Variety is the product of life

We have to say we’ve gathered an exciting and diverse set of teams and products in our pilot year here at CRL (okay, we’re biased, but we think you’ll agree).
After making their way through a highly competitive round of applications and pitches, the 11 teams that have been accepted onto our programme cover an impressive range of sectors and technologies. From submarine drones and adaptable walking aids to robotic hands and much, much more. You can find out more about them on our portfolio page.

But even more inspiring is just what a talented and impressive bunch of individuals are behind each team.
They’re not only passionate about their products, but also about learning and sharing their knowledge and skills, encouraging each other and helping the CRL settle into its new home.

As a team, our goal is to support the growth and development of each of the CRL’s start-ups over the coming year. That means helping accelerate the development of products, exploring new business models and better understanding the users and markets our teams are trying to reach.
We’ll be introducing you to the people behind the products over the coming weeks and months, both online and in person at various events we hope to hold.
Watch this space.
 

Startup impressions

“Impressive and diverse companies, making big leaps forward from what was existing in their space” — Michael Ginzo (Animus)

Having launched the CRL pilot scheme at the start of September, our 11 start-up teams are settling in and making great progress at the CRL. They’re getting to know one another (and us) and are starting to share their knowledge to solve their hardware and software problems, creating a great little community here in Hayes.

The space and programme is already evolving to support their work and individual needs, alongside the workshop as more equipment arrives each week!
So, to find out what they think of the CRL programme, the space and resources, we thought we’d ask a few members of the teams for their first impressions.

How did they find the CRL and why did they apply ?

From the equipment to the mentor support, our startups recognised the great complete startup support that was on offer, specifically tailored to hardware, physical product start-ups.

First Impressions — what do they think of the space, programme and their fellow startups?

The teams are impressive and diverse; making huge technological advances in their individual fields. With the guidance and support of the CRL team and the programme the CRL members are excited to start working on their products.

What’s next and what are they looking forward to getting stuck into?

With the state of the art workshop facilities the teams are very excited to start prototyping their products. Alongside completing the Fundamental sessions and the access to experts and mentors from a wide range of backgrounds and fields to develop their companies and business skills. (More about this coming up!)

Check out the video to see and hear more from them! You can also view more about the teams and their products on the portfolio page.
 

 

To crowd – or not to crowd

It’s beginning to be a crowded arena for startups looking for funding (although, perhaps not quite as much yet in the hardware sector when compared to the further developed software).

Bringing Funding Variety

Indeed, crowdfunding is booming and it is an important supporting factor in the developing hardware, physical product focused, startup ecosystem. Alongside the more traditional fundraising channels such as Bank Loans, Venture Capital (VC) or Angel Investment, crowdfunding models and streams introduce a welcome addition, particularly as others may be getting harder to get or decreasing. From lending to equity, and pre-sales to rewards, crowdfunding platforms ensure their ubiquity in the investment and funding landscape.

Building a Community

Darren Mulvihill, from one of our partners Crowdcube(equity-based crowdfunding platform), has shared with our teams the importance for hardware companies that focus on consumer products, to consider the impact of a good investment strategy that should include or be based on firstly a strong marketing campaign. This is exactly what a successful crowdfunding campaign does by building a community around a company and a product along with raising money.

Enabling Opportunity

Hardware startups are increasingly invading the crowdfunding scene!

According to Kelly Angood from our other partner, Indiegogo(a reward based crowdfunding platform), with the flourishing development of Internet Of Things (IOT), connected devices, smart grids and the further recognition of the integration between hardware / software, opportunities for hardware product based startups are very bright.

The advantage of a reward-based campaign for hardware companies is of course that it allows pre-sales, product validation, and user feedback alongside being a powerful communications and PR tool.

Moreover, Indiegogo sees more and more VCs investing in successful campaigners on their platform, proving the seriousness of the opportunities for higher level investors.

Don’t Underestimate the Commitment

On the flip side, there is an art to crowdfunding your business and many pitfalls (there have been a number of examples of projects that have found themselves in difficulty).

Crowdfunding is anything but easy, and as you’re exposing your business to promote it, better to act strategically.

