product development Proof of concept product selection

Product Selection: A Critical Piece of the Product Development Cycle

on August 02, 2013

For a young company, product selection plays a critical role within the overall product development process and this lesson can unfortunately be learned the hard way. Here, we'll highlight how the LittleBonsai team has done it right. First, a quick overview of the team: Jake Felser and Ollie Haas are relatively recent graduates of Olin College. Jake was in my Mechanical Design class in 2010, which was structured from the standpoint of a startup. Jake and Ollie started LittleBonsai and spent considerable time evaluating multiple product concepts before deciding on The Clip.

So often, companies latch onto the first idea they come up with and charge full speed ahead rather than challenging themselves to explore other options and weigh the pros and cons. By going down this path, they often spend valuable resources (time, money, and good will) developing a product without a well thought out business case. The early decisions on product selection casts a huge downstream shadow.

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For the LittleBonsai team, here are the key factors that contributed to their product selection process/thinking:

  • Simple design with no moving parts. Nothing to break.
  • Short development time -> Quick time to market.
  • Low cost of goods sold (COGS). Low cost to get started.
  • Small package size for low-cost shipping.
  • Simple “go / no-go” QC procedures.
  • Not affected by temperature, humidity, vibrations, etc.
  • Local manufacturing enables real-time communications.
  • Low tooling cost.
  • Short lead-times provides ability to react quickly to the market.
  • Low minimum order quantity (MOQ) reduces the risk of sitting on unsold inventory.

For their first product, Jake and Ollie did a fantastic job of making the right decisions. We wish them the best of luck and look forward to their next products. You can ready more about their company Little Bonsai as well as their current product, the ReBrush here:

Dig in a little deeper: Paul Berberian’s (Orbotix) talk at the CU New Ventures Challenge on Nov 11, 2009 on the subject of product selection is excellent.

Scott N. Miller

Scott has been fascinated with hardware since he was old enough to hold a screwdriver. He worked on a robotic tuna fish, life-size robotic dinosaurs for Disney Imagineering, and robotic baby dolls with Hasbro, before joining iRobot where he was responsible for leading the Roomba team to scale the functional prototype to high-volume production of the first three million units.

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