Launching an innovative venture is no piece of cake. To tread where no one has gone before, with the odds heavily stacked against being successful, takes great vision, competence and character – or mindless overconfidence in one’s abilities and luck. Probably both. Our economy sorely needs growth, but unfortunately there aren’t many of these “superman entrepreneurs” around. As a result, many promising new business ideas flounder because they lack such a driving force behind them.
Clearly, a mechanism which enables to quickly and economically check the market validity of a new business idea would be highly valuable. Market research had this pretense at some point, with ever greater sophistication (and cost) in simulating test market conditions. Unfortunately, research is limited and artificial by nature, and while important, it is notoriously difficult to use well. For this reason entrepreneurs tend to make little use of it, and simply launch their venture on the market – costly, time-consuming, and risky to their reputation (in Italy) as it may be. While many other great, promising ideas remain unexplored.
Apart from the economic opportunity for new ventures they present, new digital technologies now also allow for a third route between a full-out launch and market research: Prototyping. By developing a ‘façade’ front-end product that tests market validity, without investing in the expensive but more predictable back-end automation that would make it economically feasible, one can quickly test an idea’s potential on the market. This applies to services, but to ever more segments of manufacturing as well thanks to the rapid progress in 3D printing. Quick feedback allows quick adjustments to find the key for success, properly what successful entrepreneurs do best. This doesn’t mean it’s easy, or that old-fashioned quality in strategy and execution doesn’t count anymore. Rather, it requires an additional, complex skill-set. Treading where no one has gone before hasn’t become easier for those that master it, only faster, more economic, and less risky.