Was having a discussion with an inventor. He's the archetypical "loves to build" inventor that sees business a fun lab/shop to invent and build in.
However, he's been toiling away on his newest invention for quite a while, and isn't sure about if there's light at the end of the tunnel, or what to even do next. Here's what I wrote him -
Ikigai - thank you. I really appreciate it. [he bought a copy of Ikigai; you should too]
Re: business... here, let me blunt here, for your own good.
Stop this "build first then sell" if you want to do business.
It basically doesn't work. Sell first then build almost always works, because you're forced to deliver after the product concept is pitched. Build first without a team around you usually doesn't work... I'd sell some sort of contract version of your work ASAP, maybe non-exclusive where you still own the IP afterwards, or whatever, but get someone to pay you and get real deadlines, and you'll be forced to deliver.
Honestly, I've tried build-first-then-sell many times, and it almost always fails. Sell-first-then-build almost always gets resolution quickly, either in that you sell first and then have to build rapidly (plus, you've now got money and cred to attract people with) or you find out the market doesn't want it. Both of which are much better outcomes than toiling away with uncertain payoffs at uncertain times.
If you've got the skills to deliver (and it sounds like you do), then sell-first is the way to go.
There's two general philosophies employed by inventors -
1. Build first, then sell. This is the "Archetypical Crazy Inventor" way. You build something thinking it's the greatest thing in the world, and the masses will flock to your door for your better mousetrap. Unfortunately, it's just not true. This way usually leads to discouragement and product abandonment. (There's noteworthy counter-examples, but they're noteworthy because they're so damn rare. I'll hazard a guess that 99% of build-first projects never lead to anything noteworthy, not even a credible completed failure.)
2. Sell first, then build. You make an ultra-rough prototype, define the benefits if you can deliver, and get it in front of your customers ASAP. If they won't buy, commit to buying, or help you improve the product, you're going down the wrong path. You correct mistakes before they happen with this route, and it leads to success - or, at least, a quick completion and failure that doesn't hurt.
I think inventors take the first path so often because they don't understand selling, which is understandable. But note that the second path still requires selling, just later - and if you're not studying marketing and sales while you're inventing, it's going to be just as hard after you've built whatever. Actually, arguably it'll be harder - when you have a loose prototype and benefits, customers will tell you what exactly they need and don't need to buy, and you can build with their input in mind. When you're building off of your own intuition, that's not going to cut it unless you've got a mind like someone like Tesla.
(Of course, every serious inventor fantasizes that he's got a mind like Tesla, so maybe that's part of the problem.)
Anyways - sell first. If your idea is good enough, someone will pay you to build it. If no one will pay you to build it, then you're doing some sort of hobby or project or experiment - not a business. Unless you're Tesla, which... well, then you don't need my advice, so carry on.
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