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Escaping the sunk-cost trap

Updated: Aug 29, 2021

Some startup companies are running with a blindfold on.

They have found a little white space (freedom to operate) in a certain field. They create a niche solution. They patent it.

Then, they spend months (or years) in development. They stubbornly will not ship a product that doesn't include the patented IP.

So they never ship.

They keep taking on investor dollars. They keep reporting quarter after quarter, "this is a hard problem to solve, but we have smart people on it."

All the while the engineers and designers have their hands tied...

Designers want a usable product. Customers want a convenient product. Engineers want a simple to manufacture product. The founder wants to see the idea that they have already patented.

Sometimes the stars align and the final design aligns with pre-filed IP.

But a filed patent does not mean an idea is good.​ ​ I get it, people invest a lot of money in the patent filing process. But that's the root of the problem.

The founders fall in love with some idea. Now they want to recognize a return on that investment.

Typical behavior of someone stuck in the Sunk Cost Trap.

Focus on the customer and usability. What do your customers want? Do they want your particular technical solution? Do they care that you have a patent? Would they be satisfied with a simpler solution delivered in a different way?

Hint, it might not be an app.

It might be a widget.

It might be a service

Don't fall into the trap. Keep your user's main needs at the front of the design process.


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