How To

How to pick a winning new product idea

BuyTopia cofounder and Dragons’ Den judge Michele Romanow says the secret is not investing too heavily in any one idea

BuyTopia and SnapSaves cofounder Michele Romanow

BuyTopia and SnapSaves cofounder Michele Romanow. (Sian Richards)

Michele Romanow, co-founder of Buytopia and SnapSaves and Dragons’ Den judge, argues the secret to innovating is not investing too heavily in any one idea. Here are her three tips for taking sensible risks without betting the whole company:

1Create projects, not businesses

“It’s a gentler fall to say “the project didn’t work” rather than “the business failed.” Some projects need to be abandoned right away, but some take a bunch of iterations to get right. I was playing with the idea of doing sample boxes and calling tons of vendors to see if we could distribute a sample box for them, when we realized that what was really needed was a better mobile couponing vendor. So that’s how we created SnapSaves. Trying little projects and seeing what happens is really important.”

2Build a low-cost trial

“Can you build a landing page to test if people are excited by a new idea? Can you get out a really basic software product without investing too much? The nice part about technology is that ideas can be tried very quickly.”

3. Call your competitors

“When entrepreneurs are testing new ideas, they can become obsessed with their market research. But you really just need to get the basics. Talk to people who have worked in that space and find out what works. People are always scared to talk to their competitors, but asking people, “Is this sector growing? What are you struggling with?” gives you a ton of data. If there’s no one doing a particular business, it’s probably not because nobody has tried it. It’s probably because no one has succeeded in it.”

Dragon’s Den Season 10 premieres on CBC Oct. 7