We partner with early-stage & high-growth companies to design, manufacture & launch exceptional products.

We have a track record of helping early stage companies create products that grow into successful businesses. Here’s how we do it:

  1. We Provide Unwavering Support, Empathy, and Expert Guidance From Day One
  • We go “all in” with our customers. So much so, that we’re often among the first investors at the pre-seed stage for products that show great promise.
  • As one of your earliest partners, we’ll help structure your company for long-term success by making smart capital and resources available at every stage of your growth.

2. We Build. We Test. We Improve…Then Repeat

  • When we’re developing your product, we’ll build, test, improve then repeat. We rely heavily on continuous feedback from your prospective customers during this process to prove that your product is hitting the mark.
  • Because of our focus on proving product market fit, we’ve been a part of some great success stories.  Here’s an example of one.

3. We’re Experts At Designing Your Product For Manufacture

  • We’ve seen start-ups scrap years worth of design effort and cost because their designs were not either too costly to manufacture or simple not manufacturable at all.
  • How you design your product for manufacture is often the difference between success and failure. We’re not in the business of finding you a great manufacturer to support your product design, because we are the manufacturer.
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THE THREE MOST EXPENSIVE MISTAKES EARLY STAGE COMPANIES MAKE

(and how you can avoid making them)

Founding teams often struggle with collecting and applying customer feedback effectively during product development.  Here are some common errors made during prototype and product testing: 

  1. Keeping Secrets:  Protecting your products IP is important. Just make sure your need for secrecy doesn’t get in the way from engaging with your future customers as you develop, test and prove your product. 
  2. We Know Better Attitude: You and your team don’t have all the answers. Your future customers are the real experts on the problem you’re trying to solve. Your job is to tap into the expertise they’ve developed on the problem so you can become the experts on the solution. 
  3. Leading the Witness: There’s a big difference between asking “What features do you want?” (leading question) and “What are you trying to get done?” (open question). The quality of the feedback from your customers about your product is directly linked to the type of questions you ask. Over-explaining how your product works (going into “demo mode”) instead of simply observing how people interact with your product and then asking “why” about their reactions will yield very different information..

 

 

Failing to plan for unexpected outcomes dramatically decreases your chances of success. Here’s a few examples of common missteps product teams make when it comes to planning: 

  1. Incomplete Planning: It might seem incredibly obvious, but it’s shocking how many early stage companies operate without a product development plan.  The major milestones and gates in your product plan should include:  a. Product Definition & Concept Feasibility b. Design, Engineering, and Validation  c. Manufacturing Transfer d. Manufacturing Launch
  2. No risk analysis: Founders can sometimes be overly optimistic and fail to take the time to consider the probability and severity of what can go wrong.  Simply asking yourself what can go wrong with respect to technical, project, commercial aspects of the product then putting a plan in place to either de-risk or have a backup plan (we call it insurance) 
  3. Not allocating enough time:  Deciding to cut corners in your product development process because there’s “not enough time” almost always increases chances for big delays, cost overages and product defects downstream. No matter how fast you think you can move, the real-world will ultimately dictate how fast you can go. Hey, even we still fall into this trap from time to time through the best of intentions to meet our customer needs. 
  4. Not spending enough on product development: On average, product design and engineering accounts for only 5% of the cost to produce a product – material, labour and overhead make up the remaining 95%. If you don’t invest properly in the product development stage, everything that comes afterwards will become magnitudes more expensive.
  5. Don’t value the lost opportunity cost of delays: Developing successful products takes a lot of time and is expensive, and there’s no way around this fact. However, very few early stage companies look at the how much it costs in lost revenue, when their product launches are delayed. A good question to ask yourself when making decisions about cost or timing is to ask yourself “To spend or save x amount of dollars, how much will the acceleration or delay in our product launch impact our return on investment?” 

Adding lots of features rarely leads to a superior product. The opposite is almost always the case. Here’s a few reasons why founding teams are often mistakenly biased towards adding more features. 

  1. Not enough testing: Using prototypes to conduct “product-in-use” research is a must. Without ongoing customer feedback, determining what functions to prioritize becomes a guessing game.
  2. Solving too many problems:  Customers love when a product does one thing very well.  Feature overload usually results in less satisfied customers, longer development times, higher retail price, and an inferior product.
  3. Politics & Ego: Sometimes feature bloat happens because someone on the product team wants to leave their personal mark by insisting on including a specific feature.

