Products that create markets often have one common trait: all of them initially had a market of one — the inventor.
The Post-It note
The Post-It note almost missed the bus, because hardly anyone believed in it. Dr Spencer Silver, a scientist at 3M who invented the adhesive technology in 1968, had to wait until 1974 before he met Arthur Fry, who used the adhesive to create the first Post-It note.
The product was launched in 1977 and promptly bombed. However, Fry persevered, and had 3M issue free samples widely. Thankfully, this strategy worked, and by 1980 it was sold nationally in the United States. The rest is history.
Like any truly innovative product, the Post-It note initially had only one believer — its inventor.
Don Estridge and the IBM PC
For the big bosses focused on mainframes at IBM circa 1980, the personal computer was at best a glorified toy to whip their cheap mini-computer competitors. But Philip "Don" Estridge, the man in charge of the product, had other ideas.
To begin with, he did away with the traditional IBM closed doors approach and based his work on an open architecture, so that others could also jump onto the wagon and produce software and peripherals. The PC itself was assembled from existing components — the microprocessor came from Intel, monitor from IBM Japan, printer from Epson, and the operating system from Microsoft.
The IBM PC was launched in 1981. Before the PC, the best-selling IBM machine sold about 25,000 pieces. The IBM PC sold one million units in five years, transforming not just personal computing, but the global information architecture itself, with the PC becoming the dominant tool of the “Knowledge Worker”.
Like any truly innovative product, the IBM PC initially had only one believer — its inventor.
The Steve Jobs keynotes are usually the stuff of legends, but the one at the Macworld 2007 was truly special - it was on this stage that Jobs announced “Three revolutionary new products” — a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary new mobile phone, and a breakthrough internet communications device." The “three products” turned out to be one: the iPhone.
Everything about the iPhone was innovative, easy to find, and use. The ubiquitous small cellphone screen and tiny keypad were replaced with a touch screen and multi-gesture touch controls. The iPhone had only one button — the Home button, but had over 200 patents filed.
Like any truly innovative product, the iPhone initially had only one believer — its inventor.
Are you a Believer?
Is there a product or idea that you passionately believe in? It could be a game-changing machine like the iPhone, or a simple, everyday utility which others forgot to think about, like the Post-it note, or the safety pin. You may well be working on a world changing product in the making. Don't give up!
Sanjay Soni is Managing Director, Logix Microsystems Limited