Frontier tech has bespoke sales channels

There are no good default paths for new technology that isn’t software (Software has established sales channels ) or therapeutics (Therapeutics have established sales channels) to get into the hands of end-users.^2 If it’s truly new, there are no precedents for how to buy or sell it! Figuring out how to sell a technology^1 can be a comparable challenge to develop it in the first place. It’s a challenge that’s worth worrying about even if your primary goal is not to make money because Someone needs to buy manufactured technology eventually in a monetized economy.

Figuring out how to sell a technology requires interconnected decisions at many different levels. Everything is tied together - from whether it should even be sold as a product ( “build a startup” is in itself a channel design choice) to pricing schemes.

People creating technology often do not have the bandwidth to take these decisions seriously. This limited bandwidth creates another tension — what is the role of the people building technology in dispersing^3 it? On the one hand, the idea of “build some technology and throw it over the wall” has serious flaws - small nudges to technology development can have large effects on its usability and involved creators can be essential to successful dispersion. On the other hand, imposing dispersion-related questions at the wrong time can be distracting at best and get it stuck at a local optimum where it is “useful” but blocked from reaching its full potential.

It’s tempting to punt on worrying about the challenges of dispersing new technology until it’s actually built. That’s a reasonable but
misguided instinct because (un)certainty about sales channels feeds back and hinders or helps technological development. Drugs with billion-dollar development bills can be created only because Therapeutics have established sales channels. Conversely, the sentiment “even if it works, you have no idea how you’re going to sell it (or otherwise enable it to have an impact)” makes people hesitant to support and put in the effort to get the technology to work in the first place!


^1:<sidenote>(Who/which member of an organization is actually spending the money? Who do you need to convince that it’s a good idea? How does the customer know it works? What does the contract look like? Do you need to go through a third party? These are of course questions for any product (and invite innovation!) but more established types of products have more standard answers.
^2: There’s not a great word for these people. “End-users” sounds incredibly clinical and alternatives like “consumers” invokes large numbers of unsophisticated people.
^3:This word also feels insufficient, but is the commonly-used word for “getting technology to end-users.” I’m going to be a bit sloppy and jump between “selling” and “dispersing.”

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