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From idea to reality: developing your hardware product

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by Startacus Admin

JOTOJim Rhodes, founder of Joto (a rather fab looking internet connected drawing board, featured on Startacus previously), shares some invaluable knowledge and advice for early stage startup founders, on the journey of developing and launching a product.

Jim Rhodes JOTO"At the heart of every startup or small business is a great idea and a group of people striving to bring that idea to life.

For every blossoming business, there are hundreds which fail to get off the ground. Admittedly, some of these should probably never see the light of day, but many will fall down purely due to the sheer complexity of process. The journey of prototyping, building, selling and marketing a product is not something to be undertaken lightly.

We’re on that journey, and this year, we successfully raised over £360,000 to bring our robotic whiteboard, Joto, to market - a success which launched us even further into the world of product development and manufacturing. Here are few things we’ve learned along the way: 

1. Go for it           

This may seem obvious. But the turning point for us was just deciding to focus on one idea, do it well, and commit. Ever since that decision, the game changed. The opportunities and doors that have opened up as a result have been incredible, and we’ve not looked back.

2. Crowdfunding is as powerful as ever 

Platforms like Kickstarter are incredible. It provides a vital first step to actually getting an idea out of the workshop and into the public eye.

Whatever platform you choose, it not only provides vital validation but gives access to a crowdfunding community where people are thinking and talking about your product and whether there is indeed a market for it.

We have been able to accelerate our business from Kickstarter and have now recently launched on Crowdcube, allowing further backing from the community in return for a shareholding in the business. No matter what platform you choose, make the most of that direct access to an informed and engaged group of people who can help bring your project to life. 

Joto crowdfunding

3. Build a community

Not only does crowdfunding provide a vital community of engaged supporters to back your idea financially, they are also willing to help you develop the product with feedback and involvement.

We often send surveys or polls asking for feedback from our community. Whether this be the design elements of our product Joto, or what they want to be able to do with the product, their feedback is invaluable. This led to us developing other uses and diverse product ranges which our backers told us directly they would like to see. Now we’re making them.

Beyond the crowdfunding community, we have proactively looked to engage people from other fields and sectors to shape how we have developed our product. We have had great success in combining the interests and potential of different communities to create something really powerful.

Through this process we have created a product which is marketable to an even wider group of consumers and business users. For example, we have a growing number of supporters in the art and design community, with whom we have launched a “365 Days of Art” subscription, allowing Joto users to receive a new piece of art on their wall every day from a top artist or Illustrator. We worked on this with our network of designers, helping us to develop a platform they would use.
developing your hardware product

4. Surround yourself with excellent people 

This speaks for itself, and the team that work alongside me are fantastic. But we’ve also received insight and advice from the network of people around us that has been invaluable for our business. 

My tip to other founders and creators would be to do your research into the numerous groups, programmes and accelerators that exist to help develop ideas into manufactured products. We have been through a hardware accelerator at CRL, and recently have become members of Hardware Club. There is a growing community of hardware startups now in London and a network of people we can work with, ask advice from and hopefully share the things we’ve learned along the way.

Joto is currently (at time of publication) raising investment on Crowdcube. For more details, visit

Joto crowdfunding

They also recently created a rather smart whiteboard drawing for Startacus, which you can watch for yourself via our Facebook page - we think it rocks! 

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Published on: 27th September 2017

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