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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Friday, February 18, 2011

Kate's question answered!

katerw said...
"Who is your customer? Or customers? Have you profiled/interviewed the type of person you imagine using your product?"

To answer your last question first: yes and no.

The "yes" side actually explains why I got into this in the first place. The short version: about nine months ago I started working on an old project for a canister-style dive light targeted at the commercial/military/technical diving community. In order to get familiar with the in's and out's of light design and manufacturing I came up with a small prototype light. I started showing it to people and the response was almost universal: "Holy smokes, that is incredible, can I buy one?!"

Virtually no one has ever seen anything so bright in such a small package. I decided to go where the interest was and abandon dive lights (for the time being) and decided to focus on small hand held lights for every day use. I normally work on super niche products, so excitement from the general public was pretty catalyzing. That response is a lot more rewarding than the usual, "errr....riiiiight....that sounds nice." If it's dark out I don't even have to give a "product pitch," I just push a button on the end of this cylinder thingy.

This is the light that got everything started
On the "no" side, my research has not been extensive and I don't have a ton of resources at my disposal. Any individual starting a business is in the same position. This is a significant factor in my decision to start the blog in the first place. In order to be efficient, I decided to try and bring people to me instead of seeking them out one by one. I hope to attract a user community that will help me understand the market, new technologies, and user needs on an ongoing basis.

Who is my customer? 

Part of the reason I started the blog is to answer that question in more detail. If you are reading this right now, there is a good chance you are my customer...or at least in my market segment. At present I envision this market segment with a persona I call the "conscious consumer."

At the most basic level my customer is someone who values craftsmanship. You like the idea of knowing exactly who makes your product. Faceless corporations make you feel a little funny when you do business with them. You insist that things work like they are advertised, if not better. You want to know the story behind your favorite brands and what the organization believes in. You like to do business with them because it makes you feel good. You love to tell your friends about amazing products and experiences. Bad products and experiences drive you crazy. People often ask your advice about buying something you are knowledgeable about. Finally, my customer is someone who values quality, almost above all else.

You are my market segment
I've made a couple of observations on the "needs" side of the equation as a substitute for directed research. First, there is no human on earth that can see in the dark. Second, darkness is something that is experienced by every human on earth (to varying degrees). This is a pretty good market space in my opinion. So what does the current market look like?

This is a generalization but the 80/20 rules does an excellent job of describing general situations. My observation is a small percentage of flashlight users fall into the "tactical" category (see above). This includes military/police/search and rescue applications...professional power users. It's easy to sell this market on high performance lights because there is a direct need for features like high power.

Virtually all high performance lights are targeted towards this market. I'm not aware of a single high performance light that is not. These lights are battle ready and look the part. I'll be honest. I kind of dig "battle ready" but I'm guessing there is a percentage of people out there that want a bright light but don't want to take down an enemy patrol with it.

That brings us to the 80% of the market that is unserved by high performance flashlight manufacturers. This space is served by low power junker lights that use disposable batteries. If you are an economist, you'd say this is because the market doesn't demand high performance, rechargeable lights for the general consumer. But...if you are a design strategist this is a blue ocean that virtually screams opportunity.

Based on the casual research I've conducted thus far, my big insight is that the other "80%" don't even know that high performance flashlights exist. Find some place dark, turn my light on, jaws drop. It's a pretty good feeling actually. You might not need 750 lumens to walk your dog, but you don't "need" surround sound, leather seats, or $4.00 drip coffees either. Some people just like pure, unadulterated awesome. Just happens that mine is also limited production and hand crafted. Are you my customer? :)

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