A campaign doesn’t kick off the day you launch it, you have to prepare a long time before, choose the right time, shape your product, and raise interest in advance. At the other end of the pipe, after a successful campaign, you have to produce your units and deliver it, which has to be well planned to keep your customers happy.
In a nutshell, crowdfunding can be an amazing way to both promote and fund a business, but as always, and like is often said about hardware …. it’s hard and crowdfunding it is no different!

Here at the CRL with our partners and support network ( also including Innovate UK ‘s Nigel Walker and the Greater London Enterprise, GLE ) and through our programme, we aim to help our startups through the difficult decisions and questions around choosing and implementing the right funding models for success!

 

The making of markets

part 1/2
It’s a competitive world out there and simply creating a great product doesn’t guarantee you great sales…..Successfully getting to market can take a lot of planning, time and creativity to do well and effectively!

Getting Noticed and to Market

Thankfully with the advent of various online tools it’s easier to get to grips with some of this yourself and it needn’t have to be expensive. Lesley Gulliver from The Engine Roomshared with the CRL startups key steps to take when defining your audience and marketing techniques through “The Funnel” to market when considering your customers decision making steps and experience through to purchase (and then during ownership):

  • Needs Awareness
  • Information Search
  • Evaluate Alternatives
  • Purchase Decision
  • Post Purchase

Each of these steps have an array of tools and techniques that can be utilised, depending on what the most applicable is for the audience.

Know Your Audiences

To be able to make informed choices for the marketing approach you need to understand, map and profile your audiences; How big are they? Who are they? Where are they? What are their preferences? This will help to choose the right marketing mix.
Consistency is Key — remember your brand rules!
In many cases it may be a mix of both online and offline engagement — with the use of social media and video for example, alongside public speaking or being present at key related events to network, demo and promote. Perhaps considering The 5P’s of Marketing will also help.

The Key Ingredients

When building a Marketing and Communications Strategy(and particularly as a startup), Kristina Glushkova from Makerhood, outlined some inventive and creative ways to build brand and product awareness cheaply, or even for free. This could be by identifying influencers who will promote your product or journalists who might write about it and you, perhaps even applying for an award or attending and speaking at events. For each of these different approaches it’s important to research who they are and how you might attract attention. For many it may be important to cut out the jargon and ensure you have a clear message relevant to them.

Let’s get Social

With the array of different social media tools available for free: from Twitter to facebook. analytics and scheduling tools and the platforms such as Tweetdeck and hootsuite to link and use more effectively.
Remember, your email signature is a free marketing space!
Perhaps you may want to set up a newsletter using a platform such as mailchimp or join relevant online communities. All of these offer various levels of usage and as a startup (and for many) the basic free service can often be enough!

Scaling sustainability

Making the move from small scale making, prototyping or manufacturing (sometimes personally handmade) to large scale and outsourced manufacturing can be a daunting and confusing business. As well as this it may make you feel that you will have to compromise on your values and principles to succeed.A few weeks ago I joined the members of Makerhood and the Remakery at their new space in South London for talks and an interesting evening sharing, comparing and learning about the different types of considerations, benefits and barriers startups and smaller business owners face when considering scaling up.
On first appearance the challenges and considerations faced may initially seem vastly differing between the startups at the CRL who focus more on hardware/ software products then handmade or craft based items. However some underlying similarities emerged and shared concerns and difficulties around sustainability considerations and acting on intent were identified.

What’s your underlying purpose?

As part of the CRL Programme Fundamental sessions we’d had a session with the startups on business models. The examples used differed from many of the perhaps more usual companies and business models often talked about. They were all inspired and started from an inherent sustainability (ethical, social and/ or environmental) proposition. We highlighted some examples from the likes of Fairphone, Splosh, Rapanui, Open Energy Monitor and upcoming Andiamo who are all exploring new ways of doing business, engaging customers and disrupting sectors. Martyn Evans, Creative Director Of U+I, also shared some of his insights from when working for the Body Shop ( an original trail blazer in the area). I would recommend checking them all out for interesting and alternative business models.

Getting your house in order and then more!

It can be overwhelming to know where to start when scaling a startup or product sustainably, but there are a number of different levels you can start from and key tools and approaches to take and consider. Here’s just a taster:

Standards and Regulations

With ROHS, REACH, PVC/BFR, BPA free, conflict free minerals, packaging directives, Energy Using Products, labels and more, materials and energy use are key components and considerations of your product and as such, depending on application and country can be under specific regulation or perhaps consumer or NGO scrutiny.

