When should I hire a product design consulting firm to help me commericalize my product?

Your founding team has great R&D skills.  With a little fishing wire and bubble gum, and a generous amount of duct tape, you have proved the efficacy of your solution.  You are ready to take the product to the next level.  The only problem?  The founding team doesn’t quite have the skillset to productize the technology.  They need to find talent who can help them realize their vision.  This post will help you find people who can take care of the next leg in the relay.

First, let’s talk about the work content. With a duct tape prototype, the technology has been proven to work, at a bare-bones, purely functional level. With an actual product, the functionality needs to be presented in an ergonomic, usable manner. This requires an industrial designer – and oftentimes a hardware founding team does not have an experienced industrial designer on board. That’s the first place where the team may need help. 

While the first iteration of a looks-like, works-like prototype is almost certainly not going to go straight to mass production, the electromechanical architecture does need to incorporate design for manufacturing / design for assembly principles.  A preliminary cost target needs to be arrived at.  Both of these activities require deep knowledge in product development, supply chain development and manufacturing processes.

You can certainly take classes and read books to learn the basics.  However, this is an area where Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, rules. The more times you’ve brought hardware devices to market, the better you will be in designing something that can be produced, is durable, and is of high quality from a construction and fit/finish standpoint. Put bluntly, it is frequently faster and cheaper to import the talent than to have a bright founding team derive everything from first principles.  This is the second place where the team can need help. 

If you find yourself in need of help in one of the above two areas, you have two options. You can either hire several individuals (whether full time employees or contractors) to do the job, or you can hire a product design firm to take over the initial project.

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