In 1972, my grandfather invented the color copying machine. Don't believe me? It's true. Unfortunately, he doesn't get any credit for what is now a multi-million dollar industry.
There's a simple reason for this.
In fact, their invention was so innovative and forward-thinking that it was a complete and total failure in the marketplace. No one wanted it. No one.
It didn't take 3M long to ditch the color copy machine.
Why? Because in the 1970s, most companies didn't even have color printers! No one had anything of color to copy!
Luckily, Xerox was willing to let the underachieving color copier limp through years and years of lackluster sales until businesses actually became interested in it. And when demand did pick up, Xerox was ready to take full advantage of it.
Today, the color copier is a common fixture in business, schools and government buildings. People even have color copiers in their homes. Although Xerox doesn't make all the color copiers on sale today, they still carry plenty of name recognition.
So why did 3M lose out? They were first to market, but they had created an invention without considering their potential customers.
Yes, in the 1970s, it would be very cool and leading edge for businesses to be able to make copies of colored document in house. Unfortunately, when it came to writing out the purchase reports, the demand simply wasn't there. Businesses could not justify spending thousands of dollars to buy a machine that they would use only a couple times a month.
This is a problem that is rampant today as well. Technical companies and engineers work really hard to create ahead-of-their-time features without checking to see if anyone is ready to buy.
Tell me, do you know of any new and amazing products or product features that are technologically impressive, but don't fulfill an existing need? Fingerprint scanners on personal computers, anyone?