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An Entrepreneur’s Pragmatic Guide for Bringing a Product to Market

IDEAS at SJSU | Cameron Dalton Lutz

Imagine you’ve had a long day at work and you hop into a relaxing shower. Just before you go to shampoo, you’re struck with an epiphany, a solution to a problem you’ve been dealing with constantly.

This is how most entrepreneurs get their start.

But more often than not, the idea sits idle in your head and never ends up making the impact it potentially could.

So the question is, how do you take an inkling of an idea from inside your head to the hands of the people who could use it most?

Today, we’ll look at a proven and pragmatic process for entrepreneurs looking to bring a product to market.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” -Walt Disney

Getting Started

The very first step in product creation starts with asking yourself, “Is there a demand for the product I hope to make? Or am I the only one with this need?”

Chances are, you’re not the only one.

Determine the existing patents, the most similar products to the one you’re trying to create, and the resources you’d need to execute production.

You should confidently know the four P’s of your business:

  1. Product: Focus on the things that your customers need, not what you think they want. Think about the beginning and end of your product cycle - function and design to warranty and customer service.

  2. Price: By looking at similar products and competitors, get a feel for the price that your customers are willing to pay. This will help you stay on track with manufacturing and margins.

  3. Placement: Think about how you will get your product into the hand of your customers. E-commerce has never made it easier to move products to market, but retail is still a viable option.

  4. Promotion: Ponder who is your ideal customer. Keep in mind the 80/20 Rule, the vital few, that says roughly 80% of the events can be drawn from 20% of the causes. This applies to understanding your ideal customer and designing your products to meet their needs.

Market Research

Once you have an idea of what the product can become, then you can move onto the next step of market research.

Market research is critical to understanding the needs of your customers, identify new trends and mitigate potential risks.

You must address certain questions in your primary research that will help you get bearings on which direction to take your product or business.

You can acquire this information through a market research firm or through good ole surveys, experimentation and careful observation.

Here’s some questions that you should ask yourself to guide your market research.

  1. Who are my customers?

    • Create customer profiles, marketing strategies

  2. What are the products that my customers want or need?

  3. What are the factors that influence the buying behavior of my customers?

    • Price, customer service, warranties, branding, convenience

  4. At what price would my product be competitive?

  5. Who are my most immediate and distant competitors?

    • What are their strengths and weaknesses, can you address them?

Getting to know your customer is the most important part of any business growth.

Jeff Bezos at Amazon pridefully shares their secret to success: the utmost priority of the company is servicing the needs of the customer.

Having a customer-centric mindset rather than a competitor-centric mindset will help you maintain focus when scaling your business.

The best way to guarantee growth is building thorough customer profiles.

You can reach most potential markets through social media, web and in-person surveys.

When formulating your surveys remember to:

  • Keep it simple and as short as possible

  • Make sure it’s easy to read and visually appealing

  • Keep questions easily understandable

  • Make sure to pre-test your questionnaire before putting it out, then refine and improve

  • Incorporate an incentive for engagement

  • Avoid leading questions

  • Don’t provide too many or too few questions; 6-10 questions is a good rule of thumb

Secondary Research

Primary research is where most of your time and energy should be spent.

Secondary research includes reading books, studying competitors, assessing macroeconomic trends, and determining the demographics of your customers.

These are things you must address before moving on to the fun parts of building a product and business.

This process should take about 50 hours of dedicated effort.

Three hours a day, for two weeks.

“You have a divine duty to share with the world the solutions you have for it.”

In the next part, we’ll look into the steps of product development and the processes that can help you bring about your vision of tomorrow.

All Successful Entrepreneurs Have this One Trait

IDEAS at SJSU | Cameron Dalton Lutz

There’s no shortage of people who dream of becoming their own boss.

But being an entrepreneur is not for the faint-hearted. Working for someone else can come with plenty of benefits – health insurance, 401k, paid time off to name a few.

But if you’re passionate about your freedom and willing to grow, you should seriously consider entrepreneurship.

Despite how glamorous entrepreneurship appears in media, stories like Musk's, Zuckerberg's, and Jobs' are extremely uncommon – they're called 'unicorns' for a reason.

A unicorn is a private company with a upwards of a $1 billion valuation. But you don’t have to be to be a unicorn to be an entrepreneur.

Your uncle who owns a gas station isn’t building the next big social network, but he’s his own boss and makes his own money.

Anyone can be an entrepreneur.

What separates unicorns from everyday entrepreneurs is mentality.

Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University, details in her book, Mindset, that what separates the haves from the have-nots is their capacity to learn – their neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is the idea that your skills and knowledge are grown, nurtured and strengthened rather than an endowment of talent and ability.

What separates your uncle and the unicorns is mindset.

Here's a brief example of how mindset can make the difference.

Last year, I started The Mafigo Project to resolve the issue with water scarcity in places that lacked water infrastructure.

The project was compelling because it was a simple and innovative solution to a problem that affects 900 million people worldwide.

We won 2nd place at IDEAthon, winning a cash prize and access to TechShop, where we could rapidly prototype our project.

With the gungho momentum from IDEAthon, we had no shortage of optimism and enthusiasm.

We quickly created iterations of our product: a simple water drum with a mechanically driven filtration system that helps transport, filter and store water.

We took the project to the final stage of Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge and were finalists at the elevator pitch competition.

The Mafigo Project at Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge 2017

The Mafigo Project at Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge 2017

But we hit a roadblock.

The place where we planned to construct our prototype, TechShop, permanently closed just weeks before SVIC.  

Eventually, I ended The Mafigo Project because we couldn’t secure the funding for the project and, at the time, had no means of manufacturing a prototype.

Had I approached with a growth mindset, we could have found a way to produce a prototype, bootstrapped, and potentially sold the plans and proof of concept to a disaster relief agency.

I failed when I fixated on what I couldn't do.

But the opposite is true.

When I realized that there was no need to be “good enough,” but to have the mindset to be willing to learn and adapt to new responsibilities. Startups are all about learning on the job.

I joined the IDEAS marketing team this semester because I am willing to make mistakes and grow from them.

Putting myself out there takes courage, but if I hadn't then I wouldn't find myself marketing manager at IDEAS.

I’d still be wondering what it’d be like to be a marketing manager, rather than doing it.

People with growth mindsets focus on what they can change.

And they do it.

Entrepreneurship is not for everyone.

But anyone can be an entrepreneur.

It all depends on your mindset.

If you’re an entrepreneur or aspire to be one, I recommend applying for the ZinnStarter program to receive funding from a pool of $20,000 and dedicated mentorship.

Find more information on Our Website and experience startup culture through our ZinnStarter Program.

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Cameron Dalton Lutz

Problem-solver, startup-founder, dog-lover.

Enquiring within upon everything.