One should always make the best of a bad situation. But in the summer of 2018, quite frankly, that was a lot to ask. Had I known at that time what effects a broken mobile phone would have on my life, my frustration would have faded very quickly. But long story short – what happened? In a careless moment I dropped my smartphone while hiking. Rock and electronics are not really the best of friends and, in fact, don’t like each other. And it just had to happen: the smartphone broke.
Had I known at that time what effects a broken mobile phone would have on my life, my frustration would have faded very quickly.
As a student of mechanical engineering and business economics doing a bachelor's degree, I immediately thought of a possible solution after this incident. So, I got to the drawing board. Developing and tinkering was the order of the day. Some time later I held the first prototype of my safety device in my hands.
But what now? How could the device be marketed? And how to finance the marketing and production? And who apart from myself would want to safeguard their smartphone? In a nutshell: how do I manage to turn an idea into a successful product? I’ll try to summarize the answers to these questions in five personal lessons from my start-up adventure up to now.
Learning #1: Protect your idea
REELOQ secures camera, smartphone and the like with a pull-out thin cord attached to your body. What’s special about it is the mechanism that locks the annoying cord pull. The equipment can therefore be used with complete freedom of movement. I applied for a patent for this novel mechanism. It offers a considerable competitive advantage. The patent covers all fields of application. Whether for outdoor sports, emergency responders or in industry, the REELOQ system is designed as a holistic anti-drop system.
Are you unsure about whether your idea can be protected? Go to the patent consultation days at the Austrian Economic Chamber (WKO). There you get a free assessment of how you can protect your intellectual property. So you’ve developed something new and want to know whether your invention can be protected by a patent? Wonderful! With the FFG patent voucher you can apply for a grant that covers 80 percent of your costs for a patent.
Learning #2: Seek assistance
The idea is there, the prototype works, a patent may already have been filed, what now? From personal experience I can say this is the time for support! The good news is that here in Graz you’re in good hands. Whether the Start-up Garage, the Ideentriebwerk (ideas engine) or the WKO, everywhere you’re provided with valuable tips, tools and know-how about founding a company and entrepreneurship. Simply inform yourself and make the best possible use of the many events!
The idea is there, the prototype works, a patent may already have been filed, what now? From personal experience I can say this is the time for support!
In the winter semester 2018 I was part of the 11th generation of the Start-up Garage. I was able to further improve my idea in an exciting and instructive semester. Especially when you’re a technician, there is often a lack of the necessary business know-how to successfully market a product. I think that everyone who has an idea and wants to implement it should definitely register at the Start-up Garage. The mentoring sessions and workshops can give you the boost you need to really get going!
Lukas Watzinger presents his REELOQ anti-drop system at the final pitches of the Start-up Garage.
The Start-up Garage is an inter-university initiative of the University of Graz and the TU Graz to promote entrepreneurship at Styrian universities. Students of all fields of study and universities who are accepted into the startup semester further develop their business ideas and find support in implementing them.
Learning #3: Develop, test, customize
Even the best idea must first be tested on the market. This provides the security that is essential for any start-up. Concepts alone are not enough, the best feedback is given by the customer himself or herself. The product should therefore always be tried out by customers and further developed on this basis. A product works when it solves a problem, true to the motto: don’t love the solution, love the problem!
For this reason I started a big BETA test phase in summer 2019. A total of 100 units of the prototype were purchased and tested by interested parties. In this way I got a lot of feedback and now I know that
- REELOQ is being purchased and test subjects love the product.
- There are fine adjustments that create even more added value for users.
Feedback loops and product adaptations are essential for a product to work for customers.
With these findings in the bag, nothing stands in the way of the next steps. It is planned that REELOQ will be available to the general public in April 2020. If you're curious about how the REELOQ story is evolving, subscribe to the newsletter at www.reeloq.com. On the Instagram and Facebook social channels you can become part of the REELOQ adventure.
Learning #4: Passion
The realization of an idea takes a lot of time. It can sometimes be very difficult to reconcile your studies and your own project. But if you have an idea and are passionate about it, you can overcome any hurdle, no matter how big. Often, study contents complement each other with questions in the project and there are super synergies between theory and practice.
If you have an idea and are passionate about it, you can overcome any hurdle, no matter how big.
Learning #5: Joy
As serious and straightforward as the above strategies may sound, never lose the fun of it. The most important thing is to keep your joy on the way to the goal. Not everything will always work immediately and setbacks are inevitable. But as my little hiking misfortune shows: just make the most of it!
Becoming self-employed requires full commitment. It’s important not to lose the joy on the way there.
Bottom line: Step by step
My big goal for REELOQ is quite simple: to develop and offer innovative anti-drop systems for a wide variety of applications. I have now come a little bit closer to this goal. The journey is still long and certainly holds many hurdles that will give me the chance to grow. One thing is sure: I look forward to continuing to work on my own idea with passion and enthusiasm. It is priceless to hold your own product in your hands and see how customers buy your development and enjoy it.
Bringing his own product idea to market maturity is the big dream of TU Graz student Lukas Watzinger.
So, I can only encourage everyone to turn their own idea into reality. Take the first step and get closer to your dream. There's one thing you must never forget: even the greatest adventure always begins with the first step.
Take the first step and get closer to your dream.