limited production :: hand crafted :: high performance :: rechargeable :: premium flashlights

This is my blog about creating a startup LED flashlight business. I'm a designer, fabricator, and strategist and I'm passionate about making ideas real. I believe that products are about people, that they should be built to last, deliver real value, and that we need to do a better job than we have in the recent past.

Most of my career has been contract or freelance work and I've crafted products and strategies for both big international companies and startups. I also used to work in the "industry" fabricating special effects for film and TV, along with the occasional hot rod. Bottom line, I love making things.

I'm starting this blog so you can follow along, from day one, and see what it's like to start a business, or fail in the process. Only time will tell, but I hope you find this interesting enough to stay tuned, comment, link, like, tweet, and (most importantly) participate in turning this idea into something tangible and valuable.

For a good place to get started with general info about who, what, why, etc., check out the "Stickies" on the left side of the page. Thanks for stopping by and please don't hesitate to ask questions and get involved!

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Erik's question answered

Erik E said...
"Jason, What do you see as the "opportunity space" in this (lighting) market? Both in terms of "un-met user needs" and emerging "technological affordances" that are expanding the bounds of the possible?
It looks like you are pushing into both these areas. If you had greater resources, what additional capabilities would you like to have so you could develop further into the leading edge of this space?"

Hey Erik, I guess I've already answered some of your questions tangentially in other posts. However, I think an opportunity exists because of the combination of "unmet user needs" and "technological affordances." In other words, the technology is making it possible to meet new user needs.

Everything is a matter of perspective. Sometimes not having the technology makes it hard to see needs which that unknown (or simply new) technology might address. Take cars for example; when they first appeared on the road a lot of people were still asking, "why would you need to travel faster than a train or horse?" Just three or four years ago it was unfathomable that a single LED could produce over 750 lumens, let alone a small hand held light. I think we are just beginning to understand the possibilities.

The next factor, from an economic standpoint, is the cost/availability of that technology. Many markets follow the "sweet spot" example I'll give, and the LED lighting market is now in the sweet my opinion. They easiest example is the cell phone. There was a tipping point, in the past, that allowed the cell phone to become mainstream. I attribute this to the pure economics of, not only the final consumer cost, but the cost of the ancillary resources required to support the final capacity, battery energy density, individual mobility, the internet, etc.

In terms of greater resources I'd love to be able to do more direct research and use more rigorous design and marketing processes. As a substitute I'm using my intuition and experience to inform my decision making. As a result, I did have a bit of a realization.

I think as design professionals we (sometimes) rely too much on process. There is another graph, much like the one above, where individual inspiration falls off as reliance on process grows. I think we too quickly forget that the lone genius plays a role in innovation at least as often as the high performance team. In the end, it's not one or the other that's the answer, but the graceful blending of the two. Fortunately for me, having good tools and process lets us mortals play in the same sandbox as the geniuses.

This is a process map co-created with my classmates Mei Lan Ho-Walker and Erin Jacobs-Mays. You can tell that I'm skipping over a lot of these steps...primarily because I lack the resources to address them.
The other obvious resource would be more access to advanced automation that would expand the envelope of what is possible. Right now the equipment I have is a significant restriction to what I can do, both in terms of design and engineering. Designers love restrictions though!

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