Thursday, November 20

When your mind is all mixed up.....

 I recently received this comment from someone on Facebook" I think you're doing a great service for inventors and I like many of the article/blogs - An article suggestion - "Dyslexic Inventors" A high number of inventors are dyslexic and some of the best known inventors and innovators - Divinci, Edison, Bell (Phone), Ford etc..."

[ My teachers say I'm addled . . . my father thought I was stupid, and I almost decided I must be a dunce.
--Thomas Edison ]


Frankly this was the last subject I thought I would write about but when I saw this posted on Facebook I thought maybe it was something we should talk about.

I was diagnosed with Dyslexia as a child. Like many adults, throughout my life it has often been a difficult thing to work around - and like most people with this disorder, it has shaken my confidence.

I normally don’t tell people I'm dyslexic, but many who know me take a look at my spelling and I’m sure they suspect something must be wrong. So I deflect the suspicion with some quick humor reminding them that Mark Twain once wrote “It’s a simple mind that can come up with but one way to spell a word”

The word 'dyslexia' comes from the Greek meaning 'difficulty with words'. It is often referred to as a 'specific learning difficulty', usually with spelling, writing and reading, and sometimes with numbers. People who are dyslexic may have problems with spelling, putting things in order, following instructions, direction, and may even confuse left and right.

The fact is, Dyslexia is a perfect example of Newton’s second law of motion. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. While It’s true - people with dyslexia often find spelling and sequencing hard - often they have other areas such as creativity, physical coordination, visual thinking or empathy with others at which they excel. 

Dyslexia is not a 'disease' that someone can be cured of. It is a type of mind, like any other, with its own particular strengths and weaknesses. We all have different talents - things we are good at and things we find hard.

Is working in today’s world with Dyslexia a challenge? Sure – but we’re not alone, many well know inventors have dyslexia – and thousands more that are not so well known.
Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Einstein, and even Michael Faraday to name a few - of course knowing this doesn’t really change anything, but somehow to that child sitting in the back of the class hoping not to be called on, maybe it makes us feel a little less alone.
If you suspect your child has dyslexia please find out how you can help them at http://www.ncld.org

Wednesday, November 19

Which one are you?

When I was a kid my dad used to say he was waiting for his ship to come in - it never did.  This is a sentiment I often see in the eyes of my fellow inventors.  Who knows maybe their ship will come in one day.

What I do know is that we will never understand where we are going unless we first understand where we are right now.  That means taking a look at why we are standing here on the threshold of inventive greatness in the first place.  Not what got us to this point necessarily, but more the reason we as a person are standing on the ledge of failure so willing to jump off.
I believe there are basic kinds of people who make up our industry. I'll lay them out and you see if there are any similarities to yourself in these wholly unscientific descriptions.

The creative junkie inventor -  One who has to exercise creativity at every turn.  Like a drug addict inventing is the creative fix they need to get through their day. That's not a bad thing I guess, but when a stronger or better idea comes along they will move on very quickly, never showing very much follow-through on any particular idea.
The low self esteem inventor -  Since there is no formal "qualification" to our industry, often people enter because they came up with an idea that caused everyone to start telling them how great it is, and how smart they are. The esteem meter spikes and before you knew it they are pointed head first into the inventing world. Not because the idea really is good - but simply because they associate it with a positive reaction.

The problem is it's like saying you look good in mountain climbing gear and charging up Mt. Everest.  Real climbers know the dedication and training it takes to accomplish that level of goal, but the good looking guy/gal in the climbing gear has already darted up the mountain and is almost certain to fail - or worse.

 The opportunity inventor -  Two major themes emerge from this group of people. The person who sees the invention as a money making exercise and could care less about the process - or the down on their luck guy/gal who turns on some goofy inventor show and sees the process as a way of solving a financial problem.  Since the recession of 2008 we have seen a vast increase in unemployed inventors. This is not a problem of course, who knows, maybe they will have great success. But this inventor needs to take care they don't dig their hole even deeper. 
The natural inventor - This guy/gal has been genetically bread to be an inventor.

For most it starts as young children taking apart things you would later get in trouble for. It moves on over the years in an escalation of complexity and inquisitiveness until one day you reach a position where you can exercise those tendencies professionally.

As god given as that talent may be, the natural inventor doesn't get off much easier than the rest of the people trudging through the mud of these processes. Sure, they may be talented, but like a talented piano player, they must first learn the keys and master their craft before they get up on stage.

Don't pretend for a moment that these four categories encompass the whole of our industry. But my experience is that about 90% of the inventors I meet fall into one of these categories - and my guess is you do too.