START-UP SUCCESS STORY:

CREATING THE AWARD WINNING “FOONF”

The Clek child car seat brand was initially conceived inside a small division of Magna, one of North America’s largest automotive parts suppliers. Led by Chris Lumley, Clek worked with their counterparts in Magna’s Seating/Interiors division for their industrial design, engineering and manufacturing expertise to produce two different child booster seats.

We help  high growth companies get their products to market faster than they can on their own. Here’s how we do it:

1. We Use Our Highly Choreographed Product Development Process To Remove Roadblocks That Stall Projects

  • We’ve developed our own highly choreographed system to get your product from concept to market as efficiently as possible. It’s rooted in our strong focus on capturing knowledge and sharing it with our customers, along with our disciplined and detailed approach to managing our projects.
  • This means we’ve gotten really good at removing the roadblocks that are likely stalling your product development and business growth. Having developed and proved our own system also means we’re able to spend more time and energy focusing on your product innovation, detail, and quality.

2. We Communicate Often, With Total Transparency, And A Lot Of Detail

  • To put it bluntly, we’re relentless with the detail, frequency, and transparency of communication throughout your product development journey.
  • We’re proud to say that our customers often tell us that our commitment to capturing and sharing information and knowledge puts us in a league of our own.

3. We Go Deep With Your Teams

  • The depth of our product teams collaboration with your internal team comes from our disciplined approach to project management and our unwavering commitment to constant communication.
  • Our customers often describe us as their outsourced, in-house product development team. We take the oxymoron as a compliment and a sign of our devotion to integrating seamlessly with the companies we serve.
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THREE REASONS WHY YOUR COMPANIES PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT PIPELINE IS STUCK

(and how to get it unstuck)

You’re spending all day fighting fires just to keep your head above water. You and your staff are constantly being pulled in different directions just to keep all the plates spinning. 

  • Consider Going Skunk:  The expression going skunk refers to a project developed by a small and loosely structured group of people who research and develop a project primarily for the sake of radical innovation. The terms originated with Lockheed’s World War II Skunk Works project
  • The main elements of Going Skunk are:
    • Set High, Hard Goals: If you want the largest increase in motivation & productivity, understand that big goals lead to big outcomes.
    • Isolate The Team: If possible, find or create a work space that is totally separate from your day-to-day operations.
    • Give Rapid Feedback: The road to bold is paved with failure. And this means that you must have a strategy in place to handle mistakes and learn from them, quickly.
    • Intrinsic Rewards Matter Most: Intrinsic rewards (internal, emotional satisfactions) are what really matter. Three in particular stand out. Autonomy (the desire to steer our own ship) Mastery (the desire to steer it well)  Purpose (the need for the journey to mean something).

To learn more about how going skunk can help get your product pipeline unstuck, check out out blog post here.

You’re stalling because you can’t justify the upfront costs associated with outsourcing the development of new products.

Unfortunately your perspective could be preventing you from seeing the long term potential and ROI of investing properly in new product development. To help illustrate this, below is a graphic comparing 2 different approaches (and budgets) for bringing a product to market.

  1. “Slow Launch Larry” Investment:  Larry Spends 500k on product development plus 20k per month on overhead expenses. His limited spend translates into fewer resources and longer development timelines. It takes Larry 36 months to get to market. Overhead plus initial spend comes to 1.22 M
  2. “Fast Launch Frederika” Investment: Frederika spends 1M on product development plus 20k per month on overhead expenses. His spend translates into more upfront resources and shorter timelines. It only takes 18 months for Frederika to get to market. Overhead plus initial spend comes to 1.36M

 

  • Because Fast Launch Frederika got to market in 18 months, Frederika begin generating revenue sooner, reach break even at month 29 and begin amassing profit.
  • Meanwhile Slow Launch Larry gets to market 18 months later – at month 36, and hits breakeven at month 45.
  • By the time Larry starts seeing profit, Frederika has already generated 900K more in profit with only a marginally higher initial investment.
  • So you say you can’t afford to spend that much on product development?  After looking at the return on investment, how would you not spend the money for professional, high speed, quality product design?