Losing Control

Aim to ensure you specify supply chain banned and restricted substances as well as consider risks posed related to future supply shortages, monopolies or possible toxic substances. Different products and categories may have specific related regulations and standards you should aspire to. It’s also the same for quality, ensure you put requirements for this and testing methods that if not met, well then it’s not up to your own standard!

So what is Ecodesign?

Well there is the EU Ecodesign Directive that outlines measures to improve the performance of product on the market. Alongside this is Energy Labeling (for products using energy….). You’ve probably seen those coloured traffic light style labels on appliance such as fridges, but these are continually being developed and expanding to new product categories. Simplified considerations are around considering weight & volume reduction, material choices, energy efficiency, transport and lifetime. Requirements for these can all be implemented into your Product Design Specification, PDS.
A nice tool to consider is the Ecodesign Strategy Wheel that outlines considerations of design improvement areas from a product to a system level.
More recently inspired by Life Cycle Analysis and thinking and Cradle to Cradle, the Circular Economy has emerged as a key tool to stimulate consideration and design around reducing resource use. In the UK The Great Recovery have done some great work to highlight to designers the consequences of their designs. Quite often designing and making un-recyclable, un-repairable products with short lifetimes and ending in the rubbish tip…..

Some “simple” questions you may want to ask yourself when scaling

  • How long will my product last?
  • What happens if/ when it breaks?
  • What happens when the user/ customer doesn’t want it any more?
  • Would I be comfortable if the manufacturing was shown on TV? (see next area)

How, who by and where your product is being made

This is becoming increasingly visible and with the rise in online mapping and storytelling tools such as Source map and Provenance, coupled with citizen demand and headlines from child labour to poisonous substances, the otherside of the world is becoming closer to home. You need to ask yourself how confident you are that your business will stand-up to ethical, social, fairtrade scrutiny and what your values around this.

Just around the corner?

A key area that also came up was finding and trusting a manufacturer and the playoffs between local and global. But just where is that UK knowledge on this, mapping and contacts?
We’ll be sharing some more thoughts and hopefully advice and tools on this in our next blog, focusing on the higher levels of systems, values and purpose as well as some more tools to support this that we’ve learnt from the ESPRC Centre for Industrial Sustainability.
Ultimately sustainability shouldn’t be thought of a chore or a tick box exercise, it’s about designing the best solution for now and in the future, taking into account the consequences and your responsibility in this world as a designer, maker and manufacturer, startup or not.

 

Mobile markets

Part 2/2


Greatly interconnected to your marketing and communications is your business model and how you intend to sell

— finding the right route to market, analysing you possible distribution channel and retail partners for you, your product and business.

E-Commerce

Whether it be B2B (Business to Business), B2C (Business to Consumer), B2G (Business to Government) or P2P (Peer to Peer) it’s important to define your business model and route to market before you start to set-up online.
Some key questions to consider:

  • Who’s your target customer?
  • What problem are you solving
  • What value do you deliver
  • What’s your cost structure? (High volume, Low Margin, — Low volume, High margins )
  • How will you reach, acquire and keep customers?
  • How will you differentiate your offering?
  • Is it defendable — IP?
  • How will you generate revenue?
  • What’s your profit margin?

“Global mobile traffic now accounts for 60% of all internet traffic” — ComScore

When choosing a platform to sell through, Jason Watkins from Channel Trading outlined different options you can go for, from Open Source (such as Magento), Custom Build or License based like Shopify. When going for an Open Source platform that might be free you may find you’ll need to invest in experience and skilled developers, and so this can increase the cost. For setting up fast and getting going then a licensed based one can be cheap, quick and easy.
Alongside this are other sales channels to keep in mind such as taking a crowdfunding route via the likes of Indiegogo and Kickstarter ( also great for raising awareness at the sametime ), or large online marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon or creative focused Etsy. Finding one that is relevant to your product and customer base is key, particularly if more niche!

“Tablet users spend 50% more than PC users” — Adobe

It’s important that your website or “shop front” is designed and optimised for mobile and tablet users to not risk losing sales.

