Simon is clearly finding the real world -- and being at the top of a small startup -- is changing his perception of engineering.
Can other readers remember lessons learned in their early days, fresh-faced out of education and the theoretical world of engineering?
First, Central Heating may not seem like an exciting field, but I've found that it's what we do with or in a field that makes it exciting. I never thought manufacturing could be exciting until I joined Screaming Circuits. Central heating is a mess. Whether in a home, or office, I don't know that I've ever heard anyone speak complementary about heating or cooling.
The wrong amount of air always seems to go to the wrong place, at the wrong time, at the wrong temperature. I believe that the technology is available to solve those problems now, but I don't know of too many people working on it. Best of luck to you Simon.
As far as lessons learn, one of the first was pricing. It seems pretty fundamental now, but I think a lot of entrepreneurs fall into the trap (I bet Kickstarter is full of people that don't understand how pricing works). It may seem intuitive that if a part costs a dollar, it should increase the cost by a dollar, but that wouldn't pay for all of the costs associated with choosing, purchasing and placing that part into your design.
Very true, the manufacturing aspect of Radfan is really interesting and has lots of challenges with it that you don't consider on the suface before starting out. Central heating is indeed a mess and I think in the next few years there will be a lot of new companies and innovation in the sector.
Pricing is very tricky - I think the biggest difficulty is remembering that the perceived value of your product (and therefore how much someone will pay) is unrelated to what the product costs you, there is no simple 1.5x multiple.
Actally, tecnology should definitely be able to solve the problem as described, but the solution will not be as simple as one would wish. Doing it right will take more than that $14.95 fan add-on thing.
While I agree that the technically best solution is a vey complex one there is an entrenched market, desperate for better central heating, who simply can't afford the "ideal" solution.
There are many markets which need a ground up overhaul but given the cost and time involved in doing that it simply won't happen.
It's all about developing ideas and products within the existing frame work.
I would imagine that the first lesson or at least an early one learned was that a great idea may not sell while mediocre ones do. The difference can be nothing more than people skills and politics, neither of which are taught in school. Instead, these skills are either already acquired or learned via the school of hard knocks. Selling is many times more about the people than the product.
I completely agree, something that takes a while to get your head around is that the best product won't sell without good marketing/sales people. Soft skills are just as, if not more, important that the hardcore technical skills
The success of a company relies on 3 things - great product ideas, exceptional marketing and streamline production.
For a short time, you have already understood the idea, putting out your perspective in words, sharing your adventure. I am looking forward to reading more of your experience.
A really great marketing plan will sell even the poorest quality of junk, at least for a while. The big driver is perceived need of a product, which has nothing to do with any other aspect of it. Of coure, a really good product with a great marketing scheme has a much better chance of being a long term success, at least until the copycats get hold of it. That is where the brand comes into play, which is also as much a challenge as marketing, or maybe even more, because somehow quality, real or just perceived, gets into the mix. And they probably don't teach much about any of this in engineering school.
Brand is the most important thing I think. You can have all the IP in the world but ultimately brand is what people buy into - not the shallow surface design/logo but the deep brand that drives customer service, quality, route to markets etc