Editor’s note: Eric Jackson, a technology consultant and developer, is a regular contributor to Local Tech Wire. His column appears on Tuesdays.

Part One: Commercializing New Technologies: Looking Beyond the ‘Wow!’ Factor for Sustainable Success: www.localtechwire.com/article.cfm?u=6993

Part Two: Commercializing New Technologies: How To Sell Inventions or Enhancements From a Company Perspective: www.localtechwire.com/article.cfm?u=7078

BLACK MOUNTAIN,Today’s column is the third and last on commercializing new technologies. The first focused on the broader perspective of investment in emerging technology industries. Last week continued the topic, but narrowed the focus to an individual company. Our thoughts there were built around the fundamental rule of business — the need to understand and focus on your customer.

This week, we continue to move inward on the company itself. Awareness of customer and context is obviously critical, but so is self awareness. Bringing a new technology into the world can be a dizzying experience — the thrill of the prospect of changing the world meets the thrill of the prospect of striking it rich and one starts to do some stupid things. So:

Be humble: No technology is so strong that it will carry a business through bad execution. And the leading cause of bad execution is thinking that you already know how to do it. So begin with the assumption (likely true) that you don’t yet know how to solve the problems, or break into the markets, or whatever it is you have to do. Look for and accept help — from your customers, your employees, your board — from anyone who can offer fresh perspective and help you to catch your inevitable mistakes before they do irreparable damage. Begin also with the assumption (too often true) that you may be about to make a mistake — think through it again, ask some advice and, most importantly, think how you will recover.

Know exactly where you really are: You are doing something new and so your product is probably somewhat raw compared to products based on mature technologies. Your company may be somewhat raw as well (in spite of what VCs would like, there aren’t enough management teams experienced in the task of building early stage technology companies to go around). So don’t oversell yourself, either to your customers, or to yourself. When you stop seeing who and where you really are, you stop being able to learn.

Build your team: Your team is the best resource you have. Devote real effort and resources to making sure that it has breadth and diversity as well as depth, and that it is a real team, focused on the results to be accomplished rather than who gets the credit (or blame). Instill a culture of mutual support (which is not in the least inconsistent with enthusiastic competitiveness), and of honesty. And encourage a culture which respects dissent. The Benjamin Disraeli quote I am using in my email signature is at least as applicable to business: “No government can be long secure without formidable opposition.”

The last set of suggestions I want to offer fall under the general rubric of staging your efforts strategically. Entrepreneurs in emerging technologies often suffer an affinity for the grandiose step. In fact, a reckless disregard for the impossible is one of their greatest strengths, but it can also be a deadly weakness. Conquering new markets is a gradual process — taking on too many at once can easily lead to failure. In addition, a business introducing truly new products must expect to need to learn — allowing the number of customers to grow beyond the company’s ability to service and learn from them can easily backfire and hamper learning. So, we conclude with a few throughts on how to work gradually, to build up to a big win.

Decompose the problem: If you are solving a big problem, whether a major technical hurdle or just the sheer complexity of scale, it is easy to underestimate the work required to achieve a completed and stable product. Look for ways to build key components and to offer them in simpler, interim products. Like the recently popular agile programming model for software development, emphasize development through a series of working models. This not only has the potential to improve the quality of the product (since testing can begin earlier), it can actually speed development, and allows for the possibility of revenue-generating interim products that may even help prepare the market for more radical later versions.

Stage through strategic markets: This is basically the strategy presented in “Crossing the Chasm,” by Geoffrey Moore. The idea is that, in moving products from early adopters into mainstream markets, it is critical to find and focus on strategic niche markets, rather than trying to assail the majority markets as a whole. If you are starting, running, or investing in early stage technology companies, this book is a must-read.

Seek out strategic customers: Look for customers who can do double duty — they provide revenue, but also move you toward some other strategic goal. Examples include learning, testing, or gaining influence with other customers. It may be appropriate (in fact, it usually is) to be completely up front with customers about this double duty, and to find some way to reward them — perhaps by giving them some influence on the design of the product, special access to technical information and people, or discounts. The flip side of this idea is that you need to turn down sales that aren’t right. This certainly includes sales that stretch your product or company beyond what they can really handle. In the early stages, however, it may be worth requiring that every customer play a strategic role in order to ensure that you have the resources to transform every customer into a marketing asset.

These suggestions obviously do not exhaust the list of questions to ask, issues to watch out for, and principles to adhere to in businesses commercializing new technologies. Indeed, nothing will transform the whitewater rapids of the task into a lazy river, but perhaps these will help strengthen and stabilize the boat.

Eric Jackson is the founder of DeepWeave. He has built his career pioneering software solutions to particularly large and difficult problems. In 2000, Eric co-founded Ibrix, Inc. He is the inventor of the Ibrix distributed file system, a parallel file storage system able to scale in size and performance to millions of terabytes.

DeepWeave: www.deepweave.com