What does it cost to develop an idea?
I'm often asked a question that closely resembles this made-up example over the phone, "I've got an idea for a transmografied blivett, how much do you charge for designing one of these?" Since I've heard this sort of request so many times, every now and then I return with, "Well, how big is your transmografied blivett?" Or sometimes I'll ask, "Do you have a picture of your transmografied blivett so I can see it and give you a ballpark quote?"
I really like to exemplify the person that asks how much something will cost to design, and when I ask them about it, they can't tell me for fear I will steal their idea. I tell them that if I stole ideas, I would have to buy a bigger building to keep the all the stolen ideas that have come across my desk or my phone. Ideas don't take up much room - except for occupying mental space.
One reason I'm not interested in stealing ideas is that if I did, I wouldn't remain in business for long. In the hire for services business, the ideas always belong to the person paying the bills. Unless other arrangements have been made. Another reason I'm not interested in stealing ideas is that it costs so much money to develop an idea and make money with it. I would rather remain in my comfort zone of design and development, which is what I've been doing for my entire career of 47 years. Oh, yes I've developed a couple of my own ideas and made money. However, inventing and developing with a prolifically creative mind is where I prefer to be. Doing the same thing over and over just for the money (and of course the potential is unlimited) is simply not my cup of tea. I simply love what I do.
The experienced inventor, manufacturer or person that's been through the product development cycle understands that they will need money - sometimes BIG money. They can come from a rich family, from some money source of their own, have a lot of money saved up from eating Cup-O-Noodles for a long time, a rich uncle or know how to attract capital for a viable new idea. Product design and development is just plain expensive. On top of that, getting that great idea into production is another tier above that, especially if one plans to produce their idea themselves. That's why there are shows like Shark Tank, programs one can partake of like crowd funding and the plain old fashioned venture capitalist. I sometimes refer to them as "vulture" capitalists.
I will give you one example of what I've spent on product design and development. It's my Quickie Dryer. This is a small portable clothes dryer that one can take with them on vacation or use to dry delicate items such as expensive sweaters made of mohair, angora or cotton that it can dry in minutes with no shrinkage whatsoever. I won't go into a lot of detail about how it works, but it was a very unique item that looked like a pillowcase. You would put the nozzle of a hair dryer into an elastic opening, put your item to be dried on top and hot air blew out little holes on the top that would dry the item laid on its surface. The fluid dynamics and thermodynamics of such a simple item was actually quite complex with a plenum to mix the air and exact size and number of holes matching the air velocity and power of a variety of hair dryers. It took over a year to develop and about two weeks for someone to rip me off. But that's another story.
Totally, the amount of money spent on the design and development of such a simple product was around $55,000 and in the end, I ended up making money. This included a $21,000 TV commercial, $17,000 in product purchases from Taiwan, trade shows in New York and Chicago and the rest comprising my sweat equity. I finally ended up selling my entire inventory except for one box of 120 units that I keep in my warehouse for old time sake. Was it worth it? Like I said, I made money.
My work here at CC Design Development Inc. is to help entrepreneurs to the best of my ability so that they can be successful with their ideas. In addition, I believe everyone that wants to develop an idea should know what's on the horizon - what to expect as it relates to the risk and rewards.
So, what is the cost of developing your idea? It depends totally on the idea. However I can give you some guidelines on what to expect. Below is a list of projects that were actually completed. These costs do not include advertising and marketing efforts. There are many web sites that provide formulas and guidelines for getting your product to market. However, these make assumptions that have to start somewhere and that somewhere may only apply to an idea that is within the boundaries of these assumptions. There is really no formula that works with every product and market. One almost needs to commit, bite the bullet and go for it. Educated guesses for the follow up hurdles will invariably have to be made as they come up - at least that's been my experience. I've included some non-consumer products for your interest.
Consumer product. An electronic child finder includes parent and child units.
Mechanical design - $32,000
Electronic design - $83,000
Consumer product. A cosmetic bottle design.
Mechanical design - $950
Consumer product. Electric motor flower bed tilling machine.
Mechanical design - $16,500
Consumer product. Hot melt glue gun.
Mechanical design - $14,280
Consumer product. Portable Sauna.
Mechanical design - $18,400
Medical product. Carbon dioxide indicator endotracheal tube.
Mechanical design - $6,200
Medical product. Neurosurgical arriculated arm used in neurosurgery to locate tumors.
Mechanical design - $68,000
Electronic design - $136,000
Scientific product. Silicone wafer inspection microscopes of various configurations.
Mechanical design - $17,000 to $160,000
Optical design - varies greatly with application.
Scientific product. 3-D imaging microscopic system.
Mechanical design - $10,450
Scientific product. Fiber optic coupler.
Mechanical design - $2,400
Military product. Optical sight for Abrams Tank.
Mechanical - $6,300
Optical design - $7,600
Military product. Laser tunnel guidance system.
Mechanical - $9,600
Electronic - $13,800
Inspection machine. Video pattern recognition for automotive applique with rejection robot.
Mechanical - $86,000
Electronic - $165,000
These may provide you with some idea of the investment in various product designs and their development. The real cost of product design and development can only come from a hard quotation from a product development firm that has the experience and integrity to provide the best value for your investment.
Good luck with your idea!