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Product Development – sharing the journey of a product from idea to prototype

We are thrilled to be part of an extraordinary community of founders who inspire us every day! At MT❯Ventures, our mission goes beyond providing top-notch legal support—we're here to foster community and fuel the success of our visionary entrepreneurs. That's why we love sharing the wisdom and insights of our trailblazing startup founders, aiming to spark your journey to success. This week, we're spotlighting the game-changing perspectives of Drew MacNeil, the innovative Co-founder of XpertVR Inc. Get ready to be inspired!


Transforming a product from an idea to a working prototype is an exciting journey many founders embark on. While the process may be different for each startup, it is inevitable that each company will tackle numerous challenges and obstacles along the way. We at XpertVR would like to share our journey and how we went from identifying a need for real-world emergency services training to building a valuable Virtual Reality (VR) product currently in use by educational institutions in Ontario. While we’re in the VR business, we hope our learnings might be broadly applicable to whatever solution you’re bringing to market.

Step 1: Identify the need – Like any good product, identifying a need within an industry is the first step. In the context of our business, to quote Stanford VR researcher Jeremy Bailenson, VR provides the best value to do something Dangerous, Impossible, Counterproductive, or Expensive. Firefighters currently go through dangerous and expensive scenarios during live fire training, so XpertVR saw an opportunity to improve the current methods with VR. Across nearly every industry, emerging technologies are unlocking the ability to massively improve the quality, safety, or affordability of everyday products and services. Start by identifying the gap you want to fill.

Step 2: Understanding the status quo – Before beginning the design of a VR training experience, or any experience you wish to make better, you must understand the current processes you are aiming to replicate and/or improve upon. When developing XpertVR’s VR Search and Rescue Training, our developers went into several live fire training scenarios to understand the step-by-step process to ensure our VR simulation would be comprehensive as a training tool.

Step 3: Designing, Prototyping, and Initial Development – With a solid understanding of your objective and the current market landscape, the next phase is to build out your beta. For us, that included wireframes and mockups to paint a picture of how the final simulation will look. Also, an early version of the 3D environment was created, as well as the prototypes of the tools being used. We discovered breaking down a door with a virtual axe and halligan can be quite fun, but also a pivotal and important point of training for the firefighters. Depending on your product or service, prototyping may be the biggest challenge. For hardware you may need to consider 3D Printing, or CNC Manufacturing. You will also need to understand the regulatory landscape of your product so as you think through the protype, think through the regulatory hurdles, whether they may be as a result of the data you collect or the regulated industry you may be touching (such as health or finance).

Step 4: Customer Feedback – With working prototypes, the stage is set for gaining customer feedback on how the application looks and feels, which helps guide the rest of the development process. This is an early opportunity to validate your thinking up to now – and an important milestone before investing further resources in a project. We took our prototypes to local fire stations, as well as pre-service firefighters to gain perspective on what is valuable and what needs to be changed.

Step 5: Finalize the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) – Finalizing a working version is the next step. This is when the most amount of work is put in to ensure the 3D environments are realistic and accurate, and any tools being used look and feel as they would in real life. By this stage, XpertVR had a scale model of a burning house, with the tools to perform a proper search and rescue including flashlights, air tanks, halligan bars, axes, and radio communications. A viable MVP does wonders to unlock early commercial relationships and investor interest – and is more compelling when it has been tried and tested by your target market.

Step 6: Gain Traction – Now that the MVP is built, it's time to get the products into the hands of early adopters. It is best to start with a small pilot  to ensure everything is running as expected and to enable you to closely monitor performance and user feedback. With the product on the market, it's important to know what customers are liking and not liking. This will guide the future development roadmap in terms of what to add, remove, or improve the product and add value to the customers. This cycle continues as long as your product still serves a useful purpose!

Of course, these steps are just the beginning. For us, our journey continues as we aim to develop this into a multiplayer experience, and provide customizable environments/scenarios to provide a wider range of training scenarios for firefighters to practice with. The next steps may look very different for your business but should generally involve finding ways to expand your customer base or product offerings in a way that is sustainable but also growth-oriented.

While these early-stage moments of product ideation can be very exciting, it is important to keep an eye on your long-term objectives and make sure your business is well positioned to scale aggressively when the time comes. Especially in tech-driven sectors, this requires a focus on managing the intellectual property assets you’re creating and ensuring your early pilots are properly documented. Working with a strong legal advisory team can help ensure that your good ideas today turn into great businesses tomorrow.



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