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Build a prototype to give your start-up more credibility

By David Schwartz
Published: July 30th, 2014

In his recent Forbes article, start-up guru Martin Zwilling explains why building a prototype is so important for boosting a start-up’s credibility.

“These days, everyone wants to be an entrepreneur,” writes Zwilling. “Angel investors, like me, have long figured out that asking to see the prototype is a quick way to separate the ‘wannabes’ from serious players.” Here are the key accomplishments that come with building a successful prototype:

Helps validate opportunity. With something you can touch and feel, you can get more accurate feedback from customers on their real need and what they might pay. Knowing a start-up has done this, investors will be more willing to get on board.

Quantifies the implementation challenges. “Many ideas I hear sound great, but I have no idea if they can be implemented,” Zwilling says. By building a prototype, you can get closer to finding out how realistically your product can be implemented.

Gives you time to pivot without dire consequences. No matter how confident an entrepreneur is in his or her solution, it probably will need to be altered if the business is to succeed. And as Zwilling puts it, “it’s much easier to pivot the pre-production prototype than to dispose of unsellable inventory.”

Shows investors you are committed. Investors aren’t that interested in ideas; they want proof not only that you’re serious, but also that your product or service is actually viable. A working prototype will show them both of these things.

Reduces the time to production and rollout. “Time is money, and may be your primary competitive advantage,” writes Zwilling. With a well-tested prototype, you lessen the risk of wasted time and money on development of an undesirable product.

Supports early negotiation with vendors and distribution channels. When negotiating contracts for manufacturing, support and marketing, a three-dimensional prototype always wins over a mere document. “As a start-up,” says Zwilling, “you need all the leverage you can get.”

If you can’t build a prototype yourself, consider finding a co-founder who has the interest and background to at least manage the development. The main thing is to never outsource the management of your core technology. “At worst,” Zwilling advises, “maybe you can find a trusted friend to guide you, or a nearby university with expert professors and the proper tools.”

Source: Forbes

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