Bringing an idea from concept to first sale is a huge undertaking, but can be fun and rewarding if approached the right way. As an IoT founder, the new idea that your product brings to life is 90% of its value. Unfortunately, 90% of the cost of an IoT deployment is in building a framework to implement it, not the idea itself. The Moxie workflow helps keep a focus on your good idea and keep a steady push towards commercialization. It is helpful to divide the IoT development process into four steps. Each step is a meaningful process to defining and creating a product – and working in stages through each one allows a pause and shift at any point it makes sense to adjust the vision.
Defining your project is taking a broad idea and market and focusing on a precise trajectory for development and sales. As founders ourselves, we understand that founders are often shy to explain their invention, sometimes due to concerns about theft, and/or lack of confidence. Define and Discovery is the time when you can talk freely with our domain experts, with the confidence of a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) in place, to confirm that the new idea you present really does stand out from the crowd. Many times the invention itself is the key, or a new feature it introduces that truly makes it better. Sometimes the business model stands out from the crowd. Unfortunately, some good ideas may already be patented even if they are absent in the marketplace, or perhaps are already available in a market that is not expected. It’s important for founders to be honest with ourselves and be willing to see the truth and adapt to it, not to hide from criticism. The founders who later succeed in creating bold new technologies are shameless about telling their idea to anyone who will listen. Answering the questions below will help anyone be sure their idea has a clear path to build and sell:
· Invention: What in the invention is patentable (new, useful, and unobvious)?
· In a few sentence ‘elevator pitch’, how would you summarize your product/idea? At what stage of development is it in? Is it simple to communicate the value?
· If applicable, what do you envision your idea looks like when you first begin selling it (your Minimum Viable Product, or “MVP”)? Selling what to whom for how much? How will you reach your end customer?
· What is your target budget ($) for developing the MVP, or achieving the development goals that you would be interested in a support partner like Moxie helping you to reach?
· What events and dates define success? Failure?
After answering these questions as the founder and visionary, it is time to sit down with our team to turn these goals into ‘engineering objectives’: exact elements of the invention that need to be built. Our technical experts can make detailed decisions based on a thorough understanding of the end result. At this stage, the idea is defined in milestones, and the cost to deliver those milestones can be estimated. Moxie will then provide a quotation and a timeline for designing and prototyping the invention, as well as rough estimates of costs in production (100 to 1000 units). To relieve the burden of upfront costs, Moxie can divide large projects into phases to be sure your expectations are met at each stage of the development process. While the exact cost of each deployment varies, we find that it scales with invention complexity such that most IoT deployments break even after 400 to 600 sales. If that volume sounds hard to achieve, we suggest that your product be simplified or the target market expanded to ensure your product is a commercial success.
MOXIE will deliver fully functioning IoT system – PCB’s, sensors, embedded code, sleek enclosure, secure data server, and your branded ‘portal’ in the Moxie app, customized to your desired functionality.
There are five elements required in a full-featured IoT Product deployment:
· Printed Circuit Board – physical electronics
· Embedded Application – programmed code in the microcomputer on the PCB
· User Interface Device/Application – usually a smartphone App*
· Network Communication – How is data transferred, logged. Managing user accounts
· Enclosure – The physical device which contains the PCB and hardware user interface
This pattern is common across most IoT products, whether developed by established companies, startups, governments, etc. It is important to understand from a high level why each of these elements is needed, so descriptions of each element are provided here. Moxie has the experience and tools to design and prototype all five elements in weeks and at very reasonable costs - the only limit is imagination. Our phased development process means that features can be added over time – for instance the first iteration of a product may stand alone but contain Bluetooth capability so a smartphone app interface can be added in a later phase if you find that your customers want it.
* Moxie suggests that founders focus on a single smartphone platform at first. Some designers prefer ANDROID for lower hardware costs and larger worldwide market share. At Moxie, we prefer iOS for a few reasons: iOS apps reach nearly half the US market. Apple provides excellent support for creating powerful apps that match the modern customer’s extremely demanding expectations, even with only a small support team. We use server/cloud tools like Amazon Web Services that are accessible to iOS and ANDROID equally. Finally, we have tested many popular cross-platform strategies (React Native, Xamarin) and have found that they are good for ‘website’ style apps, but today they still do a poor job connecting to IoT physical hardware.
Deployment is the pivotal moment when a technology becomes a business. Field testing and marketing can begin simultaneously to get your product ready for customers and start building interest in your product.
