Recently I was contacted by a team of young entrepreneurs at JFK Middle School to come and chat with them about a product development project they had come up with to compete in the First Lego League. They all had great questions and demonstrated really good teamwork when it comes to understanding the product and the teams’ goals. I had a great time speaking with them and hoped that I was able to deliver some value when it comes to the kinds of questions you need to have answers to when taking a product to market (like knowing your customer, knowing the problem your product solves, etc).
Subsequently I’ve talked to a couple of other Middle School teams about business ideas/projects and I’ve been really impressed by their grasp on technology, especially on how they can combine existing standards, products and ideas into something new. It’s a great time to be a young person and kudos to their teachers and volunteers who are providing support and encouragement as they work to build and test their ideas.
Based on these conversations, I wanted to lay out some of the top pieces of advice and answers to questions I’ve been asked in the hopes that they provide some direction. Here’s my top 3.
- Know what problem you are solving and be able to articulate it clearly. Basically, have a good elevator pitch that each member of the team can deliver. This shows that everyone on the team is speaking the same language and has the same vision.
- Don’t define success only by selling a million units. If you’re 13, 14, 15, 18, etc – you’re going to learn about starting a business, working with a team, learning to prototype and make connections regardless if your product or service is successful out of the gate. So don’t get worried about making a million bucks by the time you graduate. Use this opportunity to build your toolkit of skills and connections because you never know when another opportunity might appear.
- Possibilities, Prototypes, Patents: Don’t worry about patenting your idea before you’ve built a prototype, defined the market and tested it to make sure it works. Many teams I’ve talked to come up with an idea they want to protect but haven’t done the research to see if their idea is unique or if it’s even worth protecting.
Thanks for sharing your projects with me and I’m looking forward to seeing the next phase of each of your projects and what you’ll build next!