Editor’s note: The RTP Product Pipeline is a new feature for WRAL Local Tech Wire. It’s purpose is to help entrepreneurs, business leaders, educators and inventors better understand the product commercialization process. Montie Roland and Thomas Vass are co-founders of The RTP Product Development Guild, Inc. The purpose of the Guild is to provide consultancy services to startups and small companies across a wide variety of specialties. Guidance will focus on commercializing product ideas and technology. The Guild was launched by Roland is president of the Carolinas Chapter of the Product Development Management Association. Vass is an investment advisor and owner of Private Capital Market, an Internet-based private equity firm. Their column will appear on Tuesdays.

MORRISVILLE, N.C. – How do great product ideas find their way into the marketplace?

Are great product ideas born in big corporations, or do most of the really great ideas start out as a result of informal conversations between individuals?

Our weekly columns about the RTP product development pipeline will address topics related to the “fuzzy front end” of new product development and technological commercialization. The fuzzy front end is the period of time prior to commercialization where the entrepreneur is testing out ideas for getting the product to the market.

Our society, including the RTP community, has a business/social gap in terms of helping entrepreneurs through this fuzzy front end. Most of the entrepreneurial community has focused on how to help new ventures obtain capital. Our efforts are directed at a little further up the new product development pipeline, where individuals and small companies may have an idea for a great product but do not know how to commercialize the idea.

The problem for both entrepreneurs and for the design and engineering consulting community is difficult to solve. First, an entrepreneur needs advice from multiple skills and professional disciplines, yet does not have either the money or the information to find and retain the whole range of skills needed.

From the perspective of the design community and consultants, any single professional does not have the wide range of skills that the entrepreneur needs, and does not want to work for free.

This problem can be solved through a social cooperative effort where consultants agree to cooperate for a short period of time in providing structured advice on getting the entrepreneur through the fuzzy front end.

Our weekly column will boil down some of the issues that the members of the RTP Product Development Guild confront in giving advice to entrepreneurs. It will look like a weekly advice column directed to nascent entrepreneurs and budding product developers.

Topic categories will include:

• How Consultants and Entrepreneurs Do Business
• Why Most Ideas Don’t Become Products
• What Does the Local Design Community Look Like?
• Who Builds Prototypes?

If everything works out perfectly, then the rate of new product development and new venture creation will go up, and the costs associated with new product development will go down.

And, if that happens, the RTP will benefit from an increased rate of job and wealth creation.