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Product development gone wrong

By Beatrice Thomas

It all started with an idea that Marie couldn’t shake. She’d developed a solution to a problem dreaded by every nurse working in a hospital. 

She came up with the idea while working in the emergency ward of a WA hospital. Unknowingly, she’d ticked one of the first boxes in the list of successful commercial product development: Create a solution to a problem many people experience.  

The market was huge. It could help nurses across the globe to do their job more effectively and save lives. Marie was obsessed with getting the idea out of her head and giving it form in the real world.   

And she could make it happen. Marie is a woman with boundless energy. Even after working a shift in the demanding environment of an emergency ward, she could still find the energy and motivation to move her idea to the next stage. A new stream of income would be nice but knowing this idea could save lives was the real motivation. With that type of commitment, the product was one step closer to seeing the light of day. 

Marie searched the internet for a trustworthy business that could transform her idea into reality. She found a few local candidates and chose one.  

After a couple of meetings, the company came up with a quote to create a feasibility prototype and draft up a design. The cost tipped towards $40,000A single mum, she had enough savings to safely contribute to about one third of that cost. Her enthusiasm was contagious and family members quickly pitched in for the rest by setting up a company trust. 

The design was created and the feasibility prototype developed. The prototype was a proof of concept. Although much bigger than the final product, it demonstrated that the necessary circuitry could meet Maria’s requirements. The company was also able to provide a nominal unit cost for manufacture.  

However, the journey stopped very quickly at that point and has remained in the wilderness ever since. Without a business plan and a marketing plan, the project had no direction.  

There were so many issues not previously considered: 

  • What was the next stage towards commercialisation 
  • How many stages were there?  
  • How much was it going to cost to get to the idea to market 
  • Who was going to pay for commercialising it?  
  • Who would manufacture, market and distribute it?  
  • How was it going to be marketed?  
  • Who would run the business?   

And, more importantly, the project had no justification. For example, how much money could the enterprise reasonably make? How big is the market? What is the profit margin after all the costs are taken into account? Without a business plan and a marketing plan, it was difficult to get the attention of a potential investor. 

But they’re not problems she’ll have to concern herself with any longer. A search by a potential angel investor discovered that the same product is being developed in South Korea. 

Marie, by her own admission, is not a business person. “I’m an ideas person,” she says. “I don’t know any of the business technicalities. I need other people to do that for me.”  

From a financial view, it was an expensive mistake. But perhaps the real cost is her relationship with family members who invested in the venture. Christmas gatherings may be strained if they happen at all. 

It all started with an idea that Marie couldn’t shake. She’d developed a solution to a problem dreaded by every nurse working in a hospital. 

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