court, so don’t even both. Purchase an official inventor’s journal, write your idea down with the guidelines above, and have it signed by a witness.
What’s an inventor’s journal? It’s literally any bound notebook. There are a few specifics you need to look out for, however. First, the pages need to be numbered consecutively. Next, the pages can’t be removable or reinserted. You can purchase any generic notebook that follows these specifications or purchase a professional one from somewhere like Nolo Press. Protect your inventor’s journal like you would any important document.
All startups rely on good research. Oftentimes your idea will already be out in the world, just perhaps in a different form. To start your research, search for any similar patents online. Don’t underestimate the power of Google when looking to see if your product already exists. If you don’t find any results that are similar to your concept, it’s time to research the market.
One of the main reasons startups fail is because they don’t think about their customers. They’re so busy building their business, they forget to think of how that business fits into the market. You need someone to sell your product to, so this research is essential. Just because you’re convinced your new idea is life-changing doesn’t mean anyone else will think so.
Let these questions below guide your market research:
- What demographics will benefit most from this product?
- Is there anything similar to this already available?
- Will producing this product be affordable?
- Is this something people will pay money for?
Thanks to new technology, this step is easier than ever before. A prototype is a model of your product. This is something you’ll do prior to filing for a patent, and it’s a way to work out any unexpected problems before finalizing your design. Even if you’re not a product designer or engineer, you can handle prototyping.
First, start with a drawing. Sketch these design ideas in your inventor’s journal. Create a mockup of your design. This can be in any material that helps you see the dimensions of your product. Finally, build a working model. There are many production companies that can assist with this final step. Thanks to 3D printing and CNC turned parts, this is more affordable than ever. Take the prototyping stage seriously. Your design needs to be optimized before it can be mass produced or patented. You want it perfect, functional, and attractive.
4. File a patent
Now that your design is complete, it’s time to file your patent. There are two types of patents available: a utility patent or a design patent. A utility patent is for creating new processes or machines while a design patent is for creating new, nonobvious ornamental designs. While you can write the patent application yourself without a lawyer, it is worth having a professional look over your documents before sending. You don’t want to take chances on your idea being infringed upon.
5. Market your product
Finally, it’s time to take your completed product to your market. This is the hardest part. It’s time to get serious about funding, production, and finding customers. Thanks to technology, you have more options for all of the above. For funding, look into local investors or even crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter. As for production, work with manufacturers both in the United States and abroad to find one that works with your goals.
Take your marketing seriously. Your customers are your biggest asset as a startup. You need them to know, like, and trust you. If your product is as fantastic as you believe it is, go out there and show the world.
As a startup, you have the ability to hyperfocus on a product that you believe has significant value. There’s no such thing as an overnight success, especially when it comes to bringing an idea to life. While these steps might take time, it’s important to tread carefully to protect your concept.
You don’t have to become a part of the 90% of startups that fail. If you do the right research and focus on your customers, you’ll rise up in your market. Is your product idea ready to turn into a reality?