From idea to product, how do you make it happen?

I have a, smart-home, product idea that combines a device and an app. The real challenge is how to turn it in to an actual product? If anyone has been through this path before, whether successfully or not, I would appreciate some guidance…


These days, there are two completely separate paths. The first is the traditional “build it and sell it” path.


For this, a lot depends on how much engineering is required. If it’s just a matter of taking an existing device and adding an existing antenna and relay to it, with some kind of controller app, that’s all pretty straightforward. It’s basically reboxing existing components. You still have to get all new safety and FCC certifications, but that’s a known process.

If instead what you want to do is build something brand-new that doesn’t already exist then that’s a whole different story. Typically 3 to 4 years to market, at least five internal iterations, all that.

Once you’re nine months away from delivery and have a working prototype, it’s fairly easy these days to go to indiegogo or kickstarter and get funding for the scaling up phase.


The second is just the “I have an idea” path where you come up with an idea and sell it through a company that does the actual engineering. Best known of these is Quirky. Your share of the payout is a lot smaller, but you also have to do a lot less work.

For most people who aren’t makers or engineers, quirky is a decent way to go.

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I have been down that path before with a successful Kickstarter and it was a lot of work, way more that it seems at first even for someone familiar with the process. You have to make sure you have every step of the way planned out in detail or bad things will happen. Even then bad things will still happen but you may at least be ready for them :slight_smile:

There are several good resources out there with very good information about the process. A good one I found recently is It is by the team. Also check out the Maker Pro Newsletter for lots of good info I will try and go back through my links and find the other good ones I have come across.


thank you very much Andy for your insightful reply and congrats on your successful Kickstarter!


The first most important thing is to always be honest about where you are in the development process. This is true whether you are posting on Internet boards, or just talking to someone that you met at a party.

Don’t try to disguise thing this by saying that “a friend of yours just bought a great product” when in fact you are a member of the development team, and you are still trying to raise funding for product which isn’t even out of the prototype stage yet.

As the saying goes, “hardware is hard.” Most inventors think their idea is going to do 27 different fantastic things, and as they go through the development process they find out that many of those things just aren’t possible.

You don’t have to overpromise in order to have a successful product. Instead, clearly identify what is in fact very possible about your product idea, and what makes it different from what already exists. (Also, give it a name which is different from other existing products.)


Usually if a particular form factor doesn’t exist already, there’s a reason. We see this all the time with the wearables. People promise, say, wi-Fi in a ring or glasses, when there’s no way to get enough battery power for the device to work. And it won’t be waterproof which means you would have to take it off every time you washed your hands.

But maybe, like the pebble smart watch, you are just taking advantage of materials and technologies that are now cheap enough to use to build a consumer product. You’re revisiting something that used to be technically feasible, but too expensive, and now creating a consumer product with it.

Anyway, lots of people will be interested in helping with ideas or contacts, but honesty is the first most important thing. Because once you develop a reputation for lying, it becomes very hard to regain people’s trust.


So if your project is still at the idea stage, say that. If you’re handbuilding prototypes and having a few of your friends or members of the development team trying those, then say you’re in the first prototype stage. If you’re actually selling some to the public, but on a small scale, then you can say you’re in the first stage of selling to the public.

The challenges of each of the stages are different. Just as an example, in the United States anything which broadcasts on a radio frequency, even just Bluetooth, has to have government approval through the FCC before it can be sold. Getting those certifications can be complicated and expensive. And you have to submit the exact model that you’re going to sell, because case materials can make a difference.

Quite often you will see a kickstarter or indiegogo project which has a good working prototype, and now wants to raise enough money to get their certifications . They will get very different press reviews then someone who is still trying to create a good prototype. And they face different challenges.