Getting products to the customer and keeping them happy
With shipping your products and then final distribution, whether to outsource or try and handle this inhouse is often a consideration, with the option to use providers such as Core Fulfilment. It’s important to ensure that there is clarity in the contract, such as minimum volumes, billing per item or per hour, error rates and handling returns (because you will get them). Along the same lines as this is deciding your customer support strategy, often highly dependent on the complexity and quality of the product as well as the likely behaviours of your target customer.

Use the best HTML CSS JavaScript resources to get a perfect code in your web projects
 

COMPELLING STORYTELLING

Whether explaining your idea in the early stages to friends and family, building a community around your product or pitching for investment — telling a compelling story and getting your message across clearly, concisely and memorably is key.Effective communications, pitching or storytelling is a core part of the CRL incubator programme, where the startups are getting used to introducing their idea and business to each other, visitors and industry experts on a regular basis.

With all this practice we‘ve already seen some big improvements!

To support the development of these skills we’ve been working with Tim Benton from Amplify, experts in supporting startups develop their key messages, storytelling and building confidence and presentation skills. Alongside this there are also the tools, materials and documents (online media, business plans, prototypes, demos), that should be developed in parallel to support building engagement with different audiences and at various stages of development. We’ve already learnt a lot! You can hear Tim’s impressions and tips from the session here.

Energy, Passion and Getting Personal

Our first session was…… let’s say fairly energetic…..acting out running marathons, alien invasions, hopping flamingos, opera singing and imitating the style of a children’s TV presenter (don’t ask), we let go of our inhibition’s and learnt what it was like again to add more character, fun, personality and passion to our storytelling. Remember why you developed your product, what was the need you were addressing, who are the people it helps and how does it make you or them feel.

Bringing personal stories and authenticity into your narrative can help build a stronger connection with the audience.

Do Your Homework

Understanding your audience and their interests, drivers and levels of understanding is key. Often when you’re close to your product and business, sector specific words and industry jargon can creep in. Imagine you’re trying to explain to a stranger at the pub what you do.

Distilling to Key & Compelling Messages

Depending on the situation you might have differing amounts of time to get your message across and enable people to engage with your story and product, the old elevator pitch still holds true. From 3 minute stories, to 1 and a half down to 30 seconds it’s amazing how time restraints can help to craft a more clear and concise story, getting down to the essence of what you’re trying to communicate. There’s also lots of other advice found online.We’re looking forward to seeing what the next session will bring!

Building strong foundations

Navigating through the world of accountants, lawyers and patent attorneys can be a daunting business and something that many startups (and others) can be wary to engage in, find it difficult to know who to trust, what they need and when, and how much to pay.At the CRL, part of our programme is supported by a fantastic group of experienced Service Providers who help with our Fundamental Sessions and provide one to one sessions with the teams; Kingston Smith, IBB Law, Mathys & Squire and KPMG High Growth Technology Group. It’s also a great chance for themselves to be involved in the growing hardware focused startup manufacturing sector, with some exciting products being developed right here at the CRL.

“It’s great to see the entrepreneurs of the future.”

Business Types and Planning

As you’re setting up your business structure, understanding and considering the legal implications is vital. Chris Hayes from IBB Law went through the various options and described how these subsequently link to your tax and IP decisions and more.
Kush Puri from KPMG brought a wealth of advice and experience to the teams, reviewing their business plans, modelling and strategy and showing how this can then be translated into the financial modeling and forecasting essential for investment.

Accounting for success

Jonathan Seymour and Mark Newbold from Kingston Smithpointed out that when developing and deciding on your business model and type, it’s not only about choosing a suitable type for the product you’re making but also about considering how you can fund and grow the business in the short and longer term. Even considering your possible exit strategy from the very beginning.

“It will be interesting to see how the businesses develop over the next three months or so… harnessing their ideas and working on their business plans.”

There are a number of opportunities for startups, SMEs and R&D focused businesses such as R&D tax credits and relief and various Government Enterprise Investment schemes (SEIS & EIS). Alongside online accounting software such asKS Connect to ease startups financial tracking and forecasting.

Drawing the Line

Where and when do you start with design rights, trademarks, patents, copywriting? Mathys & Squire’s Sean Leach and Aymeric Vienne talked through the alternatives and the recommendations and pitfalls to look out for around each. Recently there was a “case” held in the supreme court concerning the protection of design rights for Trunki that exemplified how careful you need to be when deciding to protect your design (Trunki V Kiddee).

