product development stock image

These Product Development Breakthroughs Are Accelerating Startups

Startups are lucrative but often fail to find steady ground before the market overtakes them. Success stories such as Facebook, Twitter, Uber, and many other tech companies attract many post-grads into entrepreneurship. Many find that attracting investors, bringing products to market, and organizing workers is much harder than advertised. There are emerging technologies within the B2B market that are vastly helping in this process. From digital rendering services to rapid prototyping with 3D printers—leveraging the latest tech can help a would-be sob story stay lean enough to win-out against competitors.

Product Development & Startups

product development cycle illustration
Product development is a non-linear process

Startups are often founded on little more than a dream and initial funding from family and close friends. This usually keeps the lights on a few months, puts some Ramen Noodles in one’s belly, and can help get the bare bones of office equipment. The product development cycle is different for every industry but retains some common characteristics regardless of what vertical in which one finds their business to be. Concept, revision, prototyping, revision, initial version, sampling, revision, launch. Note the rampant presence of the word “revision.”

Revising one’s product design is essential for competing well in the market. There are always unforeseen concerns, needs, and issues in a performance that should dictate to which direction one should adjust. The breaking point for many new businesses are the costs associated with finding these unforeseen needs. Maybe an online-only furniture company can stomach the cost of three sampling rounds required to get their product ready for consumers. Maybe a new automotive startup isn’t able to hire a full-time industrial designer to clay-model their way into the front-lines of aesthetic appeal and performant design. Leveraging new technology can help on all these fronts.

3D Product Renderings

3D Furniture Renderings
Image Courtesy of Rendernode

3D renderings are images and/or experiences created in digital space to give developers and consumers an impression of products before they’re ever made. In many cases, 3D renderings replace initial sampling by allowing designers and developers to get an accurate assessment of what their products will look like long before they are physically produced. In the past, companies would need to work with manufacturers from the beginning to create their products. Many require exorbitant casting fees, have high MoQ’s, or just downright charge a lot of money. Digital renderings won’t replace a physical product but in many cases, they can help weed out early design flaws. Product renderings require a great deal of technical expertise and aren’t something startups should do in-house. Contracting out with companies offering product rendering services can help keep up-front investment to a minimum while still lowering product development cycle cost.

3D Printing & Rapid Prototyping

shapeways medical device printing
Image Courtesy of Shapeways

3D printing has a lot of overlap with 3D rendering. In either case, one must create a 3D model of designs that need to be printed. This is a logical progression in low-cost development practices since 3D renderings often require 3D models to first be created. If that’s the case, one need simply upload 3D models to a 3D printing service to have those delivered on-site. There are a variety of methods in having a rapid prototype created. In the past, businesses such as architects would (and still do) create scale models out of materials such as foam board or balsa wood. 3D printers use polymer materials in such a way that physical representations can be quickly and accurately built to give an impression of how products will look. Different types of printing are better suited for different purposes. Powder-based printing can accurately be shown the interplay of gearing and complex mechanics, filament-based printing can quickly and cheaply show overall form, and more exotic practices such as Laser Metal Sintering can even produce working mechanical designs made of metal alloys. 3D renderings can replace the first round of sampling-revision and 3D printing can often replace the second.

Team Collaboration Software

slack screenshot
Image courtesy of Slack

Startups aren’t always able to afford full-time hires and leverage the affordability of outsourced labor. The biggest issue, after finding quality contractors, is managing projects while remotely communicating with freelancers and/or outside agencies. Timezones are an issue, language barriers are an issue, and keeping everyone updated and on the same page is often impossible. Some of the most successful startups in recent years have been software companies with products designed to assist with these issues. Sites like UpWork and Freelancer can help find contractors, services like Trello and Slack can help communicate with remote teams, and services like PayPal and Payoneer can help get these freelancers paid in a timely fashion. These services have been so heavily utilized and so successfully-received by the business community at large that there are many more specialized services emerging. That is; project management for creative projects, payment processing for freelancers, service marketplaces for marketing. These are natural progressions of emerging markets and illustrative of just how exciting it is to be in business in the modern world!