Precision Metal Rapid Prototypes #CES2019
My friend said to me last year, â€œhey you know about new product development and rapid prototype development, can I buy you a coffee?â€ That normally means that I am about to give a lot of free advice to someone, but it was a friend, so happy to help them out
This friend had recently become an investor in a new product venture and wanted to introduce me to this idea. The group had a fundraising investors meeting coming up so it was a good opportunity to see their new product, learn how they were funding, learn about their ROI, and gauge how the team was equipped for the various skill sets needed to launch this a new product successfully.
The presentation was not half bad, I have seen better, I have seen worse. What the presentation was missing was a real physical product. It was heavy on 3D animation, 3D JPEGs of parts, all the virtual bells and whistles, but no physical samples. Some would say that it is early days so no big deal. I completely disagree. Their product could have been made via plastic 3D printing or a precision metal part made via CNC machining. I would have been happy to touch any physical sample which would have allowed me to evaluate the project in a much more complete way.
After the meeting, I went out with the core team for a drink (or two) to give them my impressions.Â What I learned over the course of the next two hours confirmed what I had suspected during the fundraising meeting. They had a good idea, not great, but for sure an idea that has some legs, an idea that could make some money if executed and marketed properly. At the same time, they had too many chiefs with no real product development experience, they were not moving forward fast enough, and they were lacking internal skills like marketing, graphic design, and CAD design to name a few. If you have to go outside for every little step forward it gets expensive really fast.
My biggest point to them was that they needed to get some physical samples, multiple rapid prototype samplesâ€¦fast. Different colours, different iterations, different feature sets, a small army of samples that convey strength to anyone who is paying attention. There are many reasons to get rapid prototype samples early, one of the biggest reasons for them was that they needed investors to keep going and first class samples will land investors if the idea has any legs. Here are some of my detailed comments to them:
1. The team was spending money on 3D virtual presentations for fundraising purposes instead of physical samples. While some virtual presentations are needed for online fundraising, nothing beats physical samples for closing the deal with local investors who have deeper pockets than most online investors. Being conservative by not spending development dollars on early rapid prototype samples was actually costing them money, right now and in the long run.
2. Itâ€™s a 3D printing world now, so even if your future rapid prototype samples may end up being made via CNC machining, vacuum casting or other manufacturing process, at the minimum have some 3D printed samples available early on. If you have 3D files of your product, then you should have some early rapid prototype samples within 2 weeks.Â There really is no excuse to wait in my opinion. The value of these early real-world samples cannot be overstated. A tactile presentation is crucial as not all investors can visualize. Plus, you have to spend the money anyway to succeed and spending on early samples can open up additional investor cash.
3. The team was already drawing salaries from their first round of fundraising. If you are drawing salaries from investor money you better be speeding up your product development time line. The moment you stop sweat equity and start drawing salaries your investors will expect a lot more, a lot quicker. That means investing in early rapid prototype samples and lots of them to show strength and to be ready for sales/trade show opportunities that may just fall into your lap. Every project that I have been involved with that invests in rapid prototype samples early on has had some degree of success. The projects where we did not pull the trigger quick enough just burned through cash and yielded little or no or negative return.
4. Physical rapid prototype samples simply move projects forward. The longer you stay on paper the less credible your project will be to investors and to your retail or distribution partners. One early meeting with no physical samples can be forgiven. More than that and I personally find it hard to take you seriously. Early rapid prototype samples do not have to be fully fleshed out, but they are important to start proving your concept, and to start gaining investor confidence. ConfidenceÂ gives you breathing room.
Time is your biggest enemy. We donâ€™t want to waste capital dollars frivolously, but not spending dollars early on can actually cost you more in the long run.Â Move from paper design to real-world samples FAST and you can succeed.