How can innovators like you engage in a new product development strategy that works? Is a successful strategy even possible or is all left up to chance? On this episode, you’ll hear from author and entrepreneur, Sean Michael Ragan. In our conversation, Sean opens up about his background, his four steps for new product development, how inventors can connect with a good company for product development, why crowdfunding is helpful for inventors, and much more! Don’t miss a minute of this engaging episode featuring Sean!

New product development steps you can use!

Let’s face it, inventing, producing, scaling, marketing, and selling a product can be beyond intimidating. What if there was a way to cut through the complexity of new product development and embrace a streamlined approach? Sean Michael Ragan has developed a clear-cut method with his four steps of new product development.

  1. Making one.
  2. Selling one.
  3. Making many.
  4. Selling many.

Innovators like you no longer have to start from square one! You don’t have to wonder where to start in the product development process. Make sure to listen to this episode as Sean breaks down each of the four steps, you don’t want to miss it!

Finding a good company for product development.

At some point along the way, inventors will need to connect with an outside company to develop and produce their product. What is the best way to find a solid company to develop your product? Sean Michael Ragan suggests that inventors look for a recommendation from their network. Sean also stresses how important it is to look at their portfolio of work to make sure that they can handle the type of work you are hiring them to do. Get more helpful insights from Sean’s perspective by listening to this engaging episode!

Market testing tips.

One of the most important aspects of new product development is market testing your product. In a perfect world, this step would involve large and numerous test groups and cost a significant amount of money, time, and resources. Practically speaking, most inventors can’t engage this step as thoroughly as they’d like to. Alternatively, inventors with limited resources should get their prototype into the hands of as many of their target demographic as possible and take the time to studiously consider their feedback and criticisms. For more information about market testing your invention, make sure to listen to this episode with Sean Michael Ragan!

How crowdfunding supports innovation.

What makes the crowdfunding platform so appealing to inventors? Why does the crowdfunding approach appeal to inventors in such a strong way? On this episode, Sean Michael Ragan shares why crowdfunding and inventing go hand in hand. At the end of the day, the huge boon that crowdfunding provides to the inventor community is creating an accessible channel that lowers the social and economic barriers to funding and media exposure. In light of the rise of crowdfunding platforms, inventors who would have never dreamed of inventing now have a solid shot! What additional insights can you learn from Sean’s perspective? Find out on this helpful episode!

Key Takeaways

  • [1:05] Sean Michael Ragan joins the podcast.
  • [1:45] Sean talks about his background.
  • [2:50] 4 steps of product development.
  • [5:00] How can inventors find a good company to work with for product development?
  • [6:20] What are some good market testing tips?
  • [8:00] Using your network and keeping it local is the best strategy.
  • [9:00] The benefits of crowdfunding to the inventor community.
  • [10:00] What is the future of inventing? Follow the math!
  • [11:00] Sean enters the Launch Round.
  • [12:30] Why you should check out Sean’s book!

Links

Connect With Sean Michael Ragan

Sponsors

Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by The Gadget Flow, a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save, and buy awesome products. The Gadget Flow is the ultimate buyer’s guide for cool luxury gadgets and creative gifts. Click here to learn more and list your product – use coupon code ATOKK16 for 20% off!

backerkitArt of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by BackerKit. BackerKit makes software that crowdfunding project creators use to survey backers, organize data, raise additional funds with add-ons and manage orders for fulfillment, saving creators hundreds of hours. To learn more and get started, click here.

Connect With the Art Of The Kickstart team

info@artofthekickstart.com

View this episode’s transcript

Roy Morejon:                    Welcome to Art of the Kickstart, your source for crowdfunding campaign success. I’m your host, Roy Morejon, president of Enventys Partners, the top full service turnkey product development and crowdfunding marketing agency in the world. We have helped start-ups raise over $100 million for our clients since 2010. Each week, I’ll interview a crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur, or a business expert in order to help you take your startup to the next level with crowdfunding.

