(39b) Product Development Challenges for Small or Start-up Companies

Pednekar, P., West Virginia University
Dever, J., Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research & Innovation Center (MATRIC)
Product development challenges for small or start-up companies

Pratik C Pednekar, Research Chemical Engineer, Mid-Atlantic Technology Research and Innovation Center

John Dever, Executive Vice President, Mid-Atlantic Technology Research and Innovation Center

Development is a key stage towards the commercialization of a product or a process. For a startup company or a department that is still in the process of looking for seed money, and is currently working with limited resources, this step becomes even more crucial. In order to engage potential investors, a small scale demonstration of the technology or a scale up of the product to send samples becomes a limiting step due to the investment required to perform this. Setting up a facility from the ground up may not be an option for many such companies due to cost or risk reasons. Other hurdles include the need to hire specialized vs flexible manpower, to have continuous access to expensive analytical tools and to be in touch with market experts who have worked with products that may put the company through a slow growth curve.

Another key aspect of this stage is the flexibility to handle growth of the project. For a company developing a candidate product, the goals for a project may change very rapidly from producing a defined amount of product to optimizing the product properties to being able to demonstrate continuous production or sustained quality. These changes can make some of the initially obtained equipment or workforce obsolete through the course of development and these are added costs towards a necessary path of progress for the company. Additionally after all this effort, it is quite possible that the product or technology may not be cost effective or desirable at this point in time. To know this information as early as possible through the development stage can make a huge difference to the survival of a start-up company.

Getting in touch with a facility that has most of the infrastructure already in place can be vital to help the project get off the ground quicker and cost effectively. This could save on costs for setting up a facility that is compliant for production, procuring the right equipment quickly and obtaining the manpower to build, operate and guide the development process. Through university or company collaboration or through access to the consultation entities, the development stage can be streamlined to the benefit of the start-up company. However, each of these options differ in several ways such as their access to resources, industrial contacts, intellectual property agreements, ability to adapt the manpower according to the growth of the project etc. Through working with start-up companies previously, MATRIC would like to present a discussion on some of the challenges that such companies face and how technology development companies with such facilities can help make the product development phase cost effective and efficient. The discussion is intended to demonstrate some of the cost saving means that can be employed through the development stage to reduce risk and at the same time provide access to a flexible workforce that can be adjusted based on the growth of the project.