The detail, planning & management involved in taking a product from concept to market can be completely overwhelming. 

The right team, coupled with a plan and product detail can be the kryptonite against your feelings of overwhelm and create a clear path to getting your product to market.  Here are some “first steps” you can take to create some momentum.

  1. Put your A-Team together : Hire new staff, redirect existing staff (be careful that’s a slippery slope) or hire outside expert partners.  Remember to seriously consider “going skunk” when assembling your team.
  2. Define your long term product roll-out: Ask yourself, how does this product fit into your overall company strategy? Will all the effort and resources I put into this product build a larger customer base and/or get customers to buy more of my products over time?
  3. Create a high level product brief describing what your customers want.
  4. Drill down on defining all the aspects of your product . Here’s a quick look at all the key components you’ll need to include in your  product definition: 
  5. Create and follow a product development plan.These plans are typically highly detailed and cover all the major milestones and smaller steps in between. The major milestones in a product development plan include:
      • Product Definition & Concept Feasibility
      • Detailed Design, Engineering, and Testing
      • Manufacturing Transfer
      • Manufacturing Launch

DESIGNING A NEW WAY TO MOVE:

INTRODUCING EXPRESSVAULTS

After seeing what Uber had done to disrupt the taxi business, Bruce Cambell, the president of AMJ Moving Canada was acutely aware that disruption in the moving business wasn’t far behind.

Instead of being in a position where AMJ was going to have to react to the disruption, Bruce went looking for a product design firm to put his company in a position to lead it.

EARLY STAGE

We have a track record of helping early stage companies create products that grow into successful businesses. Here’s how we do it:

  1. We Provide Unwavering Support, Empathy, and Expert Guidance From Day One
  • We go “all in” with our customers. So much so, that we’re often among the first investors at the pre-seed stage for products that show great promise.
  • As one of your earliest partners, we’ll help structure your company for long-term success by making smart capital and resources available at every stage of your growth.

2. We Build. We Test. We Improve…Then Repeat

  • When we’re developing your product, we’ll build, test, improve then repeat. We rely heavily on continuous feedback from your prospective customers during this process to prove that your product is hitting the mark.
  • Because of our focus on proving product market fit, we’ve been a part of some great success stories.  Here’s an example of one.

3. We’re Experts At Designing Your Product For Manufacture

  • We’ve seen start-ups scrap years worth of design effort and cost because their designs were not either too costly to manufacture or simple not manufacturable at all.
  • How you design your product for manufacture is often the difference between success and failure. We’re not in the business of finding you a great manufacturer to support your product design, because we are the manufacturer.
null

THE THREE MOST EXPENSIVE MISTAKES EARLY STAGE COMPANIES MAKE

(and how you can avoid making them)

Founding teams often struggle with collecting and applying customer feedback effectively during product development.  Here are some common errors made during prototype and product testing: 

  1. Keeping Secrets:  Protecting your products IP is important. Just make sure your need for secrecy doesn’t get in the way from engaging with your future customers as you develop, test and prove your product. 
  2. We Know Better Attitude: You and your team don’t have all the answers. Your future customers are the real experts on the problem you’re trying to solve. Your job is to tap into the expertise they’ve developed on the problem so you can become the experts on the solution. 
  3. Leading the Witness: There’s a big difference between asking “What features do you want?” (leading question) and “What are you trying to get done?” (open question). The quality of the feedback from your customers about your product is directly linked to the type of questions you ask. Over-explaining how your product works (going into “demo mode”) instead of simply observing how people interact with your product and then asking “why” about their reactions will yield very different information..

 

 

Failing to plan for unexpected outcomes dramatically decreases your chances of success. Here’s a few examples of common missteps product teams make when it comes to planning: 

