If you have an idea for a product but are not sure where to start, read on.
The following may help shed some light on your path to success.
The best advice I can give you is from my own experience as it has been successful for me.
I will use the TaggioPro Bicycle Pump Head as an example in this case.
Not many people go to a bike shop and ask specifically for a one-handed bike pump save for folks with only one hand or some ailment like arthritis. So when it came to building a better mousetrap of a bicycle pump head, the most important question I had to ask myself repeatedly was if there was value in what I was developing or was it just a fleeting thought that did not really have a market or value to anyone other than myself. As such, I developed the rule of 5. That is, write down the idea, think about it for 5 days and if it’s still interesting to me, than it might be worth a second look.
I found the rule of 5 strategy to be very valuable as it helped narrow my focus and efforts on ideas that were worth pursuing.
The TaggioPro Bicycle Pump Head is a perfect example. After I broke my hand in a cycling accident, I needed a solution to airing up my bicycle tires while my hand healed. Even before I broke my hand, I found airing up tires a pain in the backside because of the lack of innovation in the space. Many companies have made better pumps, but almost none had made a great head to go with those pumps. At the time, a bicycle pump head that would work great for both Presta and Schrader valve types let alone utilizing only one hand appeared to absent from the marketplace. I kept coming back to the idea for months to build something better.
The next step in validating my problem statement which was that there were no simple one handed solutions was to do an in-depth market study of my own. This meant scrubbing Amazon for bike pumps with different heads, reading reviews and visiting many bicycle shops in my state and at conventions to see what was selling and if those best selling products lacked fit, form and function resulting in frustration for folks other than myself.
I put aside $500 to buy a bunch of pumps and try them out. I purchased 10-20 pumps and tried them on mountain bikes, road bikes, strollers, cars, ect.. It soon became clear that I might be on to something because while there were clear winners in terms of what was available, there was no one truly great solution. Everything required two hands to operate and everything seemed to be clumsy when used in combination of both Schrader and Presta valves. Some pumps didn’t even have the functionality for both valve types, it was either one or the other.
I drew up a chart of what I liked and disliked about each pump and associated head plus the price at which it was purchased.
Using the chart, I looked at the range of pounds per square inch each pump performed well at and then identified a median price point that I thought my pump with head and pump head alone should be in based on the competition and value to the market.
This initial groundwork gave me a good sense of the competition, the price points, where these types of pumps were selling and the features cyclists were looking for.
My conclusion was:
Retailers could charge $29.00 for the head alone if were a premium head that would outlast the competition.
Retailers could charge $59.00-$69.00 for a pump with the head.
The pump head would have to work for both Schrader and Presta
The pump head would have to work well for applications that required both 30p.s.i up to 120p.s.i.
The pump head would need to be durable to take a drop on concrete from 4ft without breaking. Work in temperatures ranging from 32F to 120F and could be accidently run over by a car without resulting in catastrophic damage to the pump head.
These findings ultimately became the first things to make it on to my product requirements document.
Next was exploring what this head would look like so that it would function well with one hand. I did have a bit of an advantage here in that I only had one functional hand at the time and some experience with human factors after working on other products. I am not a purest when it comes to design, however I am a stickler about ease of use when it comes to tools, so there was to be no compromise in usability. I wanted something that would use the strongest muscles available to get the job done since many people I spoke with said they hated airing up their tires because it was too hard on their hands. I recognized that the pump heads I disliked the most were in fact those that required odd angles resulting in strain on the fingers and hands to achieve a good seal around the valve.
My focus was to discover a way to use the strongest muscles in the human hand to achieve proper valve engagement. This ultimately would result in the best ease of use.
The next step was to look at other devices on the market that excelled at simplicity and efficiency when used with one hand, left or right, it did not matter. After much research and scouring both HarborFreight and Sears for the best single-handed tools, it was not until a visit to the doctors office for a check up on my hand and a tetanus shot that would give me the answer.
A nurse came in to give me a shot and she had her hands full with other stuff as well. She stuck the syringe in my arm and it dawned on me. A syringe action was exactly the mechanical advantage I was looking for. Not only was it few moving parts, it also harnessed the power of the human hand. Most importantly, just about everyone has experienced a syringe and know how it is used, so the demonstrability of the product would be familiar to a new user.
As progress continued, I began to order catheter syringes from Amazon. The point of the large syringes was to see what size fit in the hand the best and at the same time fit between the spokes on a variety of wheels. Doing this gave me wonderful insight into what types of wheels and spokes the final product would be used on and built for, it also allowed me to test the best way to hold the device. This information went right to the new whiteboard in my garage where I kept all of the research results. Next it was transferred to the product requirements document with some parameters filed in the “want” category and other in the “need” category.
My experience with the group of pumps that I had purchased told me that I did not want to make a product out of all plastic. I was not happy with the feel of an all-plastic head. I had this idea that I wanted to make the product refined and clearly different. This would help with the evasive WOW factor that so many of the pumps that I had used lacked. Something shiny and hi-end would definitely pop out on a retail shelf.
Realizing that I had reached the end of my development capabilities, it was time to explore getting some professional help. At the time I was contracted by a product development company to lead their marketing efforts. Though they were extremely busy with other projects, I spoke with them about giving me some pointers on how I might go about the next phase of development.
The product development company suggested that I:
Use the PRD to guide the development of a minimally viable product
Create a simple design that could be 3D printed to test the functions of the minimally viable product.
Think about crowd-funding to help fund the final product if the initial prototypes deliver the results I was looking for.
Since this blog post is focused where to start with an idea, I will end this post here. The next post covers setting expectations grounded in reality when it’s time for functional prototypes. Ultimately I would be forced to make a huge compromise to get the device working but it worked out to be a huge advantage in the end.