What comes first; the market or the product?

I was at a business presentation last night and a heated discussion ensued when one of the panelist suggested that new companies need to look at the market opportunity and engineer the product to meet that demand. A member of the audience was totally at odds with this view and believed that good product development must precede market engagement so that the ultimate customers are not disappointed with the company's offering.

What comes first: the market or the product?

Clearly we can all have sympathy with both points of view and probably quote examples of companies who have taken one or other direction and either proved the argument or failed miserably. So I felt there is a true dilemma here for start-ups and early stage companies who also have to cope with the fact that only 45% of them get to celebrate their fifth anniversary!

Does relying on business fundamentals provide any help to these businesses?

Fortunately it does, markets and products don't exist in isolation of each other and need to be treated as the two sides of the same coin and included within the same business plan. The technology company who believes that if we design it, 'they' will buy it; will in my experience be sadly mistaken and consigned to the scrap heap of good British ideas. But the marketeers who have no concept of the technology required to deliver their 'dream' product will spend a lot of investor money producing at best, copy - cat products.

I suggest that inventions, technology advances should at as early stage as possible be put to the 'Fit For Business' test which explores market opportunity and cost to exploitation. If the business passes it has two of the pillars of a successful business, if it fails at least the people involved have the time and most importantly the energy to look for other bright ideas. Fortunately the UK will never run out of bright ideas and there is definitely money to be made!