More and more companies are discovering this Lean innovation either Lean startup can help them better streamline their innovation processes. Especially for totally new product development, the application of Lean innovation principles results in a more efficient and successful innovation pipeline.
In this blog series, Francis-Paul Janssen from AOMB Intellectual Property and Joyce Oomen from Pimcy Innovation & Portfolio Management answer these and other questions. We thank Jenk de Jong of the Chamber of Commerce for his feedback and revisions.
In part 1, we introduced our blog series, the writers and structure of the blog series. In part 2, we discussed the basic principles of Lean Innovation and IP Strategy. In the previous part 3 we took you into our (fictional) business idea, namely:
We want to develop a hoverboard that can not only make horizontal movements, but also vertical ones! So it must be able to jump. In addition, the energy generated by the movement must be converted into light and sound.
In this part we continue our exploration with the aim of testing whether there is a problem / solution fit.
Problem / solution interview
We draw up an interview script and go to squares in various places where many young people are showing tricks on hoverboards. For example, we ask them what they would think if their hoverboard could bounce. In addition, we do not necessarily have to explain how we achieve this technically - we do not know that ourselves either. Moreover, in this case we do not stand in the way of recording our own IP later.
The interviews show that the young people are enthusiastic! Two features stand out: it must also be allowed on public roads and be able to do it tricks with the accumulated energy is also top according to the young people.
We are convinced that we have come up with something good!
Capture our name
We are actually enthusiastic about our name and check whether the website has already been registered. You can do this for example via versio.nl. Fantoytic.com as well as fantoytic.nl are still available. Since we also have international aspirations, we capture fantoytic.com. We also immediately check the trademark register whether our intended name has already been established there. We do this via https://www.tmdn.org/tmview/welcome, here too there is no obstacle.
Exploratory IP research and competition analysis
By conducting IP research, we gain a lot of insight into the market and competition and we prepare ourselves for a possible patent application.
We start to see which patents we should take into account ourselves. Our product will be an improvement on the hoverboard as it is now used by our target audience. A logical start is then to look for the patent for the hoverboard itself. We google for “hoverboard patent” and then read a news article in which the story of Shane Chen and the very first patent is told. This patent US8738278 B1 was applied for in 2013 and granted in 2014.
We want some more information about this patent. We are therefore looking for the patent Espacenet. From the publication data, we see that this patent is only valid in the United States. There is no protection in Europe, which means that we could move forward in Europe, but we should at least do something if our aspirations grow.
It is also important to know what the classification is. All patents are divided into technical classes so that they are easy to find. For the hoverboard patent, this class is B62K11 (in short: motor vehicles with one or two wheels) and B62K3 (two-wheelers).
With this information we can get inspiration for our idea. The two features we want to add are: steering and jumping.
Now the real search work begins. We prepare by thoroughly reading the Espacenet manual. At the Netherlands Enterprise Agency we ask for a free search advice to get us started. They help us with classes and terms.
We can get started with that ourselves. We search in Espacenet in the class B62K11 or B62K3 and with the keyword “steer *”. That produces 118 results. That may seem like a lot, but that is not so bad. By looking at the pictures (mosaics) we can quickly decide which documents are relevant and which are not. We do the same for the keyword “jump”. That yields 6 results. We do the same again, with slightly different keywords (eg “bounce”; “shock”; “fly”), so that we increase the chance of relevant results. In the end we only spend an afternoon selecting and downloading the really interesting documents. Finally, we search for class B62K11 or B62K3 and limit ourselves to publications that are in Dutch. This provides us with information about parties in the Netherlands that are working on our subject. Maybe we can still find partners there?
The first conclusion of our first study (only investment: our time) is to be careful not to infringe Shane Chen's patent in the United States. Second, we did not encounter the features we wanted in the patent documents. On the one hand, that offers hope: we seem to be the first with this idea and that offers opportunities in the market. On the other hand, we will have to develop everything almost from scratch to arrive at our final product. A nice challenge!
Towards problem / solution fit
The discovery phase within lean innovation ends with problem / solution fit. You have this fit if you can confidently say that your idea solves a relevant problem or has relevant added value. You then demonstrated that your solution direction by the selected target audience of early adopters accepted. You still try to keep costs as minimal as possible here, you just want to test whether you are moving in the right direction.
Based on the first interviews, we already decide to make some initial sketches and 3-D animations of what our product could look like and how it would work. So we don't make the product real yet, but try to give the best possible approach to where we want to go. We invite a number of young people (who all have personal experience with a hoverboard) and present this model. This could possibly have consequences for the later recording of our IP. But because we can't show anything of the technology yet, we don't give up our real invention yet. We can apply for a patent later. And revealing the design is not a disaster either, because we can also have it protected later as a model. To be on the safe side, we check this with an Intellectual Property adviser and record the conversation.
We are very happy that we took this step before we actually started production! The conclusions from this session
- The steering wheel doesn't look good, you don't want to be seen with it
- The design is more like a SegWay, which is something for old people.
- When you jump with the hoverboard, don't you get off the hoverboard with your feet? Jumping itself is seen as positive.
- Converting movement into light and sound is not seen as interesting. But the possibility of light in itself is useful. In addition, it would be useful if you could charge your phone and play your own music while standing on the hoverboard.
- Many young people also have doubts about the maneuverability and stability of our hoverboard. If someone suggests that a scooter with a jumping function would be much cooler, it gets a lot of support from the young people.
We immediately decide on a new version. This time we are going for a scooter with a jump function. We do another investigation in Espacenet, and it shows that nothing is known. Then we can start designing. We provide a tougher design, with a robust handlebar. There is a USB port in the steering wheel so that the phone can be charged. We have also incorporated speakers in the steering wheel so that music can be played. The edges of the hoverboard plus in the handlebars are slightly processed, the user can choose whether he or she turns it on. We make beautiful 3D animations again and get back to work.
We organize a second session, with a different group of young people (who also all have experience with a hoverboard). What a difference! The whole group is very enthusiastic and ask when our “Fantoytic stepboard” will be on the market. So they even come up with a name for this type of “toy”. They also want to know how much it costs.
We do not ask “how much would you like to pay for it?”, But mention a price of EUR 450. The young people indicate that they find this very expensive, that they would be willing to pay a maximum of EUR 350 for something similar. With this we know approximately what price we should arrive at. Had we asked for a price, we would probably have ended up much lower. We must have an idea of what our product is worth!
We also present our 'leasing' concept. For an amount of EUR 20 per month you can lease our board for a period of 2 years, after which it becomes your property. For this construction, the parents must count… There is a full warranty and replacement service for 2 years. It turns out that the young people find this quite complicated, but they are interested. They see only involving their parents as an extra barrier.
Time to adjust our business model accordingly! We will do this in the next part.