  1. Incomplete Planning: It might seem incredibly obvious, but it’s shocking how many early stage companies operate without a product development plan.  The major milestones and gates in your product plan should include:  a. Product Definition & Concept Feasibility b. Design, Engineering, and Validation  c. Manufacturing Transfer d. Manufacturing Launch
  2. No risk analysis: Founders can sometimes be overly optimistic and fail to take the time to consider the probability and severity of what can go wrong.  Simply asking yourself what can go wrong with respect to technical, project, commercial aspects of the product then putting a plan in place to either de-risk or have a backup plan (we call it insurance) 
  3. Not allocating enough time:  Deciding to cut corners in your product development process because there’s “not enough time” almost always increases chances for big delays, cost overages and product defects downstream. No matter how fast you think you can move, the real-world will ultimately dictate how fast you can go. Hey, even we still fall into this trap from time to time through the best of intentions to meet our customer needs. 
  4. Not spending enough on product development: On average, product design and engineering accounts for only 5% of the cost to produce a product – material, labour and overhead make up the remaining 95%. If you don’t invest properly in the product development stage, everything that comes afterwards will become magnitudes more expensive.
  5. Don’t value the lost opportunity cost of delays: Developing successful products takes a lot of time and is expensive, and there’s no way around this fact. However, very few early stage companies look at the how much it costs in lost revenue, when their product launches are delayed. A good question to ask yourself when making decisions about cost or timing is to ask yourself “To spend or save x amount of dollars, how much will the acceleration or delay in our product launch impact our return on investment?” 

Adding lots of features rarely leads to a superior product. The opposite is almost always the case. Here’s a few reasons why founding teams are often mistakenly biased towards adding more features. 

  1. Not enough testing: Using prototypes to conduct “product-in-use” research is a must. Without ongoing customer feedback, determining what functions to prioritize becomes a guessing game.
  2. Solving too many problems:  Customers love when a product does one thing very well.  Feature overload usually results in less satisfied customers, longer development times, higher retail price, and an inferior product.
  3. Politics & Ego: Sometimes feature bloat happens because someone on the product team wants to leave their personal mark by insisting on including a specific feature.

START-UP SUCCESS STORY:

CREATING THE AWARD WINNING “FOONF”

The Clek child car seat brand was initially conceived inside a small division of Magna, one of North America’s largest automotive parts suppliers. Led by Chris Lumley, Clek worked with their counterparts in Magna’s Seating/Interiors division for their industrial design, engineering and manufacturing expertise to produce two different child booster seats.

HIGH GROWTH

We help  high growth companies get their products to market faster than they can on their own. Here’s how we do it:

1. We Use Our Highly Choreographed Product Development Process To Remove Roadblocks That Stall Projects

  • We’ve developed our own highly choreographed system to get your product from concept to market as efficiently as possible. It’s rooted in our strong focus on capturing knowledge and sharing it with our customers, along with our disciplined and detailed approach to managing our projects.
  • This means we’ve gotten really good at removing the roadblocks that are likely stalling your product development and business growth. Having developed and proved our own system also means we’re able to spend more time and energy focusing on your product innovation, detail, and quality.

2. We Communicate Often, With Total Transparency, And A Lot Of Detail

  • To put it bluntly, we’re relentless with the detail, frequency, and transparency of communication throughout your product development journey.
  • We’re proud to say that our customers often tell us that our commitment to capturing and sharing information and knowledge puts us in a league of our own.

3. We Go Deep With Your Teams

  • The depth of our product teams collaboration with your internal team comes from our disciplined approach to project management and our unwavering commitment to constant communication.
  • Our customers often describe us as their outsourced, in-house product development team. We take the oxymoron as a compliment and a sign of our devotion to integrating seamlessly with the companies we serve.
null

THREE REASONS WHY YOUR COMPANIES PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT PIPELINE IS STUCK

(and how to get it unstuck)

You’re spending all day fighting fires just to keep your head above water. You and your staff are constantly being pulled in different directions just to keep all the plates spinning. 

  • Consider Going Skunk:  The expression going skunk refers to a project developed by a small and loosely structured group of people who research and develop a project primarily for the sake of radical innovation. The terms originated with Lockheed’s World War II Skunk Works project
  • The main elements of Going Skunk are:
    • Set High, Hard Goals: If you want the largest increase in motivation & productivity, understand that big goals lead to big outcomes.
    • Isolate The Team: If possible, find or create a work space that is totally separate from your day-to-day operations.
    • Give Rapid Feedback: The road to bold is paved with failure. And this means that you must have a strategy in place to handle mistakes and learn from them, quickly.
    • Intrinsic Rewards Matter Most: Intrinsic rewards (internal, emotional satisfactions) are what really matter. Three in particular stand out. Autonomy (the desire to steer our own ship) Mastery (the desire to steer it well)  Purpose (the need for the journey to mean something).