The Startup Journey!

We like to balance perspectives for all the programme areas that we’re covering with our startups and after our accountancy, IP and business modelling sessions we had Philip Ross, Director of Safehinge, sharing his story and lessons learned over the last ten years. From his origins as a Product Design Engineering graduate in Glasgow with a patent on a hinge to combat finger injuries in doors, through the realities of setting up a business and investors, protecting your IP and building a team with the right experience and skills.

We’re always on the lookout for other inspiring, honest and exciting stories and insights to share!

 

Mapping your value

One key element we focus on and continually revisit, refine and develop at the CRL, is your business model. The sooner you get an initial outline of this down on paper (using tools such as the Business Model Canvas) the better. Then you can build on it, identify gaps, interrogate and continually evolve it.


Last week we were lucky enough to be joined by Ian Bamford and Maria Holgado from the EPSRC Centre of Industrial Sustainability in Cambridge to share some of their tools for start-up and bigger business a like and spend some practical sessions on Value Mapping for their business and stakeholders throughout its lifetime.
The word value has now so often been claimed as one people immediately associate and translate into purely financial benefits, however thinking wider and deeper can reveal many other opportunities to engage your spectrum of stakeholders involved in your product/ start-up in a variety of ways.
Using tools and spending some time looking at that middle part of the BMC, what’s your value, what need are you addressing, opportunities missed etc. through different lenses and then across what this means across the lifetime time of your product is an invaluable exercise and was a real eye opener for many here.

Using the Value Mapping and Sustainable Value Analysis tools the startups looked at identifying priority areas to develop and opportunities to improve social and environmental (and economic) benefits and interconnections throughout the lifetime of the product and the influences to the wider business.


19/02/2016 written by ERICA PURVIS

EXPERIENCING ENTREPRENEURSHIP

EXPERIENCING ENTREPRENEURSHIP

“On the ground insights from our fantastic Brunel University London, Industrial Design & Technology Intern Megan Bates who, is working with…


EXPERIENCING ENTREPRENEURSHIP

“On the ground insights from our fantastic Brunel University London, Industrial Design & Technology Intern Megan Bates who, is working with the CRL for a year on Design and Communication (and much much more!)”
As a current student at Brunel University London, I can’t shout enough about how great the university and my experience there has been so far. Added to this is the importance they place on experiencing design and engineering outside of studying. This has meant that I have been able to spend my third year on placement at the Central Research Laboratory, where I have been able to put into practice all of the skills that I have learnt in the first 2 years of my degree.

My Experience

As part of my role at the CRL, I have been working with the team on design and communication; creating video documentation of the CRL programme, learning news skills and using software that I previously hadn’t used at university. I have had access to all of the workshops and experience days that are provided for the startups, through which, I have learnt vast amounts about business, law, finance, branding and PR within startup companies, alongside how to pitch an idea or business successfully. I have also had the opportunity to aid some of the startup teams with their user research, external events and branding design. In addition to my day-to-day responsibilities I’m working on my own product design brief over the next year, which has allowed me to continue to develop my design and research skills and use the workshops for product disassembly and soon, prototyping.
Being at the CRL has enabled me to see firsthand how the university, through its innovative partnerships, supports local manufacturing, entrepreneurship and the community, as well as us, the students.

Investment in the Future

The great partnership between the Central Research Laboratory and Brunel University London has provided a substantial amount of support to the CRL; from funding to connections and expertise. Not forgetting of course, some of the applicants to the programme, selected from its talented and passionate graduates. This enables the tailored CRL physical product startup programme to be brought to life!

Real World Experience

Having a facility for students with great product ideas to potentially “graduate” to after university, means that there is an amazing, inspiring platform which promotes entrepreneurship within the student community earlier on in their studies, which to many, may have previously felt unreachable and intimidating.

Ongoing Support

The Central Research Laboratory provides the expertise and support that any driven and determined student would need to set up, run and thrive in their own business, making the CRL vital to Brunel University London and their graduates and contributing a great deal to the ever emerging physical product startup ecosystem.
From my short time working here as an intern, I can appreciate the work that the team at the CRL are doing for the local community in Hayes and crucially for the startups based here. It’s not just a short term investment or a quick fix but it’s looking at the long-term to provide a needed home and specialised design and prototyping facilities to help make entrepreneurship possible. In the short time I’ve been at the CRL I’ve already witnessed a huge progression from the students who are becoming successful businessmen and women.
Hear from Andrew Ward, Director of Corporate Relations at Brunel University London, as he portrays the partnership we have.

