product design + investment

I have a new product that I need to hire a product design firm to help me develop. I have some investment money but I am hoping to find a design firm that is willing to front some of the upfront costs or invest in the product. Know any that are open to this business model??


Hi Tracy,

Please don’t take the below note as a personal criticism against your product. I mean to only point out some experiences and thoughts on the subject.

You will not find many established product design firms willing to work on this model (as opposed to fee for service) as it takes a lot more than good industrial design to ensure the success of a product. Just as products with a great business plan, distribution, management and marketing can fail due to poor design it is also just as likely that a well designed product can fail because of a lack of competence in management, distribution, management etc.

My consultancy has been approached to do product design “for future considerations” numerous times and I inevitably ask myself. "If venture capitalists and others whose primary purpose is to invest in start-up companies, new ideas, etc are unwilling to invest in this company - why should I? If the project fails - not only do I lose the money that I contributed to it in my time but I also have lost the time that I could have been using for traditional fee for service work.

Hope this helps.


I understand what you are saying completely. But I actually haven’t gone to VCs or angels yet because I believe it will be much faster to find a product designer and invest as much as I can myself. I am speaking with a couple of designers that do some selected investing. I know it is not easy to find this, but I just thought if there are some names around that are known for this type of thing, it would be worthwhile to check it out. I am also simultaneously writing up a business plan. I also know that there are a million ideas out there with people looking for funding, but I believe I have a slight edge up because my product has been in the news a lot lately. Unfortnately, I am new to the business so many of these things I am just beginning to learn.

Thank you.

I’ve been in a situation like this. I can share the experience for anyone interested…

The product was one of popular science’s top 100 new products in 2001, but the initial execution of the design was flawed. The product needed a designer to develop strategies and create accessories fixing the problems that prevented sales. I had worked with on of the owners on another project and they contracted me to help them in the evening and weekends.

I was paid well til cash ran out, but I continued to help them accepting stock options as part of my pay. It was very painful at times, and I wondered if I was making a huge mistake and about leaving, but kept at it. There were definitly some managerial and business model problems that had to be solved before the company could succeed too.

How did it work out? the company is now worth several million, I work for them full time, and we are developing their second generation product with me as the lead designer.

I don’t know if I would have done that again, but you might find some crazy designer willing take a gamble on your product for the right compensation…

This topic comes up a lot. The group I’m with ( is designing a series of resources for cad professionals, and a means of hosting projects for investors to bid on or conisder seems to be something that would benefit a lot of people. That said, there are some serious legal issues associated with protecting the poster that we dont have the resources to invest in at present. We could host the work and leave resources for users to protect themselves if there were enough interest in this kind of thing.

Which brings me to the question … in your opinion, is there enough interest in the design community for this? Understand that it can take some time and a few dollars to properly protect yourself.