What I'm really trying to say here is, with inventing, like life itself, it's never as important what you do as it is why you do it. So take some time to figure that out.
Mark Reyland

Tuesday, November 18

Just because....

My good friend Roger Brown recently wrote a posting with some of the "just because" lines so applicable to inventors. Take a moment to read them, and if you are a novice inventor please pay close attention to them because they could keep you from making a fool of yourself.  

1. Just because you love it and can see it in every home in the U.S. does not make it a reality.

2. Just because your friends and family loves it does not mean it is a million dollar idea.

3, Just because you have a patent does not mean its marketable.

4. Just because you can make it cheaply does not mean a company HAS to sell it.

5. Just because you sent it special delivery to a company does not mean they will open it right away or that they will love it
.
6. Just because YOU KNOW it would fit well with the companies line of products does not mean they will.

7. Just because you spent a lot of money having a prototype made, paid a lot for a patent, paid more to shoot a video, paid a marketing company for a marketing analysis and are in debt over your head does not mean a company has to take that into account when they review your idea.

8. Just because you have been busting your butt for the past 3 years on this product does not make it marketable.

9. Just because YOU want it to happen you can’t force consumers to like your product and buy it.

10. Just because you got rejected does not mean THEY are stupid.

11. Just because there are 265 million people in the U.S. does not mean you put in your sell sheet that all 265 million people will throw away their current (perfectly working) product to buy your product.

12. Just because you don’t understand WHY, people will buy things you think are stupid and useless over yours.

You may not believe this, but it's true - these are all very common things novice inventors do when they first start out. It's a very emotional process, and our mind has a way of framing the situation to meet the outcome we have already convinced ourselves of. The result is often a lot of mental and emotional justification that shifts the responsibility for failure to everyone but the inventor.

Sure, sometimes companies get it wrong. However not near as much as inventors. After all, they do this day in and day out, and when you bring them a product you are a guest in their world - so try to respect that.


Mark Reyland

Monday, November 17

Where do I start? .... Let's answer that (IV)

Welcome to the final two topics in our hunt for the inventor starting place. Today I promise I'll answer the question and show you exactly where to start.

But before we do that, let's look at the final two of our six questions. We saw that Funding, Patents, Manufacturing, and Prototypes were not necessarily the starting point in our journey - although in actual inventing prototype does follow idea pretty closely. 

Maybe we start with licensing our idea, or maybe we turn to one of the many "Invention submission companies" always ready to sell us their wares. Let's take a look -



Should I use an invention submission company?

I won't say that 99% of you should answer "No", but I will say 90% of you should.



You see, while some of those companies offer services that could be useful if you have zero time to devote to commercialization - the vast majority of what they offer is really not worth buying. In fact, 100% of what they sell, you either don't need or can do yourself.

Remember, you are hyped up on emotion and these companies are always ready to tell you how smart you are and how your great idea is going to be the next big hit. They use this tactic to make you comfortable, to gain your trust, and worst of all to give you enough hope that you will take out that checkbook and purchase what they have to sell.

Do you need an invention submission company to develop, patent, or market your product? No, you don't, and in the end if they don't out and out rip you off, most of them will just suck you dry until you have no resources left to do it the right way.

Should I license my invention?

We're getting closer - while it's not the actual starting point it's on the right path and it will lead most inventors into a process that is less expensive, lower risk, and far more likely to succeed.

Licensing as we know, is simply renting your invention (or idea) to a company in exchange for the consideration of royalty. They have everything you don't - they have development capabilities, they have manufacturing, they have distribution, and most importantly they have relationships with retailers that you have almost no chance of ever developing.

What they may not have is your great idea.

Understanding that, it only makes sense to combine what you have and what they have to develop and distribute your product. Over and over I've seen inventors with non patented ideas approach manufacturers with a great new product idea and be successful.

So - Should you license your idea? For 99% of you the answer to this question is "YES" - in fact, on behalf of your family, and the dozens of professionals who are forced to witness the carnage of nice people losing everything to a process they will never understand - I beg you - license your product out to a manufacturer - at least until you generate enough extra income that marketing an invention will not put your family at undue risk.

But even as close to the starting point as licensing is - it's not the starting point. In fact, we haven't even discussed the real starting point, yet you've been doing it for three days now.

You see - the starting point for every inventor is simply education. We educate ourselves on the processes, the requirements, and the risks. This knowledge allows us to answer all these questions for ourselves, and to make informed decisions about where we should start and what direction we should take.

Congratulations! You just started your inventor journey.

Now go arm yourself with every bit of knowledge you can find and what steps you should take next will become obvious.

Mark Reyland

Friday, November 14

Where do I start? .... Let's answer that (III)

Well here we are again working our way through a couple more questions relevant to our goal of finding that elusive inventor starting point. 