Roy Morejon:                    Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by Backerkit and The Gadget Flow. Backerkit makes software that crowdfunding project creators use to survey backers, organize data, and manage orders for fulfillment by automating your operations and helping you print and ship faster. The Gadget Flow is a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save, and buy awesome products. It is the ultimate buyer’s guide for luxury gadgets and creative gifts. Now let’s get on with the show.

Roy Morejon:                    Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today I am joined with Sean Michael Ragan. Sean, thank you so much for joining us today.

Sean Ragan:                      Thank you, Roy. I’m a long-time listener of your show. I’m glad to be on it, thanks.

Roy Morejon:                    I’m really excited about the conversation today. So I guess a little background on you: co-founder and editorial director of foundry.net, a prominent blogger and former editor of Make magazine, which I think a lot of our subscribers have read or are reading currently. And a lot of your freelance work has appeared in several books, Popular Science, Ready Made, Chemical and Engineering News, and of course the Wall Street Journal.

Roy Morejon:                    So, tell me a little bit about your background and why we’re on the show today.

Sean Ragan:                      My background’s pretty eclectic. I come from an interesting family. My dad is an engineer, and kind of a successful inventor, an independent entrepreneur. My mom, on the other hand, is a very creative and artistic type. I was headed for a degree in the pharmaceutical industry and a career in the pharmaceutical industry, when the blogging thing happened in 2006-7-8-9. I was keeping a personal blog when I was in graduate school, about the hobby technical projects that interested me. That was getting a lot of attention and I started to get offers just to write on the web, which had always been something I wanted to do, to write, but it seemed so impractical. But I thought that I had a chance, I was gonna do it. I’m glad that I took that leap, it’s turned into a whole career for me.

Roy Morejon:                    Absolutely. So, you wrote a book, first edition released back in 2016. The Total Inventor’s Manual: Transform Your Idea Into a Top-Selling Product. And you’ve got the second edition now coming out in another month or so, in September of this year. Let’s kind of walk through the process of inventing a product and bringing and idea to market.

Sean Ragan:                      Okay, so the way that I think about it, and the way that I learned to think about it in all the time I was writing about people in this space, was a pretty simple model. It had to do with whether you’re making one or making many. And I sort of divide the process of indie product development up into four steps. Making one, selling one, making many, and selling many.

Sean Ragan:                      When you’re making one, obviously what you’re talking about is prototyping, right? Which is where my own sort of interest and passion at least originated was in the prototyping space. And then, when you’re selling one, you’ve got a prototype, or several prototypes, and what you’re trying to do is persuade other people that your prototype represents a viable product, right?

Sean Ragan:                      Once you’re past that hurdle, you’re into making many, which is the problem of taking your prototype, and making it manufacturable. That’s a whole problem unto itself. And then once you’ve got the manufacturing problem solved, you’ve got the selling many problem, which is how do I market this product, how do I grow a company, what’s my exit strategy, how long do I want to be the guy that is the man on T.V., ginsu knife guy, right?

Sean Ragan:                      So the book starts with a kind of very basic, like, where do ideas for products and inventions come from, and how do you cultivate those ideas. And I think all the way at the extreme other end of that process with, well how do I sell my company that I have successfully built based on my idea? And of course that is a huge space to cover, but I’m really proud of this book because I feel like you’re not gonna find a shorter, better, pithier book that covers the entire breadth of that space, if that’s what you’re interested in doing with your life.

Roy Morejon:                    Yeah, and I think that certainly resonates with a lot of our audience, whether they be in the ideation stage, or have the idea and are lookin’ to get that product out there, not only make many but sell many, right, at the same caveat.

Sean Ragan:                      That’s right.

Roy Morejon:                    So how can inventors find a good company to work with, let’s say just for the product development side? Say they’ve ideated the idea out. What should they be looking for, what questions should they be asking when looking to work with product developers?

Sean Ragan:                      You wanna look at a portfolio first, I think. You wanna see what they’ve done. Honestly I think it’s much like hiring any other professional, like an attorney is a good example. You probably don’t just wanna call a number off a billboard, or just click the next online ad that you see. The ideal situation is where somebody that you trust in your personal network has said, “Oh, these guys do good work,” or “These people do good work.”

