David Wilson is editor of Engineeringtalk and Electronicstalk and associate editor of The Engineer
Just months before he was due to graduate with a masters degree in electronic engineering and computer science, the young student paid his old father a visit.
During the course of their conversation, it became apparent that he was bursting with bright ideas about the uses to which he would put his engineering degree. One of his schemes involved starting up a company to develop new software in the image-processing field — software that, he believed, would play an important role in the medical diagnostic field.
Apart from his obvious passion to create a new business rather than simply find employment with an existing one, he had also had some initial conversations with the university careers officer, during which he had been informed of the support that he might be able to get from the local business incubation centre.
But that, sadly, was as far as he had taken his plan. And, during the long exchange with his father, it became obvious that the young engineering student had done very little actual research into the potential marketplace for his new product ideas.
That’s right. Not only was he unaware of potential competitors that might be developing similar products, he was also oblivious to the actual size of the market itself and the potential revenues that his new software products might bring.
Being a wise old man, his father suggested to him that, before embarking on starting up a company without carefully having researched the market, he should form an alliance with another young graduate that had a degree in business studies and marketing. This person, he said, would be able to study the field thoroughly and develop a sound business plan for his son’s new company.
Taking his father’s words to heart, the son returned to university where he struck up a relationship with an equally enthusiastic young woman from the school of business studies with whom he shared his ideas.
Impressed by the young engineer’s fervour for developing innovative new products, the woman from the world of marketing carefully set about identifying whether there was a market niche for the engineer’s new product ideas, the number of potential customers and how much revenue a new company could expect to earn from them.
With months of marketing groundwork completed, it became apparent that there was indeed some merit to the young engineer’s thoughts and so the two partners set about starting a small company at the incubation centre to exploit their potential.
Now I’m pleased to say that, through their close working relationship, the two partners have built a small business between them. And while they may never be as big as Microsoft, their company is, nonetheless, successful enough to provide them both with modest salaries.
All because the young engineer was smart enough to have taken heed of his father’s advice all those years ago when he told him that the brightest ideas in the world aren’t worth a hill of beans unless there’s a market out there for them.
The Wilson’s world blog also forms part of the Engineeringtalk, Electronicstalk and Manufacturingtalk newsletters. To subscribe, go here for Engineeringtalk, here for Electronicstalk and here for Manufacturingtalk