To learn more about how going skunk can help get your product pipeline unstuck, check out out blog post here.

You’re stalling because you can’t justify the upfront costs associated with outsourcing the development of new products.

Unfortunately your perspective could be preventing you from seeing the long term potential and ROI of investing properly in new product development. To help illustrate this, below is a graphic comparing 2 different approaches (and budgets) for bringing a product to market.

  1. “Slow Launch Larry” Investment:  Larry Spends 500k on product development plus 20k per month on overhead expenses. His limited spend translates into fewer resources and longer development timelines. It takes Larry 36 months to get to market. Overhead plus initial spend comes to 1.22 M
  2. “Fast Launch Frederika” Investment: Frederika spends 1M on product development plus 20k per month on overhead expenses. His spend translates into more upfront resources and shorter timelines. It only takes 18 months for Frederika to get to market. Overhead plus initial spend comes to 1.36M

 

  • Because Fast Launch Frederika got to market in 18 months, Frederika begin generating revenue sooner, reach break even at month 29 and begin amassing profit.
  • Meanwhile Slow Launch Larry gets to market 18 months later – at month 36, and hits breakeven at month 45.
  • By the time Larry starts seeing profit, Frederika has already generated 900K more in profit with only a marginally higher initial investment.
  • So you say you can’t afford to spend that much on product development?  After looking at the return on investment, how would you not spend the money for professional, high speed, quality product design?

The detail, planning & management involved in taking a product from concept to market can be completely overwhelming. 

The right team, coupled with a plan and product detail can be the kryptonite against your feelings of overwhelm and create a clear path to getting your product to market.  Here are some “first steps” you can take to create some momentum.

  1. Put your A-Team together : Hire new staff, redirect existing staff (be careful that’s a slippery slope) or hire outside expert partners.  Remember to seriously consider “going skunk” when assembling your team.
  2. Define your long term product roll-out: Ask yourself, how does this product fit into your overall company strategy? Will all the effort and resources I put into this product build a larger customer base and/or get customers to buy more of my products over time?
  3. Create a high level product brief describing what your customers want.
  4. Drill down on defining all the aspects of your product . Here’s a quick look at all the key components you’ll need to include in your  product definition: 
  5. Create and follow a product development plan.These plans are typically highly detailed and cover all the major milestones and smaller steps in between. The major milestones in a product development plan include:
      • Product Definition & Concept Feasibility
      • Detailed Design, Engineering, and Testing
      • Manufacturing Transfer
      • Manufacturing Launch

DESIGNING A NEW WAY TO MOVE:

INTRODUCING EXPRESSVAULTS

After seeing what Uber had done to disrupt the taxi business, Bruce Cambell, the president of AMJ Moving Canada was acutely aware that disruption in the moving business wasn’t far behind.

Instead of being in a position where AMJ was going to have to react to the disruption, Bruce went looking for a product design firm to put his company in a position to lead it.

What our clients are saying
  • Working with Ray and his team at Inertia has been a game changer for AMJ.

    Bruce Bowser, President & CEO, AMJ Campbell
  • They perform miracles with their turnaround times, especially on prototypes.

    Yuri Dobrovolsky Vice-President, Technical Director, Newcon Optik
  • The Inertia team gets it, they are good at having empathy and putting themselves in the shoes of the product user. Inertia always exceeds expectations in terms of communication, setting expectations, and the way the team conducts themselves.

    CEO, Ingenyewity (founders of yewtwist)
  • The Inertia team is exceptionally good at communication – it is their clear differentiator.  Their team is very hands on and flexible.  They really care and go above and beyond to make sure things are done right.

    Tino Alavie, President & CEO, Qvella
  • The team at Inertia is honest, straightforward and their drive to work collaboratively really stood out for us.  They are also meticulous and do what they say they will do.  If we were to attempt this kind of product development in house it would have taken us 5 times longer.

    David Harding, CEO, RAZ Designs
  • At Inertia, you immediately know that you are working with people who care about your product and your success. I especially respect the way they handle challenging situations. Inertia has far exceeded my expectations for professionalism and care.

    Ali Ghafour, Founder & CEO, 20/20 Armour