While it may be relatively simple to think up ideas for new products, the development stage usually turns out to be much less straightforward. It is therefore vital to stay agile and flexible.
How do startups break new ground in order to come up with innovative products and services? This is the question a group of US and French entrepreneurs set out to answer during an evening session entitled ‘Startups, the key to growth and innovation’ in Paris on 23 May organised by the G9+ Institute, an organisation which brings together the digital communities of twenty of the top engineering and business schools in France. Clément Moreau,, co-founder of Sculpteo, a startup based in the Ile de France region around Paris which specialises in making personalised objects using 3D printing, went over the difficulties that he and his team had to deal with in order to adapt their products to the market. This process involved firstly reworking the product so as to be able to market it to a wider consumer base, and secondly, ensuring the firm got a close feel for customers and their needs.
Helping customers to use the technology properly
“If I had one piece of advice for high-tech entrepreneurs, I’d say that their team should always include some people who are totally dedicated to listening to customers,” stressed Clément Moreau. Although Sculpteo spent only one year developing the technology, it then took the company more than eighteen months on top of that to get the product ready for market. The Sculpteo team had supposed that if it developed a system for creating personalised objects using a 3D printing process, the customers would automatically flock to buy – the “build it and they will come” syndrome. What they had not taken into account was that not everyone is able to use computer software to design an object in 3D. Once this dawned on them, they realised they needed to adapt their products in such a way that ordinary people could use them. This they did by creating various ready-made models and developing a mobile app which enabled customers to generate a ready-to-print 3D model in less than a minute.
Continue with product innovations based on customer feedback
Once the firm has reached its target clientele it has to find a way to retain them. “The way our team creates customer loyalty is to meet up with them and use their advice to improve our products,” explained Moreau. From time to time Sculpteo holds ‘meet-ups’ for 3D printing fans. “This kind of get-together really helps us to find out what our US customers want,” he underlined. US customers are happy to spend a substantial amount of money for an innovative product, but the other side of the coin is that they are very demanding when it comes to final product quality, including packaging. Last but not least, Clément Moreau advises all high-tech startups to target international markets from the very beginning by building a website that is entirely in English.