Roy Morejon:                    Absolutely. So how can an inventory minimize that risk during the product development process?

Sean Ragan:                      The whole product development process is amazing, because everyone tries to break it down in terms of like, a line. But really there’s lots of different things that have to happen in product development, but it’s not like they’re aligned in time, so many of them have to happen at once for it to really work out, like in parallel.

Sean Ragan:                      The best way to minimize risk in the process is you kind of have to begin with the end in mind, and you try as hard as you can to think all the way through. And that involves, like, when you’re building your prototype, on the one hand you wanna get through it and get to a thing that proves the concept that you can show to potential investors, but you also wanna be thinking in some part of your mind, even at that early stage, okay so what machine is gonna be in the factory that’s gonna do this step, right?

Roy Morejon:                    Absolutely. So sticking on the minimizing risk part, what are some of your big tips for market testing, before we get into making many and selling many? How should an inventor go about testing the market, collecting data, and fine-tuning their product?

Sean Ragan:                      Honestly, the ideal method involves having the money to do it right, where you can actually spend the money and do a quantitative testing, and get scientific testing data that’s rigorous to sociological and psychological standards, and really say we had this concept and it tested like this, and then we changed it and it’s improved by this percent. Of course, nobody but huge companies can afford that, right?

Sean Ragan:                      But you have to test, and the alternative to the quantitative model that the giant corporations can do is qualitative testing, where you get people, you identify people that you think are in your target market demographic, and you hand them your prototype, you let them play with it for a while, and then you talk to them and you encourage them to be frank, and you write down everything you say, and you go back to your team or go back to your little room where you think of it by yourself, and think about what they said. And you do that probably ten to twenty times, and least.

Sean Ragan:                      Then, you at least, or persons who have digested all of those reports from those people that have dealt with your prototype, will, I think, be pretty well prepared to understand whether your idea is really viable with your target demographic or not. Even if you can’t afford to do a huge quantitative product testing program.

Roy Morejon:                    Interesting. So we’ve made our initial prototype now, we’ve gotten some user feedback, to which we can hopefully sell the product to them. Now we’re at the point now where we wanna make many of them potentially, after the feedback that we’ve got. So what tips would you have then for manufacturing and finding good manufacturers out there?

Sean Ragan:                      Yeah, that too is, again I would say you need to go through your network. I would say, I’m probably a bit idealistic on this point, I would say start geographically close to you. It’s a dirty trick to play, I think, politically, but the kind of time-honored process is to develop. If you’re in the United States for instance, it would be to develop your manufacturing process at a local company or someone that speaks your language, somebody that you can physically visit their manufacturing facility and see how the process works, and then once you’ve got it fine-tuned you can send it overseas with clear instructions about how it’s supposed to go.

Roy Morejon:                    So we’ve kind of experienced our revolution if you will, in terms of bringing new products to market, whether it be from the exposure of a shark tank, or using sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter to bring new products to market. What do you think are some of the biggest benefits that crowdfunding offers to the inventor community?

Sean Ragan:                      I think it’s mostly a matter of convenience, and its accessibility for people. It sort of lowered the social and economic barrier to becoming an independent entrepreneur, an independent product development entrepreneur, and inventor, because it makes it so much easier to find that key funding that you need when you’re selling one, and trying to raise money to do your first manufacturing run, because it hooks into the social media that we’re all connected to nowadays. Whereas in the old days you would have to go around, and you would have to find investors manually, you’d have to go and pitch them. So I think that is the big impact of Kickstarter and the other crowdfunding platforms in the internet age on the entrepreneurial space.

Sean Ragan:                      I think society has focused a lot on, right now, at least, on kind of like the downsides of the internet revolution. I think, in crowdfunding, it’s really cool because this is clearly a positive development, right? This just makes it so much easier for citizen entrepreneurs to find funding, and realize their dreams.

Roy Morejon:                    Absolutely, and we love it. How do you see the inventor landscape changing over the next five years potentially?

