One of my Columbia University colleagues published a book last month called Inspired! Take Your Product Dream from Concept to Shelf. I got a chance to sit down with Vik Venkatraman, and I asked this former Red Bull brand manager, break-dance event promoter, Deloitte consultant, and serial entrepreneur what tips he has for someone interested in moving their dreams from mental shelves and onto store shelves. Here is a quick summary of our conversation. You can view my blogcast below.
Find your niche
Start out by picking a product segment that excites you and that you can compete in. Take an inventory of the following four areas:
- What people do you know?
- What skills do you have?
- What products do you like?
- What problems need to be solved?
Brainstorm answers to these four questions and see what pops out. Vik's health drink venture—Star Power—was a natural leap from his Red Bull experience and met all of these criteria.
Get ahead of the wave
Before settling on your product, review the product's key-words on Google Trends or Twitter. This helps tell you if you're moving in front of the market's momentum or in its wake.
Avoid the vampires
If you've ever hired (or fired) a consultant, then you've probably met the vampires—the person who deliver $5 in value for every $10 in salary. When Vik was launching one of his businesses, he regularly fielded calls from self-styled consultants who offered to pitch his product at a trade show for a "small retainer" of $10,000 per week. At first they lured him in. They drew fees that outweighed what they could sell many times over. Beware of the sales person who is better at selling himself than at selling your product.
Vik's advice is to review their past client list and make sure they are serving a few recognizable companies rather than a long list of unknowns.
Create a prototype
With the exception of a few creative engineers, no one "gets" a product without seeing or, better yet, touching it. "If a picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth a thousand pictures." Don't give up on your idea until you have a prototype in someone's hands.
Vik's book hits just the right balance between irreverence and practicality. It's a roadmap for launching a new product, chocked with useful tools and resources, that nudges you around the turns with humor and inspiration. If you've got an idea that you think you might want to get into the market, you'd be well served by checking it out.