 

EXPERIENCING ENTREPRENEURSHIP

“On the ground insights from our fantastic Brunel University London, Industrial Design & Technology Intern Megan Bates who, is working with the CRL for a year on Design and Communication (and much much more!)”As a current student at Brunel University London, I can’t shout enough about how great the university and my experience there has been so far. Added to this is the importance they place on experiencing design and engineering outside of studying. This has meant that I have been able to spend my third year on placement at the Central Research Laboratory, where I have been able to put into practice all of the skills that I have learnt in the first 2 years of my degree.

My Experience

As part of my role at the CRL, I have been working with the team on design and communication; creating video documentation of the CRL programme, learning news skills and using software that I previously hadn’t used at university. I have had access to all of the workshops and experience days that are provided for the startups, through which, I have learnt vast amounts about business, law, finance, branding and PR within startup companies, alongside how to pitch an idea or business successfully. I have also had the opportunity to aid some of the startup teams with their user research, external events and branding design. In addition to my day-to-day responsibilities I’m working on my own product design brief over the next year, which has allowed me to continue to develop my design and research skills and use the workshops for product disassembly and soon, prototyping.
Being at the CRL has enabled me to see firsthand how the university, through its innovative partnerships, supports local manufacturing, entrepreneurship and the community, as well as us, the students.

Investment in the Future

The great partnership between the Central Research Laboratory and Brunel University London has provided a substantial amount of support to the CRL; from funding to connections and expertise. Not forgetting of course, some of the applicants to the programme, selected from its talented and passionate graduates. This enables the tailored CRL physical product startup programme to be brought to life!

Real World Experience

Having a facility for students with great product ideas to potentially “graduate” to after university, means that there is an amazing, inspiring platform which promotes entrepreneurship within the student community earlier on in their studies, which to many, may have previously felt unreachable and intimidating.

Ongoing Support

The Central Research Laboratory provides the expertise and support that any driven and determined student would need to set up, run and thrive in their own business, making the CRL vital to Brunel University London and their graduates and contributing a great deal to the ever emerging physical product startup ecosystem.
From my short time working here as an intern, I can appreciate the work that the team at the CRL are doing for the local community in Hayes and crucially for the startups based here. It’s not just a short term investment or a quick fix but it’s looking at the long-term to provide a needed home and specialised design and prototyping facilities to help make entrepreneurship possible. In the short time I’ve been at the CRL I’ve already witnessed a huge progression from the students who are becoming successful businessmen and women.
Hear from Andrew Ward, Director of Corporate Relations at Brunel University London, as he portrays the partnership we have.


 

CRL pilot launched

After many months of planning, the formation of the CRL team, developing supporting partnerships and after sifting through hundreds of applications before hearing over 50 pitches… the CRL Pilot Programme has launched!

We are London’s incubator for start-ups that design and make physical products.

The 11 innovative start-ups that were successful in gaining a place on the first CRL programme have now moved into our new workspace and prototyping lab atThe Old Vinyl Factory, Hayes.
After two jam packed induction days which introduced them to the full scale of the programme, facilities on offer and each other, they’ve now been matched with their mentors and met our full team. Incredible progress and linkages are already being made.

For the next 12 months, each of our teams will have 24/7 access to our shared studio and high-spec prototyping lab. They’ll receive day-to-day support from our full-time team of design, manufacturing and sustainability experts and access to a rich program of master classes covering all aspects of launching a hardware start-up — from industrial design to business planning, marketing and fulfillment.
You can watch our video — What We’re All About — as an introduction to the background to the CRL programme pilot programme development.
 
But perhaps more important than all of that, together we’re creating an exciting new community here in Hayes; a place where invention happens, businesses are built and lives changed.

And this is only the beginning for CRL. We’re using this Pilot year to inform our plans for much bigger things to come.