MOXIE team will work with you to install, test, and iterate on improvements for your IoT system, until the prototype meets all of your expectations. Our engineering labs contain equipment for testing electrical devices in many environments. We are also able to support our technology in the field. Deployment marks the transition from 3D printed enclosures to machined or molded parts. It means that all critical elements of the data network are tested and running reliably. At this stage, you can sell the product to early adopters who are excited about the technology and willing to be patient and supportive as the product interface and presentation come into final form. If your invention involves intellectual property, this is a good time to hire a patent attorney and secure your intellectual property before revealing the product in detail to the public.
After the initial excitement of seeing an idea come to life as a prototype, it’s time to prepare for a big step: selling your product to people you don’t know. The key in the deployment stage is to grow in information and outreach with low costs. Sell your product to early adopters - give demos or trial units if needed – it is invaluable to hear the way people describe and interact with your invention. This ensures your presentation hits the right highlights and isn’t missing what your customers actually find most valuable. In other words – gather information to describe the product in a clear, concise, and impactful way as you begin to build a marketing and sales strategy.
Now that you have a well-tuned technology and a clear and impactful message to describe the value it provides, it’s time to devote time and resources to spreading that message. Websites and social media are a modern high-impact way to spread the word and reach your potential customers. MOXIE has a web development team who focuses on lightweight and high-impact sites that guide site visitors to see value, understand what they are purchasing, and checkout smoothly.
During deployment and as the company grows, don’t neglect the old-school approach of trade-shows and in-person marketing. Semi-annual business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) trade-shows occur in every niche industry you can imagine. These shows cost several thousand to prepare and attend, but payback comes in direct access to a captive audience of your core customers and the potential to meet and talk with key decision makers in similar businesses. Our internal companies always identify the one or two industry-leading shows for each technology we develop and ensure we attend them when the product is ready for demo. MOXIE can help you prepare industry trade-show booths and materials and help select the show that is best for you to attend. We believe that it is not effective to attend tradeshows with your product alone and no booth. The booth itself, even if small in a corner, and the ‘Exhibitor’ badge, give you instant credibility in your conversations.
When you’re 100% pleased with your Prototype Deployment, MOXIE is ready to produce and deliver it at scale… whether 100 units or 10,000. At this point, you will have your business established to provide sales and support. You can build a team to assemble your product and to fulfill orders as they come in. Within a year, you can be managing suppliers around the world. But, we understand that it can be intimidating to navigate vendors (especially overseas) and mistakes at this stage are very costly. MOXIE can help to streamline this process. We maintain relationships with qualified suppliers for custom product development. These range across three main areas: hardware manufacturing, electronics, and packaging.
The Hardware manufacturer builds your device from raw metal or plastic. For 50 to 1000 units per order, it is usually most cost-effective to build your product using CNC machining. CNC machining cuts parts out from a block of solid material – it is accurate, reliable, and the costs are directly proportional to the number of parts that are built. CNC machining is the way MOXIE builds prototypes, so it is seamless to move from prototype to CNC production. However, the price of 2000 parts will not be much less than the price of 200, so when you are ready to build 1000 to 10000 units, injection molding becomes the preferred technology. Injection molding involves creating extremely precise molds in the negative shape of your parts. Molten polymer is injected into this mold where it cools and hardens in to a precise component. The cost of mold can be $1200 to $12k dollars! But this cost quickly becomes offset by the low cost of each part; where the injected polymer could cost mere pennies per unit. MOXIE has fast and reliable CNC machining suppliers who can build 100 to 1000 units in weeks. We have multiple sources we use for injection molding – and can help navigate your mold design and production.
Electronics manufacturing is relatively simple since it is a fairly standardized process. The fiberglass boards are built overseas at low cost with no quality issues. For 10 to 1000 parts, MOXIE has equipment to quickly assemble (populate) your boards, load any firmware into them, and test their operation. Beyond 1000 parts, we have overseas suppliers who can take advantage of lower labor costs to give a slight advantage. MOXIE can quickly estimate the costs to produce electronics at any scale so we know which technique is best for your needs.
Packaging defines the way your customer perceives the product the moment they receive it – this is a critical time to set expectations. While early adopters will tolerate brown cardboard boxes and packing paper, consumers on your website or in a store expect a different level of care. MOXIE can produce all shapes and sizes of packaging from custom bags and mailers to Apple-style hard boxes with custom graphics. The many options for packaging can be overwhelming and confusing, and a mistake in something as simple as a cardstock weight or color code could ruin the entire presentation. Let us help by finding samples to match your desires, designing customized graphics, and managing production and importing.
At this stage, your start-up is now rolling and profitable. It’s time for MOXIE to take a backstage role and leave you to operate the business. Know that we are always willing to support our work after deployment and production, and are happy to iterate and build new products as your company grows.