More is not always better in product development

Today’s entrepreneurs have more resources available to them than the generations before them — educational programs, incubators, accelerators, online information, networks and more.

More resources can mean faster innovation and product development. It can also provide valuable support to those with great ideas so an outstanding product or technology solution can come to market.

For those of us who run programs like the Akron Global Business Accelerator, however, the breadth of programs and resources available to entrepreneurs poses a challenge. We need to understand what is most effective for our customers (the entrepreneurs) and offer programs that are innovative, complement other resources and do not duplicate what is already available.

And for the entrepreneurs, there is a challenge as well. An overabundance of resources makes it difficult for them to know what they truly need. Sometimes, it is difficult for them to find their way through the weeds of all of the offerings, ultimately leading to a failure to connect them with the proper resources to propel them and their idea forward.

Like successful businesses, we need to identify unmet needs and ultimately develop and offer programs that deliver value to our customers that will allow them to operate more efficiently and accelerate their path to market.

We must have an understanding of other resource providers and what they offer to entrepreneurs. While they are not truly our competitors, knowing their programs and the needs of entrepreneurs helps us intelligently design programs that will be embraced and deliver value.

Even program innovation must have a systematic approach: market research, product development and market entry. So, here’s what I recommend for those wishing to create their next resource to the entrepreneurial startup community:

Invest in market research
Get to know the other entrepreneurial resources in the community — incubators, angels, universities and foundations. Take the lead on getting this group together to share ideas and best practices. Understand where each organization adds value and when/why you might steer your customer in their direction.

Take time to develop your product
Identify gaps in the system. Talk with those in the entrepreneur community to validate your findings and stay up-to-date on national best practices. It may help you identify a specialized program or event that will make a difference. Eliminate overlap in resource offerings.

Your network of providers’ programs should complement each other without duplication or overlap. Be prepared to back away from replicating an already successful program and use your resources to fill another gap.

Enter the market
Look for excuses to get entrepreneurs and resources together. Create fun, social events around topics focused on your strengths and make sure everyone knows about it.

Whether you are creating a new startup community in your city or town, or are looking for ways for your organization to help others to be more entrepreneurial and innovative, thinking of your program like a product to your entrepreneurial customer base will help you get to where you need/want to be faster and better. ●

Anthony Margida is CEO at Akron Global Business Accelerator.