The partners could sell their product in a variety of ways: They could sell just the coating, sell fabric with the coating, license to other fabric companies the right to incorporate the coating or sell consumer products. To avoid choosing the wrong strategy, the partners decided to model their business after Gortex, the company that makes waterproof fabric. "Gortex is in the same business we are, selling a fabric treatment," says Brazina. "They had successfully branded their name over the past 20 years. We've worked closely with Gortex from the company's beginning and have a Gortex employee on our board."
The partners also kept a close relationship with the Sloan Management School; their company is used as an example in some of the school's new-product classes, because it's a classic case study involving:
technology that's hard to copy, easy to implement and able to generate high profit margins;
customers who are dissatisfied with current products, have similar needs and purchase requirements, and are easy to locate;
competitors who have outdated or adapted technology, are unlikely to respond to new products and are fragmented without a strong market leader; and
a product that offers a good price/value ratio and significant benefits that are easily understood by consumers.
In the case of illumiNITE, the partners went out looking for a product and technology that met those requirements. However, if you, like most inventors, have a product already developed, you can still use the same requirement analysis to calculate your product's chances of success. If your product doesn't meet every requirement, don't despair-simply adjust your product.
Reflective technologies dealt with this very dilemma. IllumiNITE concentrates the light it receives and reflects it back so the wearer can be seen at a distance in the night. That's exactly what nighttime runners, walkers and cyclists want. But the concentrated light means the product doesn't look that reflective up close, so consumers might pick up the fabric and not realize what the real benefit is. The company compensates for this by using strong visuals on its packaging of a runner wearing the reflective fabric at night, and by telling consumers how to test the product's reflectivity indoors.