After taking a look at patents and funding, we turn our attention to prototypes and manufacturing by starting with a simple statement: Inventing is a process of proving a theory, nothing more. Once that theory has been proven you are no longer inventing, you are conducting business.

Don't I need a prototype?

Chances are you do - after all prototypes in their most basic form are for proving a theory - that's inventing. Prototypes designed for making products are not inventing, they are a function of the business cycle.

That said, it's not likely the question is do you need one, it's more likely that you need to figure out what kind of prototype you need. So let's look at some basic forms of prototypes.

An Inventors prototype: This simple, homemade, rudimentary form of prototyping is nothing more than proving your functional theory. This form of prototyping is often born in a shed or basement of hobbled together parts. Once that prototype proves your theory you have invented.

Manufacturing prototype: Rarely if ever created by an inventor - this much more complex form of prototyping is based on your design, but professionally modified to prepare the invention for manufacturing.

Virtual prototypes: As you may have guessed this is a digital version of your invention that can be changed and modified in the computer and then used to print a copy of your invention on a 3D printer or CNC machine. Note: The new trend in our industry is to sell "renderings" (movable images) as virtual prototypes. It's a total scam. Before you pay thousands for something that is worth hundreds ask the company if the resulting file can drive a 3D printer. if it can't it's a picture not a prototype. 

So do you need a prototype? I would say yes, if you are an inventor (not an innovator who has ideas) you will need to prove your theory, and that means a prototype.

Should I find a manufacturer and order some inventory?

Almost without exception 99.9% of you should answer this question "No" 

This is one of the biggest mistakes inventors make. They get all hyped up on emotion and the next thing they know they spent a ton of money for a container load of crappy product in some storage unit somewhere.

Don't do it...please, don't do it. If for some reason you think you are immune to the 98% failure rate taking a product to market yourself, and you just have to see your "baby" in the flesh. Have a prototype made to scratch that itch - but for heaven's sake please don't order a bunch of product - and here's why.

1) Manufacturers make what you design. Chances are, since you're not a professional product designer what you designed isn't what would end up on a store shelf anyway. So the tooling and design work are almost 100% guaranteed to be thrown out.

2) Everyone, including the manufacturer is selling you - that's how they make their money, manufacturing things. You are simply a target of opportunity easily sold product that you don't need. They will tell you how great the product is, how fast it's going to sell, and even dangle the quantity discount in your face to bump up the order - all sales tactics - don't fall for them.

3) Retailers work on 90 day product cycles. 30 days to design, 30 days to manufacture, 30 days on the water. While they do expect to see a manufactured sample, reputable retailers never expect you to have the inventory on hand - so don't worry.

So - should you get a manufacturer and order inventory? If you are convinced you will beet those 98% failure odds then maybe get a manufacture sample made AFTER you have had a professional product designer do the design work. But never, ever, order anything more than sample stock without a purchase order from a reputable retailer.  

Four questions down, two to go. As you can see, Patents, Funding, manufacturing, and in some cases even prototyping don't appear to be the starting point... maybe we'll find the answer tomorrow when we look at Licensing and those invention companies.


Mark Reyland

Thursday, November 13

Where do I start? .... Let's answer that (II)

We said yesterday we were going to work our way towards answering that age old inventor question "Where do I start?"

We could of course take the direct route and just answer the question directly, but that particular answer may not apply to you, or it may apply to you, but not someone else.

So we're going to take the long way and answer some more general questions that apply to everyone.

So let's dive in -


Should I get a patent first?
Hands down one of the most asked, and incorrectly answered questions in our industry. 

For 90% of you reading this blog the answer will be "No". You're just hyped up on emotion, ready to whip out that checkbook at the first sight of a patent attorney with thick black glasses and a pencil protector. But before you decide let's look at some facts-

1) Best we can tell only about 20% of retail products are patented (or even patentable) so right off the bat your patent would fall into that slim 20% - not the 80% majority.


2) Less than 50% of US patent applications are approved. So after spending that $12,000.00 average patent cost you have less than a 50% chance that you will even get a patent.

3) Patents are the gift that keeps on giving. Pay for prosecution, pay for filing, and then pay every few years for your maintenance fees. Don't pay the fees and your patent goes abandon as if it never existed. 

4)There is ZERO correlation between a patent and a sale. A patent without a clear process for monetization is a total waste of money and time so why would you invest in something where you can't clearly show the return?

5) You DO NOT have to have a patent to license a product. Contrary to what those "experts" told you, a patent ,while a tool that can affect royalty value, does not mean a company won't license your invention - remember that 80% of products with no patent protection? They came from somewhere.

