Stop thinking, start doing: power of the prototype
by Sarah Giblin, RiutBag designer, one-person startup and Kickstarter alumnus
Making one of your ideas happen means that you are starting to build the world around you. You change the world in this way. One of the most exciting things about starting Riut and building the RiutBag is talking to other people who have ideas they want to make, or people who want to start up their own company. If they are having difficulties, one of things I often notice is that they want to get started but they are still thinking, they are still reading.
The thought trap
Whilst thinking and reading a lot sounds like a good way to start, I cannot advise it. If you want to make something, start a company or create a new app, the only way its going to happen is if you build it, test it and solve all the problems you have created, get it out there and then iterate. You can spend years pondering over all the eventualities of going down one path or another without building a single thing.
My advice, if you want to make something real, if you want to actually change the world - even in the small way - you must MUST start your prototype and finish it.
What is possible when you finish your prototype?
You'll be surprised what you can do when you actually start that prototype and force yourself to finish it. You'll suddenly find yourself with a complete prototype that needs funding. That means, getting your Kickstarter video sorted, learning how global freight works and working out how much to charge for shipping. And then? Then, your Kickstarter campaign will be live and all of a sudden you'll be in contact with thousands of people from all over the world looking for new ideas to support and trying to judge whether you will deliver what you promise. And then? Then you'll be off to the factory to create your first production run. Next your idea will have multiplied by 1000 and will be making its way across the sea in a huge freight liner. Then, before you know it, your first ever users will have your ideas, in the case of the RiutBag, on their backs :) They'll be giving you feedback, challenge, praise where its due and helping you move on to the next iteration.
My idea, the secure backwards backpack, started this way. You can see what it looks like now on www.riut.co.uk. This month, August 2017, it's three years since I started building the final RiutBag prototype. It was a critical and necessary step to building the RiutBag that Kickstarter backers supported and that people use to travel around the world today. Without that final prototype, not a single manufactured RiutBag would yet exist. Currently there are over 15,000 RiutBags being used all over the planet. That prototype was a critical turning point for this entire project.
Why is a prototype so important?
When you build a prototype, it's the first time you face up to the ugly reality of your idea. All the problems that you'd hidden from yourself in your mind with Escher-like thinking (see impossible objects) are exposed. This is scary and can unsteady you at first. But there's also something fantastic that happens: you can start solving the real problems your idea presents. This is some of the most valuable time you will spend in your entire startup time.
How many prototypes does it take?
There were three core RiutBag prototypes. The correct number for your design depends on the problems presented by the first one and how much time you have until your money runs out. I started on the first RiutBag prototype in May 2014. A second mock up of the RiutBag was made in June 2014 and July was spent thrashing out incomplete corners of the safe backwards backpack. So why am I celebrating the third and final prototype? And not the others?
The process of facing up to everything that is wrong with your idea only continues to be valuable if you find and solve enough of its problems to move on making your first production. It lets you move on with confidence. (Of course, your prototype can also - very valuably - tell you that your idea simple doesn't work. That's the other option.) My prototype showed me problems but it also confirmed that the backwards backpack idea works.
When it was finished it looked like a RiutBag, it swam like a RiutBag and it quacked like one. It was, undeniably, the RiutBag I had dreamed of. If it's your idea, you'll know when you see it whether it's ready to move on to the next stage.
If you really want to do this, choose action over thought. When you're in startup mode, when you're trying to get something going, I'm afraid thought just results in more thought. My advice: get started, finish it, move on to the next step. The next step becomes obvious as soon as you get there.
It's too easy for ideas not to happen. It happens every day. Thank you to everyone who helped me get from one stepping stone to the next. That process is still going on. I'm constantly redesigning the RiutBag and thinking about new ways to solve travel the problems we really experience.
I hope that helps you to start your week on the right foot :) Wishing you safe travels wherever you are.
Sarah Giblin, RiutBag designer