The ups and downs of starting up

17 03 2008

As I reflect on my journey toward product launch it seems to be (among other things) one big emotional roller coaster. I came to this realization a few months ago when I was in a pit of despair with regards to the probability of successfully launching ClimbPoint. Despite the bleak outlook I knew that things would soon enough be on the up and up, so I pressed on.

The diagram below is my take on what I’ve experienced to this point (I’m at the end of the Demonstrating phase now) and what I expect will follow in the months ahead. I think I’ve already begun to accept the emotional ups and downs that go with starting a new venture, but we’ll see what happens. As a side note, this experience has been not unlike the ups and downs of grad school 🙂

 
Entrepreneur emotion curve

 

The five phases at the top of the diagram correlate to the main phases of Vijay Jolly’s nine phase commercialization process, which I’ve mentioned before. I’m curious as to whether other entrepreneurs have experienced similar highs and lows when starting a new venture. Anyone relate?

Regardless of my current feelings on the potential for success, the stance I’ve taken to this point has been one of perseverance with the intention of taking this project as far as it goes. As I’ve mentioned before, I think getting there is half the fun.

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The commercialization process

14 11 2007

Astute readers may have noticed some weird categories that I have for some of my posts (who tags stuff as ‘Mobilizing Interest & Endorsement’ anyway?).

Really, there’s a method to my madness, at least in this case. Starting today, all of the posts with tags like “Phase x” relate to one of nine phases for technology commercialization. Theoretically this means that one day when my software is in every climbing gym in the world, you’ll be able to go back to this dinky wordpress blog and see the road that I’ve traveled to get here, and the lessons learned in each phase along the way.

It also means (hopefully) that the information here will be useful to others who are starting a new venture. I’m making no promises, but in addition to providing a few examples from my own experience I’ll try to provide a few guidelines for following the process. Some of what I write here will likely be included in my directed project final report. More on that here.

With that out of the way, let’s get started. Over the next nine weeks I plan to write about the nine phases of Vijay Jolly’s commercialization process. Jolly writes about this process in his book Commercializing New Technologies, and while he claims that his process applies more to new technologies than new products, I think they can be applied to both.

The difference between a new technology and a new product is that oftentimes a new product will use existing technologies arranged in an innovative way. A new technology enables the creation of many different products, and is marketed toward a much wider audience. ClimbPoint is definitely a product that makes use of existing technologies, and it’s geared toward a specific market…but again, I feel that the overall commercialization process still applies.

The idea behind the process is that there are five key phases that all new ideas must pass through if they are eventually going to be adopted by a large number of consitituents. These phases are connected by “mobilization” bridges that help the entrepreneur move from one phase to the next. However, this doesn’t mean that bringing a new product or technology to market is a linear process — the entrepreneur can go back to any phase at any time.

In my mind, the value in defining such a process is that it can be used to help determine where an entrepreneur’s energy should be focused. It can also provide the inventor with a more consistent and continual “reality check” as to whether the idea could really take off and be adopted; it provides a framework for analysis of an idea’s current state and can assist in defining potential next steps.

Hopefully that conveys the spirit of the framework. Here are the nine phases:

  1. Imagining
  2. Mobilizing Interest & Endorsement
  3. Incubating
  4. Mobilizing Resources for Demonstration
  5. Demonstrating
  6. Mobilizing Market Constituents
  7. Promoting
  8. Mobilizing Assets for Delivery
  9. Sustaining




The Plan

24 10 2007

In developing and commercializing software to manage climbing walls, I’ve read and skimmed a number of books about technology commercialization and software startups. While I’ll probably use insights from each of these resources along the way, I plan to structure most of my activities around a set of processes formalized by Vijay Jolly in the book Commercializing New Technologies.

In the book, Jolly lays out nine phases that any technology commercialization venture needs to pass through in order to be successful. I plan to do a series on each phase over the next month or so, but in the meantime I’d like to focus on the work I’ll be completing during each of three phases:

    Incubating

  • Create a survey to determine potential features of software
  • Review CWA Guidelines to determine essential features of software
  • Perform market research so I can create a business plan

    Mobilizing Resources for Demonstration

  • Contact other sites and participants about surveys
  • Administer surveys
  • Recruit others to focus groups and beta testing (I am here!)

    Demonstrating

  • Create software requirements and development plan
  • Iterate and release a build of the software
  • Conduct beta testing, incorporate feedback into another iteration

Of course, the tasks above are just an overview of what I’ll be doing during each phase (incidentally, the three phases above represent phases four through six of the overall process) — and they’ll probably make more sense after I explain the entire commercialization process.