Your first prototype of your product seeks to extract your product idea from your brain and put it in the palm of your hand. Your first prototype can be made at home, on a 3D printer or by hiring a product designer, engineer, seamstress or machinist. What your first prototype looks like depends on your budget and, more importantly, your goals – but remember that when fundraising, your prototype should be able to do the selling for you. It should inspire use and confidence in you, your hardware start-up and your vision for producing products.
When you move forward with your hardware start-up and after you’ve done your fundraising, you’ll most likely need a “pre-production” prototype. See our section on Manufacturing Prototypes for more information about this pre-production prototype.
Your preparation prototype has many advantages including:
Functional and Design Testability:
It’s only when you can physically test a product that you’ll truly be able to see its greatness and its flaws. With a product in hand, you can test the functionality of your idea. You’ll also be able to explore the design issues and challenges when you go from idea to reality.
Your prototype at this stage will help you determine the best materials for your product. This can be adjusted in your prototype for manufacture, but at this early stage you’ll begin to get some insights into which performs better at the best cost for your product, your positioning, and the growth of your hardware start-up.
Seeing your product live and seeing it the hands of others will help you describe your product and it’s benefits more effectively with your team, funders, and potential business partners. Most importantly, you can start getting feedback and update your design to make the product that your market wants and will pay for.
Having a working prototype is almost de rigueur for fundraising these days and a prototype that shows well also show potential funders – be they family and friends, crowd-funding supports or angels and VC’s – that you’ve got skin in the game and a dedication to execute on your plans.