Join us this week at Entrepreneurship 101 to learn how to identify and manage your intellectual property (IP), and understand how it fits in with your business model. Being able to protect your IP and commercialize your innovation is critical for the success of your startup.

At last week’s Entrepreneurship 101, we welcomed a panel of speakers who discussed the importance of product development and the customer experience. The panel was moderated by Lance Laking, Investment Director, MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund. Our speakers were Sohaib Zahid, CEO and Co-Founder, Vanhawks and Dinesh Kandanchatha, Managing Director, Toronto, Macadamian.

The human level of product development

During his presentation, Sohaib emphasized the importance of creating a product that your customers will love. He drew an analogy to convey the point. Sohaib proposed approaching your customers with the mindset of a first date and wanting to make a great first impression. By doing this, he said, you can build a foundation on which to progress the relationship to one of a marriage. The idea is to make your relationship and product be something your customer would want a long-term commitment with (and perhaps be willing to extend some leeway toward as product development is ironed out).

Dinesh highlighted how in order to create something your customer will use, you need to first understand their journey. If you’re working on a medical app, for example, Dinesh recommends sitting in a hospital waiting room to see how your potential customers use products and what the workflow and ecosystem is around them. Think about what products your customers use now and what interruptions they’re facing with the ones available to them. Dinesh pointed out that by carefully observing your customers’ needs early on during product development, you can conserve money by avoiding expensive re-works at a later stage.

Building your team

The audience also heard that putting together a strong team to help build your product is important. You need to focus on your area of expertise—and if you aren’t sure about something, add people who can fill that need. The more diversity you have on your team in the product development stage, the less likely it is you’ll miss something that could prove costly later on.

Learning to outsource

The decision to outsource can be one of the hardest decisions you’ll make in product development. It’s key to understand that it’s not solely about manufacturing: it’s about the cultural aspects as well. Understanding the local culture will help you in your efforts to get manufacturers on your side. As a small business with small orders, this is important because they need to care about your product.

Another critical factor in outsourcing is that the beauty of your product does not necessarily translate into the needs of manufacturing. When you’re designing your product, keep the manufacturers in mind. They have to be able to build your product!


The final product development lesson we learned was about maintaining focus and vision. While you need to stay true to your vision, you still need to keep your mind open and be flexible to change.

Want to hear more? Watch excerpts from the presentations

Watch the videos below to hear more of what Sohaib and Dinesh had to say.

Product Development: Getting it right the first time

Product Creation: Going beyond a spec sheet

Entrepreneurship 101 course resources

And search “Entrepreneurship 101” on iTunes U.

Lea Bailey

Lea was the Associate, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Series at MaRS. See more…