The Next Big Product

Researching Competitive Products

To discover their ideal idea, the partners planned to visit the technology licensing departments of major universities to see what technology was already available. But before they got a chance to make the rounds, they found out that Adam's employer, Airco Coatings, had a wealth of outside technology it had given the thumbs down to. Among the rejects: a new type of reflective technology.

The partners quickly scanned competitive products and realized that they could create an enormous market advantage. They bought the inventor out and spent the next year developing the formula and method of application. Next, they applied for a patent.

After developing the technology behind illumiNITE, the partners started generating initial market contacts to determine how the product should be sold. "We went to companies like Nike with swatches," says Brazina. "We explained we didn't have a product yet, but asked how they felt illumiNITE could be incorporated into their product line."

The partners also conducted consumer focus groups. To assess the product's benefits to consumers, they created a competitive matrix chart, demonstrating the areas in which illumiNITE was better than the competition. "New technology isn't a plus if it doesn't translate into a consumer benefit," says Brazina. "Runners wanted apparel that was flexible, attractive and breathable. Our competitors didn't meet those criteria." Priming the market helped the partners shorten the time needed to generate their first significant sales once the product was ready.

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This article was originally published in the October 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Next Big Product.

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