What are some of the characteristics of the Entrepreneurs in this case?
What was the product and its target market?
What was needed to start this business venture?
Overall do you think this was an appropriate avenue to take in creating this product? Do you have any other ideas or recommendations about this plan?
Bowzo: a Case Study in Engineering Entrepreneurship “Bowzo would not be where it is today had I not met Larry Treanor when I was in a playful mood” comments Jim Oswald, joint inventor of a product which, it is anticipated, will dramatically change the way the violin is learnt. Jim is a career inventor and design engineer who, having left Rolls Royce after 25 years in the world of engine components specialising in heat exchangers, was ready for something new. It is fair to say that Jim found the first few months after his ‘release’ uncomfortable. He had spent years working on major projects involving teams, many of which he had led himself. He missed teams, and he missed the challenge of project management. Fortunately, Bowzo arrived out of nowhere and provided what he needed. Both Larry and Jim were attached to Coventry University’s Vision Works in order to get help in developing some new business ideas. The Vision Works provides accommodation, telecommunications and computer facilities, plus, perhaps most importantly, mentoring and coaching services for startup businesses. When Larry and Jim met, Larry was planning the launch of a multimedia design business but he had also been a professional musician and violin teacher. During a discussion about product ideas Larry revealed his thoughts about a device for helping novice violin players to learn faster and play more accurately by ‘bowing’ straight from the moment of the first lesson. The device fixes to the neck of the violin and offers precise control to students developing their bowing technique. The Idea Larry understood precisely the problems many students have in ‘bowing’ straight. The idea was to design and manufacture a simple device that controls the bowing technique by helping the student keep the bow straight at all times. Given Jim’s background in product development and Larry’s specialist knowledge both could see the potential of a collaboration. It worked and one year later the first prototypes were finished and market testing was underway. The Market To help explore the initial reactions of violin teaching professionals across the world, to what appeared to be a brilliant solution to a longstanding problem, both Larry and Jim felt that independent marketing expertise was needed at an early stage. Some staggering facts emerged, not least that more than half a million new violins are bought throughout the world each year. This probably means that almost another half a million second hand violins are bought too, leading to lots of lessons for many students keen to learn fast. The most likely route to market was identified as via the traditional wholesaler/distributor to retailer network. Engineering Subject Centre Four Mini Case Studies in Entrepreneurship 7 Initial research indicated that there was a market for a low cost, easy to use device and thus the design engineering and manufacturing priorities were set. University support mechanisms The market research was supplemented by further inputs from the University’s Design Institute which provided a specialist support programme for small to medium sized enterprises. This included a comprehensive range of services featuring marketing advice, product design and innovation processes as well as financial management and technology transfer. Jim was impressed. “The range of services available from the Design Institute is fantastic; we were able to put the engineering issues on the table and deal with them in a wider team context with inputs from experts as required”. The issues were clear: · Styling and design values. The first handmade prototype was certainly functional but needed more work. Soon a more aesthetic shape was created that added a great deal to the presentation and packaging of the product · Durability. New materials were tested and the best of a number of options selected, we will have to wait until the launch to know more on this point. · Manufacturing options. Low volumes could be laser cut but high volumes needed a more appropriate technique for cutting and forming. Which would be best at launch? · Production costs. How fast would sales grow and what would be an acceptable pricing structure for customer and distribution chain alike? Progress to date The excellent teamwork involving the inventor, musicians, design engineers and marketeers has resulted in preproduction prototypes that are working well in field testing. Seed capital has been secured on the back of this positive market research findings and the formal product launch is scheduled for early in 2006. The team are determined to bring a product to market that offers excellent design, practicality and the highest quality. To this end attention to detail is critical as are methodical engineering processes. Enter the entrepreneur, then exit The ‘collision’ between entrepreneur and inventor/engineer was brought about by the realisation of the existence of a market need. They met by accident and the inventor in Larry awakened the entrepreneur in Jim, and a new position for Jim, the inventor/engineer. He admits that he was feeling more open to other people’s ideas at the time of meeting Larry and since then has probably reverted to type as he waits for “the next awakening’. Conclusions · Stay awake for new opportunities by not always being yourself 8 Engineering Subject Centre Four Mini Case Studies in Entrepreneurship · Build a wider team to bring in new thinking on product development issues you might be too close to the opportunity to see its full potential. · Engineers and entrepreneurs are interchangeable when they each see the market need clearly.