Sean Ragan:                      You know, I think, I wanna say something original but I don’t think that I can, because I think it’s all be said before. I think, like the robots are gonna get better at making the stuff, and we’re gonna see more creativity in the ideas, and if they get easier to build stuff, it’s gonna get easier to find funding. I think we’re just gonna kind of see, even more so than we’ve already seen, kind of an increase in the explosion in creativity due to those barriers just coming down, both in terms of accessing funding and manufacturing products.

Roy Morejon:                    What is your top advice for an inventor who wants to start making money on their own product?

Sean Ragan:                      Do the math, right? Know the math, account for the costs, make friends with your spreadsheet program. Make lots of spreadsheets, and when you make decisions, understand the numbers. When you make a decision, it’s because you understand the numbers, because you’ve made a spreadsheet that accounts for all the costs and the risks to the best of your ability to account for them. Don’t make decisions emotionally or intuitively. Make them from your spreadsheet program.

Roy Morejon:                    Solid advice. All right, this is gonna get us into our launch round, where I’m gonna rapid-fire a handful of questions at you. You good to go?

Sean Ragan:                      I’m good, go for it!

Roy Morejon:                    So what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Sean Ragan:                      My father, honestly. My father’s just an insanely successful entrepreneur. He’s almost 80 and he has 30 patents and has started four companies, and he still gets up every morning at the crack of dawn to go work on patent number 31. I mean, it’s certainly family.

Roy Morejon:                    I love it. So if you could meet with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?

Sean Ragan:                      Tesla.

Roy Morejon:                    What would be your first question?

Sean Ragan:                      Are you really from Mars? No, not really. Was there another way than alternating current?

Roy Morejon:                    Interesting. Any books outside of yours that you’d recommend to our listeners?

Sean Ragan:                      It’s a book from the 70’s that I really like called Nomadic Furniture, which is kind of like a very radical DIY approach to building everything you need for your own life as opposed to sort of buying it. Getting a job and buying it. I’m very much a hands-on type guy, so I like the radical, independent DIY approach.

Roy Morejon:                    Nice. What’s your favorite invention?

Sean Ragan:                      I’m gonna have to go with the printing press.

Roy Morejon:                    Good one. Last question, what does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Sean Ragan:                       I think it’s gonna get more competitive among platforms. I think there’s a lot of money to be made there, and I think it’s gonna be increasingly, in the future, when you have an idea and you think you can crowdfund it the first and most important question is gonna be, “What platform do I put it on?”

Roy Morejon:                    Absolutely. Well, Shawn Michael Ragan, this has been awesome. This is your chance to give our audience your pitch, tell them what you’re all about, where people should go, and why they should check you out.

Sean Ragan:                       Thanks Roy. And to y’all listening, if you get a chance if your at Costco, Barnes & Noble, or Sams in the near future, and you see my book, it’s got a bright orange cover, and it’s called The Total Inventor’s Manual, I’d appreciate it if you’d pick it up and check it out. I’m proud of it, I think if you’re at all interested in this kind of independent inventor product development pathway, you will not find a shorter, better, more memorable summary of the entire arc of that process, from having the idea to deciding if it’s a good idea, to selling the company, between two covers than my book. So please do check it out if you get a chance, and thank you for listening.

Roy Morejon:                    Awesome. Well audience, thanks again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for the show notes, a full transcript, and links to everything we talked about today, and of course the book. And thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, The Gadget Flow and Backerkit. And if you loved this episode as much as I did, make sure to leave us a review on iTunes. Mr. Shawn Michael Ragan, thank you so much for bein’ on Art of the Kickstart today.

Sean Ragan:                       Thank you, Roy. Enjoyed it.

Roy Morejon:                    Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Art of the Kickstart, the show about building a business, world, and life with crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, awesome. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com and tell us all about it. There you’ll find additional information about past episodes, our Kickstarter guide to crushing it, and of course if you loved this episode a lot, leave us a review at artofthekickstart.com/itunes. It helps more inventors, entrepreneurs, and startups find this show, and helps us get better guests to help you build a better business. If you need more hands-on crowdfunding strategy advice, please feel free to request a quote on inventispartners.com. Thanks again for tuning, and we’ll see you again next week.