How to take a prototype to an investor ready business

An interview with our Product Development Director, Jim Reeves

Our 2020 Accelerator programme is now in full swing and as we welcome our 7th Cohort, we take the opportunity to speak with CRL’s Product Development Director & Entrepreneur in Residence, Jim Reeves. We explore the challenging question, “how to take a prototype to an investor ready business?”.   

Question: Our 7th Cohort shows a rise in products and services focused around sustainability, med-tech and technology to support positive mental and physical health. Why do you think startups and entrepreneurs are choosing to concentrate on these specific areas?

Answer: “One of the main characteristics of hardware entrepreneurs is that their initial ideas tend to start with a particular motivation. Which is usually centre around a passion to create societal change. So by nature, they want to create something to solve significant modern day issues. Currently, the types of social trends we are seeing are hugely focused around medical and mental wellbeing, and sustainable products which benefit the environment. This in turn, creates a demand for entrepreneurs and businesses to develop a product that will have positive and long lasting effects. Which is likely why we are seeing a strong focus on these specific areas.

In short, a combination of an individual’s passion, comprehensive knowledge of social trends and involvement in their commercial environment are all contributing factors that inspire entrepreneurs to produce a product which promotes a positive social impact.” 

Q: As the Accelerator’s Entrepreneur in Residence, which part of the product development process is particularly crucial during the 6 month programme?

A: “The early phases are without a doubt the most crucial part of the Accelerator programme. During this time, we work with the Cohort to ensure their proposed product is a market fit, and that they have any considered potential issues or challenges. This isn’t to say any individual research conducted prior to the programme isn’t important. It’s about building the bigger picture around the product and its route to market.

Within this, we look at the 3 essential pillars:

  1. Desirability, do customers need or want it? 
  2. Feasibility, is this achievable?
  3. Viability, will this product create a sustainable enterprise? 

This must all be clarified very early on, which is why the start of the programme is the most crucial for product development.”

Q: In your experience, how different is a product at the end of the programme compared to its first concept?

A: “In my experience, a product’s end result is around 50% different compared to its first concept. In fact, it’s rare that a product won’t dramatically change. In many ways, the most successful projects tend to be the ones which evolve the most during the programme. But it’s also not always a given that a product needs to evolve further than its present state.

Typically there’s a product development journey which we tend to discuss at the start of the Accelerator. As discussed, the initial stages of the programme are crucial and part of this is assessing the likeliness that a product will change. Because it might be that there is simply no consumer desire!”

Q: What do you find is the most rewarding part about being a mentor for the Accelerator?

A: “Before I became an in-house resident for the Accelerator programme, I split my time between mentoring at CRL and teaching. Although I enjoyed teaching, working on ventures in the Accelerator felt very real to me. The Cohort are so committed to their work, their willingness to accept the challenges and sacrifices so they can bring their vision to a reality, is very motivating.

Going on this journey with them is hugely rewarding. Yes there are plenty of bumps in the road as an entrepreneur, but to see their journey come to fruition is why I love being a part of the programme.”

Read more of our articles here or take a look at our latest cohort here.

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