Over the coming days and weeks, we’ll be introducing our teams, the staff that run the CRL and our wider network to you. Alongside this we hope to share some of our thinking and the expertise developed around what it takes to bring thoughtfully created and quality products to the market. So watch this space!
02/10/2015 written by JAMES NETTLETON

 

PEOPLE AT THE HEART OF PRODUCTS

 

Our first Fundamental Session mainly focused on stepping back and critically understanding the real need of your product or the problem you…

PEOPLE AT THE HEART OF PRODUCTS

Our first Fundamental Session mainly focused on stepping back and critically understanding the real need of your product or the problem you are trying to solve for someone, your users. Alongside this identifying your customers and subsequently the brand, values and business models that underpin the products and services our startups are developing. You can hear some of our startups sharing their thoughts on the session here.

A Brand is not a Logo

To kick of the day we had Lesley Gulliver from Engine Room Design, an expert in building your brand and developing your underlying vision, mission, values and business.

Due to technology available start-ups have the same chances now as established business. Just one click away!

Here key insights and tools were shared that help to map and visualise possible business models and your Value Proposition (as well as gaps in knowledge). One of our favourite tools used is the Business Model Canvas, that comes in a variety of slightly tailored forms.

Get out and talk to your users!

An extremely important aspect of developing any product is prototyping. For many this word can conjure up images of highly finished models to show investors, but in fact should be considered throughout the complete development chain, from first spark of an idea to taking it to market. It can be many different forms, from prototyping product service experiences to rough and ready cardboard mock-ups, or just specific key elements of a product.
We had Kat Gough of Kitchen Table Design Research, talk through a range of user research techniques, from contextual research to later product validation. The key takeaways for many where that you need to not be afraid to talk to your users and customers throughout, from more formalised research to taking advantage of wider contacts “snowballing”.

It’s vital that you don’t just iterate from your own personal view but get the feed in from those that your product is for, actual users.

To get a good overview of the complete user experience,User Journey Mapping and developing user scenarios, personas or typologies are powerful ways to start to understand the system and interactions around your product throughout its complete lifecycle.

Putting tools into context

On the second day we heard some great case studies and personal experiences in prototyping from one of our startup teams alongside an inspirational overview of the development of a product for aiding in babies incubation from our own operations Director Ashley Sayed.

Finding out the earlier the better

It can be scary when you revisit these tools and ask yourself fundamental questions about your product and the need it solves, the type of business or enterprise you want to be and the values that underpin this. It can underline large gaps in your knowledge or assumptions, you can hear and see things that you didn’t want to see.
However, it’s better to find out about the unexpected or the details as early in the design process and spend the time developing a better understanding about your users and customers and the brand that they will love, as the later you realise this the more expensive it can be……. a warehouse full of products that no one wants is a waste of time, money and resources….

 

Innovate and operate

One of the core elements of our Startup Incubator programme is something we call the Fundamental Sessions. These are monthly 1 to 2 day workshops that are based around content in the specially developed CRL Startup Toolkit. Over the next month’s we’ll be introducing our 11 startups to a variety of supporting methods, frameworks, approaches, organisations and experts that will help to accelerate their progress.

“The use of “fundamental” to qualify our sessions speaks for itself, but might be incomplete. To my mind, their high value arises from the tailor-fitting of their content and format to the specific needs of our teams Moreover, according to the spirit of CRL team, we always aim to make it interactive and fun!” — Pierre, CRL Incubator Programme Manager


Our CRL Startup Toolkit is grouped under two main sections, Innovate and operate:

  • INNOVATE is focused on helping you to understand, consider and decide what it will take to turn your idea into a viable, valid proposition that your customers will want. It covers 8 key topics; from Customers, Consumers & Users to Manufacturing, Sourcing and Supply Chain.
  • OPERATE is more about the business, intended to help support with the tools for setting up and shaping business and/ or enterprise operations. The key considerations around building your team, business planning, accounting and raising investment. This section is supported by our great CRL expert supporters, IBB Law, Mathys & Squire, Kingston Smith and KPMG Tech Growth. Alongside our Fundamental Sessions the CRL also runs classes that focus on core supplementary skills such as pitching and accessing finance.

Combining all of these together gives the CRL Startups comprehensive support and guidance to put theory into practical application and kickstart their development process and enterprises.

Stay tuned to hear more about these sessions, some shared content and great startup advice!
29/10/2015 written by Ashley Sayed, CRL Operations Director