|No clear direction is like going fishing. You never know what you will get!|
Technology is exciting to many people, especially me. It is easy to become involved and imagine great things arising from a novel technology. Some scientific areas catch my fancy more than others do, but nearly all technology is interesting and potentially beneficial when converted to a product. In the medical field, we sometimes refer to the conversion as “bench to bedside”, while in non-medical areas “lab to consumer” may be the catch phrase. Taking something from an idea to a final product with financial value is what business is about. Creating products from a technology is not a fishing trip where you cast your line and hope you find something. Careful thought and planning are required if you want to end up with the best financially viable opportunity.
Having worked in laboratories for many years, true science discoveries were not always something that needed to be of a commercial nature. Inventing things for pure scientific benefit was equally exciting and money was a minor consideration. Scientists love their inventions and take great pride in discoveries. Often, they do not consider the financial benefits of inventions because the advancement of science is their ultimate goal. Sometimes the inventions do not have a clear path to a product making them of lesser commercial value.
Reviewing discoveries and converting them to tangible products is where the science and business cross paths. I sometimes find certain discoveries are unfortunately “a technology in search of a use.” This designation comes about when the technology is exciting but it is difficult to identify a tangible product direction. There may be many, but nothing that seems to fit the criteria for a meaningful business opportunity. The technology may have future value as the field develops and a product direction becomes more obvious. Sometimes, the technology’s time has not come yet. In that case, it may be years before the technology has a real and identifiable product opportunity. Keep in mind this is different from having a few product directions and having to select the ones to develop. The description is of technology where no real product opportunity is definable or acceptable for commercial use. The following are a few ways you can decide whether you have a technology in search of an application or a tangible technology worthy of pursuit.
1. Too many possible applications: You may have heard of the old term “snake oil!” Most any time a technology that appears to be good for everything may not have the value you desire. Nothing is good for everything and trying to promote “snake oil” is very hard. Try to identify a few applications where the technology is stellar and worthy of product development. Make sure the markets are meaningful and the development path is simple and clean!
2. No specific target market: When you cannot identify a target market, your product may be heading toward failure. Promoting the product becomes difficult, as does the development. You will find it much easier to define a satisfactory target market and then develop the technology to suite that market.
3. “It might be good for”: I once had an employee that started every experimental discussion with “it may be good for” as the scientific rationale. Unfortunately, over a 15 year period nothing useful ever came from the experimentation. Failure to define research targets can be as flawed as failure to define target markets for the product. It is like taking a trip with no designated places to visit. You never know where you will end up.
4. Unable to identify a clear direction: Identification of a clear direction is essential in any trip. The same is true with product development. The path to create the product and the intended markets are critical to success. Make sure you are able to identify the direction and are fully on board with the product. It is hard to defend the direction and product to investors when you are not confident!
5. Failure to get excited: This is essential to your personal success. Failure to be excited about the technology, product opportunities, and fields of use will come across in any presentation and pitch you may make. You will always second-guess the products and the team because you have not accepted the ideas. You must buy into the whole program and strongly believe or get out!
Taffy Williams is the author of: Think Agile: How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon