New Inventor Startup Kit

When I conceived my idea for a thin, flexible wallet invention in 2002, I was very excited about the potential of my invention. But, I had no clue what I should do first. So I found a patent attorney and filed for a utility patent on my product.

Ready, fire, aim!

Fortunately it worked out for me and my product has been a big success, but it could very easily have been a complete waste of $5,000.

New Inventor Startup Kit – a Much Better Way

Over the last 15 years of my invention journey I have acquired a lot of ‘wisdom’ in the form of countless costly mistakes and missteps.

Now, I know there is a better way to get off to a good, productive start with a new invention idea – a plan to mitigate risk and optimize potential reward. Sound interesting?

Here is the 3-step process:

  1. Decide what you want to do – what you are willing to do
  2. Become a fisherman: throw the ‘little ones’ back
  3. Learn what matters most to the buyer – and give it to them

Decide What You Want to Do

This sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But it’s not and many inventors never do this early and only discover much later they are pursuing a course that doesn’t work for them.

You need to decide if you want to build a business around your product or if you want to license it and be paid a small royalty percentage on sales.

Building a business around a product requires a huge commitment of time and capital. You should carefully consider your family circumstances and your career needs carefully before making such a commitment. Inventing is a very risky venture, you must feel comfortable with the commitments and risks you will have to take and that there is no guarantee of success. Sometimes it is just better to keep your day job and a regular paycheck. Really.

Licensing transfers the risk away from you and onto the licensee – the company that would manufacture, package, distribute and market your product. The time commitment is much less and can easily be managed while holding down a full time job. There is no guarantee that you will find someone willing to license your product, but you might come up with another invention. This course is much less taxing on families and bank accounts.

Once you have chosen your path, focus on it – in the words of entrepreneur and podcaster, John Lee DumasFollow One Course Until Successful.

Throw the ‘Little Ones’ Back

Professional fisherman (and women) who fish for a living follow a simple creed: throw the little ones back. You can’t make much of a meal or have much to sell with tiny fish.

Unfortunately, inventors tend to fall in love with every idea they have, often pursuing and spending thousands on little ones – inventions that simply have no chance for success.

Learn to cull your invention ideas. Recognize that a great product must have strong profit margins, sell to a very large segment of the population, and provide clear benefits over competitive products. Carefully assess each product idea you have against these three measures. If it is not great or even questionable – throw it back and go to the next idea.

Learn What Matters to the Buyer – and Give it To Them

Here is a simple fact: what matters most to the inventor is quite different from what matters most to the buyer – whether it is a retail buyer or a potential licensee.

What matters most to the inventor is how unique and beneficial their product will be to the end buyer, the consumer.

Guess what? The buyer assumes your product is unique and beneficial or there would be no conversation.

A retail store buyer cares most about profitability, turns, and shelf space – probably in that order. They expect their wholesale cost to be ‘keystone’ – 50% or less of the retail price. If it’s $20 retail price, they expect to buy for $10 – or better yet, $9.50. Higher profit margins for them mean lower risk on stocking the product. You must be able to live with your margin and offer them one that is attractive to them.

They also want a product that ‘turns’ quickly – doesn’t stay on shelves very long. Products sitting in inventory only make the store money when they sell. Slow sellers are quickly returned to the vendor – the inventor in this case.

An ideal product has a small ‘footprint’ – it takes up very little shelf space. Retailers’ shelf space is a valuable commodity. Products with small footprints are easily displayed, easily bought and restocked. Larger products hog shelf space and often are slow sellers too – a bad combination.

Talk with the retail buyer about profit margins, turns, and shelf space and you will have their undivided attention. Talk to them about how great your product is – and they will be looking at their watches or checking emails!

Licensees care about cost to manufacture (versus retail price), any special tooling required, and how it will complement their existing product line. Their focus is much more on their capital risk (which is guaranteed if they take on the product ) versus the potential reward of lucrative sales – which is an unknown and never guaranteed.

Talk to your buyers about what matters most to them.

Stay tuned!

Posted in Capital risk, Culling ideas, Focus, Footprint, High profit margin, Invention, Keystone pricing, Licensing, Paths for your product, product pricing, Risk versus reward, Shelf space | Leave a comment

Inventing for the ‘Other Half’

Inventors are creative people who naturally think ‘outside the box.’ Inventors look at things differently and, as a result, create unexpected solutions to problems others simply accept as normal. But, maybe we really aren’t so different and creative in our thinking. Read on.

Lives in the ‘Lap of Luxury’

All of us throughout the developed world, think and behave very predictably and alike when it comes our income and how we spend it.

We may buy a quick cup of coffee on our way to work each day, spending perhaps $3 to $5. We don’t give it much thought. We might have lunch with colleagues at a restaurant and spend $10 or more. We come home to our comfortable homes or apartments after work and entertain ourselves with dozens of program choices from cable or satellite TV.

We may complain we just can’t seem to ‘get ahead’ at work. Paying the bills every month is such a drag and it feels as though there is too much month at the end of our money each month. Can you identify with this?

Welcome to the global 1%! If you make more than $32,000 per year, you earn more than 99% of the people on planet earth. Over half of the world’s population, more than 3 billion people, live on less than $2.50 per day. You are living life in the ‘lap of luxury’!

Welcome to the Other Half

Let’s go on an imaginary trek to a remote village in Zimbabwe.

Here no one complains about high costs of electricity and water, because homes have no such comforts. Homes are typically small shacks with thatched roofs for cover from the rain and other elements – though cold is not a problem. No one has a cell phone, a television, a computer or any of the many other things we Westerners regard as ‘necessities.’

Families plan for at least 5 children knowing one or more of them may die from malaria or intestinal parasites. There are no health plans and the nearest hospital is hundreds of miles away. The average life expectancy is around 53 years. No one ones a car. The primary mode of transportation is walking; many don’t own shoes.

Women often hike long distances to get water from a stream for the family. They cook dinner over a fire pit, using wood and charcoal, indoors in poorly ventilated areas. Millions die from asphyxiation and black carbon diseases each year.

Welcome to the other half of the world!

Over a billion people in Africa, India and many other countries live in conditions similar to this.

Simple Solutions Yield Dramatic Life Improvements

Now for some good news. Inventors can design simple solutions to the profound problems faced by impoverished people – yielding dramatic improvements in their lives.

Kenneth Ndua of Kenya, invented a simple clean cookstove that burns wood or charcoal much more efficiently. Diseases caused by smoke inhalation from open-fire cooking kill more people worldwide than HIV and malaria combined, according to the World Health Organization.

Manu Prakash has invented simple, inexpensive products to address two problems faced by medical personnel in rural areas of developing countries:

  1. Microscopes are expensive and unavailable to impoverished rural areas
  2. Centrifuges, used to for analysis of blood and urine, are expensive – rarely available

Dr. Prakash invented the Foldscope, a simple paper with a small lens that can be folded, origami style, to form a functioning microscope. The cost? Less than $0.50. Now millions across the developing world have access to microscopes at minimal cost.

But, Dr. Prakash has now turned his genius towards a simple, low cost centrifuge, called the Paperfuge. It involves two paper discs and strings attached to small simple handles. when the strings are pulled, the discs rotate very rapidly. Items placed in small straw tubes at the periphery of the paper discs rotate rapidly, separating samples just as an expensive centrifuge does. But, the Paperfuge costs about $0.20 and anyone can use it with a few minutes training.

Your Turn!

Calling all inventors. The Other Half desperately needs your creativity, your problem-solving and your new inventions. Maybe you can invent something super simple and inexpensive, like the Paperfuge that will touch the lives of millions.

Stay tuned!

Posted in Invention | Leave a comment

Doubts and Demons of Inventors

I have written frequently in this blog about the challenges of being an inventor including:

Now, I will write about a key challenge to inventors: ‘doubts and demons’ that haunt your mind.

Beware the Doubts and Demons

Everyone has doubts and demons in their daily lives, but inventors are particularly plagued by such dark thoughts. Why?

Inventing is a continually creative endeavor. Designing a new product, developing prototypes, refining them, them figuring out how to market and what price points to use all require lots of creativity.

The doubts and demons appear because as an inventor, you never know if what you are doing and how you are using your time is right or wrong. You’ve got 5 prototypes done, do you really need to spend more money and time on a sixth prototype? You’ve met with 5 different companies about licensing your product and they all passed on it.

You think your product is a great innovative solution and your customers like it, but 5 potential licensees passed on it. They are the experts, not you. Should you put on your best ‘Edison’ imitation and just press forward to the next meeting, then the next, somehow knowing you will be proved right in the end?

But, what if they are right and you are wrong? The demons are whispering in your ear now. How much more money are you going to sink into this thing? Didn’t you just have an argument with your wife about the money last week? Yes, you did. The demons know just where to hit you, which doubts to sow.

The doubts and fears are compounded because inventing is front loaded with costs: patents, prototypes, packaging and many others and profits, if any, come only much later in the process.

How to Conquer the Doubts and Demons

What can you do to conquer the doubts and more especially, the demons?

Spend some time affirming the process that has gotten you this far.

You studied the market carefully, doing extensive research to validate that there was no other product with all the unique features as yours. Your patent attorney felt you could likely obtain a strong patent – that doesn’t always happen. Your profit margins are solid and feedback from customers is strong – they love the product.

Your product fills a niche in the marketplace, has good profit margins and customers love it. Those are all characteristics of a winning product.

The inventing journey is a long, rocky one with lots of starts and stops, victories, and setbacks. No great product ever gets to market without a great deal of persistence and perspiration.

Sometimes, you just need to take a break. Take heart and don’t give up. Tell the demons to take a hike.

Stay tuned!

Posted in Demons, Doubts, High profit margin, Invention, Persistence, Resourcefulness | Leave a comment

Consumer Electronics Show – Las Vegas

 

 

I usually write a blog post each week, but I am a bit late with this post.

Last week I attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. CES is a phenomenal event that occurs every year in January in Las Vegas – the only city with sufficient space to host the thousands of products and vendors. This year, there were about 150,000 people from all over the world crowded into Las Vegas from 1/4 – 1/8/17.

CES – Showcase for All That is New in Technology

What kinds of items were on offer at CES this year?

  • The Smart Home – smart refrigerators and other appliances, lighting, sound systems
  • Wearable Tech – fitness devices, blood pressure and other medical, unique smart fabrics
  • Eureka Park – global startups offering new innovative products not yet on the market
  • Gaming, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality – immersive experiences
  • Auto Tech – self-driving cars, head up displays, emergency braking, collision avoidance
  • Drones – new agricultural drones, security, product delivery, and toys
  • 3D Printing – small ones, large ones, ability to print in plastic, composites, even metal

The above is just a sampling. But, as you can see, CES is a great place for an inventor: like a kid in a candy store.

Here are a few of my favorite, somewhat unique items I had not seen before:

Anti-radiation tempered glass cell phone covers – mobile phone radiation to the brain reduced by 70% – Careye – http://www.sunruo.com.cn

Vuzix Blade 3000 Smart Sunglasses – always connected – much less clunky than other glasses – second half of 2017 http://www.vuzix.com

Transcranial Doppler Ultrasound – by Neural Analytics – breakthrough product that enables measuring blood flow through the brain – detect anomalies, blockages, etc.
Potentially might help with early detection of Alzheimer’s. http://www.neuralanalytics.com

First Portable VR Glasses – Dlodlo V1 – several models, “bionic optical imaging system” enables 105 degree forward view – http://www.dlodlo.com

I hope you enjoyed this high-level skim of the thousands of products at CES this year.

Maybe I’ll see you there next year!

Stay Tuned!

 

 

Posted in 3 D Printing, Augmented reality, Auto tech, Consumer Electronics Show, Drones, Innovation, Invention, Las Vegas, Thinking differently, Virtual Reality, Wearable tech | Leave a comment

2016 Reflections: Gratefulness, Hope, Anticipation

It is a time for reflection: 2016 is almost over, 2017 is beckoning.

It is a great time to reflect on the potpourri of challenges, victories, tears, and joys that were visited upon us in 2016. Since I can’t read your mind, I’ll share with you what my 2016 was like and what I anticipate for 2017.

Then, I’ll finish with some thoughts on how you might wish to process through your 2016 and anticipate 2017, whether this year was a great one or full of challenges and setbacks. No matter how 2016 was, 2017 is a blank canvas for you and you will choose what you paint upon it to create the picture of your life going forward.

My Journey in 2016 and Challenges in 2017

For me, 2016 has been an amazing year. My invention, Wonder Wallet, has been huge success on TV and in retail stores. The royalties have allowed me to reshape my life in very meaningful and productive ways that I dreamed of for years, but now have put into action. I was able to quit working 7 days per week struggling to pay bills (in 2015) and have the time freedom to create my own schedule. I focused upon paying off business and personal debt, working out 3 time every week, meditating, studying Mandarin (I passed the HSK 2 proficiency test), and re-inventing myself from an inventor to an entrepreneur and deal maker.

Looking forward, 2017 presents a variety of interesting challenges for me. I am essentially starting from scratch to redesign what I do. I have a venture to assist inventors to commercialize their products that is underway. I am writing eBooks for inventors and self-improvement – a totally new endeavor for me and I have lots to learn. I am also working on a new invention and am creating some websites or “web properties” as I call them.

I say 2017 will be challenging, all of the above activities are new for me and I feel like a first grader just learning the alphabet but wanting to write a short story. The reality is I don’t know for certain that any of these activities will be lucrative.

Enough about me, let’s talk about you, especially if 2016 was a challenging year for you.

Your Journey in 2016 and Challenges in 2017

 

While many of you had great years in 2016, for many others 2016 was a difficult year.

Perhaps you went through a difficult divorce. You may have lost your job and find yourself near Christmas time wondering how you can celebrate the holidays when you can barely pay the bills. Some have had medical challenges (I discovered I am type 2 diabetic) or found your faith challenged due to the loss of a loved one or personal friend.

If you have experienced any of these traumatic experiences or setbacks, I want to share some concepts I have used to process through difficult times and refocus for a better future.

Here are three great concepts to forge positive change:

  1. The past is not predictive of the future
  2. What you fear most is not going to happen
  3. You will draw towards you the things you focus most upon

When something bad occurs, we tend to falsely assume that it is predictive of the future – guaranteed to occur again and again.

If you tried a small business and it failed that doesn’t mean your next small business will also fail, it could be a huge success. If you lost your job and have been searching for another one for a while, it doesn’t mean you will never get a job. This sort of “predictive” thinking is a version of the gambler’s fallacy. No matter the past, the future really does start today and the actions you take today and this week will shape what happens next week and next month, even next year. Keep the faith!

What you fear most is not going to happen unless you focus obsessively focus upon it (see concept 3). As an entrepreneur and risk taker, I have learned to look at future circumstances based on three scenarios: the worst case scenario, the expected scenario, and the best case case scenario.

For example, if you have been job hunting for a while, the worst case scenario is you will lose your house and have to sell many of your things with no decent job prospects. The best case scenario is you will land your fantastic new dream job featuring a 40% pay raise. Both scenarios are extremely unlikely. The most likely scenario is you will secure a new job that works for you and gets you back on your feet. So, why waste time ruminating about losing it all or striking it rich? Focus on making the middle case happen.

Finally, my favorite, the principle of attraction: you tend to draw towards you that which you focus most upon. A person who continually worries about being caught up in the next corporate layoff is likely to be unfocused and distracted, a poor performer. As a result, he may draw that outcome his way simply by obsessively focusing upon it.

But it absolutely works for positive thinking as well. Since I have focused upon writing eBooks, I have found a great variety of tools (and other eBooks) and people who are easily available to assist me in every way I need. Before I began focusing upon writing eBooks, I never was aware of any of those resources. The principle of attraction drew them to me!

Stay tuned!

Posted in Gratefulness, Invention, Principle of attraction, Reflection | Leave a comment

New Inventor with New Invention: Now What?

Every day across America, across the globe, thousands of new inventors have their first aha moment: an idea for a new invention to solve an old problem.

In March, 2002, I dreamed up an idea for a thin, flexible wallet to solve the ‘rump bump’ problem. A flood of emotions washed over me from exultation (“this is a great idea”) to doubt (“I don’t have much money”) to fear (“someone will just steal my idea”).

Now What?

For the new inventor, everything converges into a single simple question: Now What? What you choose to do over the next month after your aha idea will have a huge impact on your chances to turn your idea into a successful invention. I wrote an e-Book that lays out a path forward in detail, but let’s first look at what not to do, then what you should do.

Here are 3 Things You Definitely Shouldn’t Do:

  1. Take your idea to an invention marketing company
  2. Immediately apply for a patent
  3. Tell all your friends about your idea

 

I have written many blogs about invention marketing firms and why most just bilk you out of limited capital for empty promises. While applying for a patent is a must (in my opinion) if you intend to market your invention for profit, it’s not one of the first things to do before you know if your product is new.  Lastly, gushing to your friends and colleagues all the details about your invention is a bad idea. By publicly disclosing your invention, you may severely limit your rights to file a patent, so it is best to follow Gandalf’s advice: keep it safe, keep it secret.

Here are 3 Things You Should Do:

  1. Describe your idea clearly and concisely in your inventor’s notebook
  2. Build a proof-of-concept prototype of your product as soon as possible
  3. Research everywhere to see if your idea is already ‘out there’

An inventor’s notebook is a great place to capture the details of a new invention idea. Make sure to sketch out the product with approximate dimensions to clarify it in your head. This will aid you in building your first proof-of-concept prototype of your invention. Thirdly, do extensive research to see whether or not something very much like your invention already exists. The first two links in this blog provide much more detail on how to do this effectively.

Most inventors, especially new inventors absolutely hate doing extensive due diligence and research to see if their product is already in the public domain. The reason for the reluctance is obvious: if you search, you may find. Suddenly, your great flash of inspiration has suddenly flickered into darkness.

One of the most egregious financial mistakes an inventor can make is spending thousands of dollars unnecessarily. Filing a utility patent without first conducting extensive due diligence research may result in wasting $5,000+ attempting to patent an invention that, in reality, is not new. That is a very painful and unnecessary mistake.

Stay tuned!

Posted in Behaviors of success, Due diligence, Invention, Invention marketing companies, Inventor's notebook, Prototypes, Research, Why inventors fail | Leave a comment

How to Avoid Inventor ‘Bear Traps’

What are biggest barriers that prevent inventors with great products from achieving success?

Interestingly, the biggest barriers to inventor success are not what immediately comes to mind for most people: money, competition, or lack of connections.

Why? While those are big challenges, creative financing, a great product, and hard work and persistence can win the day.

Watch Out for Bear Traps

Below are 3 big traps that inventors fall prey to:

  1. Ready, fire, aim – lack of research and due diligence
  2. Hubris – this invention will sell millions
  3. Invention marketing scams

Ready, Fire, Aim!

Invention ideas come to us in a flash of inspiration, often in the strangest circumstances.  My idea for a thin, flexible wallet design came to me in the shower one morning in 2002.

Unfortunately the instantaneous delivery of ideas may cause us to feel compelled to act upon them immediately with little or no further investigation. Bad idea!

When your next flash of brilliance occurs, take a few minutes. Draw up your idea as best you can on paper. Describe it to the best of your ability in your own inventor’s notebook. Then put it away for at least a couple of days to clear your mind.

Then, take our your notebook. Open it to a new page and begin research to see if it is already in the market somewhere. In a previous blog, I described specific steps you can take to see if your product really is new and unique. I cannot tell you how many times an inventor breathlessness describes his new invention when a 5 minute search of Google, Alibaba, and USPTO.gov shows it is not new at all.

Investing a small amount of time and effort into such research and due diligence can prevent spending thousands of dollars chasing a truly impossible dream! This may be the best investment you make.

 

Hubris

Inventors must be passionate about their product and what benefits it can provide or they will never succeed. The dark side of being passionate about a product or business is that you often turn a blind eye to any and all criticism of the product.

Hubris will kill your business quicker than anything.

If you don’t believe me, try the following with your next group presentation to a room full of potential licensees for your product.

You: “My new product will outsell all competitors in the marketplace and make all of us millions!”

Your Audience: Dead Silence

No one can predict whether any promising new invention will fly or flounder, that is why over 90% of new product launches fail.

Let’s face it, everyone hates criticism. Such a downer.

But constructive criticism is something of great value you may get absolutely free of charge. Criticism from knowledgeable parties will help you to reshape or redirect the path of your product; and, in the process, direct you onto a new pathway to success. It worked for me.

Shockingly, modesty is a great business skill.

Always let the light of admiration shine on others, not you. You must learn to welcome criticism or you will never receive it nor the valuable insights that may come from it. Hubris will kill you, modest may save the day.

Invention Marketing Scams

I have written quite a number of blogs on how to recognize and avoid invention marketing scams. Three of my earlier blogs on this topic are below:

 

Having written quite a lot about invention marketing companies, I’ll keep my comments succinct in this post. It is very challenging licensing any product, even a great product. Therefore, the legitimate companies who assist inventors in licensing their products (Lambert & Lambert is one) do not advertise much at all. Why? They have so much business, so many inventors are contacting them, they don’t ever need to advertise.

The invention marketing scams, on the other hand, have big advertising budgets. They advertise on radio, TV, the internet, everywhere. How can they afford such expensive advertising? They promise fame and fortune but deliver value-less, low cost, generic materials, yielding huge profit margins for them from gullible inventors.

To quickly smoke out such charlatans, you merely need to ask them 3 questions:

  1. Who are the key competitors to my invention in the marketplace?
  2. Can you provide me a list of 3 – 5 inventors I can contact whom you helped succeed?
  3. If you worked with me and my invention, what would be your first 3 steps in moving forward?

For 1 and 3 above, your answer will be only silence. To question 2, they have no success to point to so they will give you a vague and ridiculous answer like: ‘that is proprietary information’.

If you don’t believe me. Try it out. It is really fun and will quickly get them off the phone!

Stay tuned!

Posted in Barriers to entry, Behaviors of success, Due diligence, Hubris, Invention, Invention marketing companies, Lambert & Lambert, Paths for your product, Pursue your passion | Leave a comment