Pictured above is the Tocaro Blue Gateway – this is the central Wifi Hub that connects the mesh of sensors. The design and functionality of the Gateway was a crucial step in the prototyping process to bring the concept to life!

Ah, the age old challenge: You have a great idea for a product. You are confident that this product will solve a problem and value to people’s lives. But, you’re at a road block. There’s something missing in your skillset preventing you from getting an example of this idea made so you can prove its effectiveness to the world. We all face these road blocks because conceptualizing, designing, building, and marketing a product are all distinct skillsets that are rarely possessed by one person. Even if they are, one person cannot execute at a high level in all of these areas in a timely manner.

This article is meant to help you ask yourself questions and provoke thought to help refine your product idea, define what a prototype of your product looks like, and start building your team.

The topics below are self-reflection questions to help think through your idea and plan of action thoroughly:

  • What is new, useful, and unobvious about your idea?
    This is the standard that the US patent office set to determine whether to grant a patent. It is equally valuable for an entrepreneur to define how the product is different from everything else that is out there. This does not mean just the similar products that are for sale, but similar patents that may have no practical application. What’s new, useful, and unobvious varies greatly from product to product, but oftentimes these things can be much simpler than you may first realize.
  • Selling what to whom for what price? In other words, summarize the MVP (“Minimum Viable Product”). A creative individual can work and build on a good idea for years but never bring it to fruition. Define up-front the first item you will sell, who you will sell it to, and the price will solidify the step the turns your invention into a product.
    • This step is particularly difficult. Right now you have tons of ideas swirling in your head. Many of those ideas have a lot of credence and could be really solid. What is tough about this step is that you need to focus on the word Minimum.
    • Most of the time too many ideas are the enemy of executing on one good idea. Think about the simplest path to creating your product. The simplest solution to the most fundamental problem.
  • Key objectives: what is most important to accomplish/prove first?
    On the path to your first sale, there may be technical hurdles that truly cannot be overcome in a reasonable time or budget. Be sure to conquer these obstacles early-on.
    • Examples of these obstacles may be a mobile app or website, a hardware or mechanical device, a cloud storage solution, or something even more bespoke.
    • Moxie customer Tocaro Blue needed a bunch of sensors to talk to a central Wifi gateway to send data like ambient air temperature, battery voltage, and more to boat owners. In their path to commercialization the technical hurdle proved to be designing the hardware + app combination that would work for them and solve their customers problem.
      • The idea to develop a product that would provide boat owners real time information about their boat from anywhere was brilliant, and with their tenacity and vision we worked together to leap over the technical hurdles.
    • Some entrepreneurs come to the table with a solution using off-the shelf parts for their IoT idea. That can work, but can have its downsides as well. We are familiar with the positives and negatives of using existing products. Early on, the pros usually outweigh the cons…
  • What can be assembled from existing components, what is entirely new?
    Your first prototypes should be made by borrowing and buying as many pieces as possible. Spend your research funds on the new aspects of your invention. Don’t reinvent the wheel!
    • It’s important to know that finding the correct components to “borrow” for your project may be a very time consuming process that requires some trial and error. If you aren’t technical, this is where you’ll need some help. Sourcing the proper components can breathe life into your prototype. It is important to be aware of the potential downsides of each component you select. There is an inherent compromise in every decision you make
    • Sometimes your idea can be accomplished by using the existing sensors in a smartphone, smart watch, or other existing and readily available items. Make sure to research what sensors are used in common smart devices. This could save you a ton of money in development, or might change your business model entirely!
    • At this stage in the game, staying focuses on a prototype is critical. A prototype is a single example that functions a way effective enough to prove the value of the concept. After the prototype is built and working, the next focus is on a “minimum viable product (MVP).” This is essentially an iterated version of your prototype that can be sold to a customer.
  • What skills will be needed on the team that builds this system?
    The ”lone inventor” motif leads you on a slow path to profit. Build the team first, then build the product.
    • You might be starting your second or third business, or you might be venturing out on your own for your first time. The main thing to know here is that investing in the people around you is exceptionally important.
    • Sometimes the skills you need on your team may be obvious (if your idea is for an App, and you’re not an app developer, you probably need to hire one!), other times it’s much less so.

At Moxie, we talk to entrepreneurs every day. We work with people who are seeking to solve a problem and capitalize on a market opportunity. Our job is to guide our customers, working side by side to define a technical plan that enables them to pursue their vision. It’s all too common to meet entrepreneurs with a great idea and vision, but no path to turn their idea into a commercially viable product. Usually this is no fault of their own, it’s simply a road block in the way, and we’re here to help remove that road block.

Moxie exists to give your connected device idea a path to reality. We have been designing, manufacturing, and selling our own connected devices and designing devices for others for years in an array of industries. From motorsports and boating, industrial to robotics, the Moxie team has seen it all.

Reach out to us today to get started on your project: hello@moxieiot.com