6) Your patent attorney will never tell you your product is stupid. That's not his job, his job is to protect your invention. So don't make the mistake of thinking a patent attorney saying nice things about your invention is anything other than part of their sales pitch.

So - Should you get a patent first? .... I have no clue, you tell me.   



What about an Investor? Don't I need a bunch of money?
Well sports fans we just found the second most asked and worst answered question in our industry. The only difference being that in this case 99% of you should answer this question "No"

The ONLY time you may need an investor with a big bag of money is if you intend on taking your fresh new idea to retail market yourself. It's expensive, it's risky, it's time consuming, and in the end that vast majority of you have no idea how it's done so you will fail.

Let's look at some of the reasons you should not attempt the market until you have your own financial stability and you have taken the time to learn the process inside and out.

1) Taking a product to market is a team effort, your chances of assembling the right team and making any money are slim at best.

2) While product development and retail distribution have nothing to do with inventing, they have everything to do with business. Getting an investor or borrowing money without knowing exactly what you're doing is not only bad business it's high risk for your family and rarely ends well.

3) You simply don't need an investor or a bag of money to get your idea on a shelf. Licensing your invention to a company already doing business in that space is easer and far more responsible than dragging your friends and family down the rabbit hole.

So.... do you need a bag of money or an investor? .... again, I don't know you so I don't know your situation. That said, I would bet you fall into that 99% who should answer this question "No"

Given the length of these answers I think the best thing to do is answer them a couple at a time. Tomorrow we'll tackle the next two questions on our journey to find the elusive starting point of the independent inventor journey.

Should I find a manufacturer and order some inventory?
What about contacting a company to license my idea?
Don't I need a prototype?
Should I use one of those invention companies?


 
Mark Reyland

Wednesday, November 12

Where do I start? .... Let's answer that (I)


There you are - in the shower - feeling the warm water running down your back, the suds in your hair and soap in your eyes. All of a sudden like a bolt of lightning you get this great idea. 

We all know that's how it happens - right? Not exactly. 

What normally happens is you see a problem and it bugs you until you find some unique way to solve it. At least that's what happens to me - and that rarely happens in the shower. 

Armed with this newly minted solution to what we believe is the world's biggest problem, you naturally run out to the first place all inventors should go - the patent attorney? 

Is that really the first place you should go? shouldn't you get a big bag of money first? or find someone who can make this thing? 

Because you have far more questions than answers at this point - maybe we should take a little time here on the blog answering these question for you by laying out your options. 

Let's take those options one at a time on our way to answering that mack daddy of all inventor questions "where should I start?" 

We can do just that by listing all the places you could start and exploring why (or why not) they make sense. 

Should I get a patent first?
What about an Investor? Don't I need a bunch of money?
Should I find a manufacturer and order some inventory?
What about contacting a company to license my idea?
Don't I need a prototype?
Why is it so hard to get a store to listen to me? 

These are some big hitter questions - they will, after all, define the direction you take in bringing your great new idea to the world. So we need to explore them, and we will - starting tomorrow.  

Tune in tomorrow here on the Daily Inventor Education Blog and we'll take each one of these monumental questions apart to find out if what you're thinking is what you should be doing.

Mark Reyland

Monday, November 10

Roger G. wants to know how many will sell?

Mark,

I'd really like to see an article on how an inventor goes about setting a price for the license to use an invention. Do you just throw out some arbitrary number (27% of gross!) and see how it's received? Do you look at similar products and figure, I should get at least half of that? How do you determine how big the actual market is? Are a thousand sold each day, or millions?
Roger G

Well Roger those are some good questions.... let me address them one at a time:
1) Do you just throw out some arbitrary number (27% of gross!) and see how it's received?  Nope. Because when they ask you how you came up with that number you're going to look pretty silly - and more than a little unprofessional.
2) Do you look at similar products and figure, I should get at least half of that?  Nope again. You need to build a foundation for what you are asking in royalty consideration. Remember, you are renting them your idea.  Just like a home, it has a market value that the world thinks it's worth.
To find that market value In licensing a product we conduct a market audit (use the search box on the left side of the blog and search market audit to see how that's done) to find out what else is out there and what it's selling for. That audit will allow you to find the median retail price, and about half that number should be close to the wholesale price your royalty is based on.
In the United States average royalty across all licensing (movies, music, products.... ) is 8%. That means your number, depending on how much you have to offer, will likely be between 1-10% - for most product inventors this value will fall about 6% of the WHOLASALE price.
3) How do you determine how big the actual market is? Are a thousand sold each day, or millions? To answer that question we start by defining what product currently being sold is closest to yours. For that you turn back to your Market Audit. This research will allow you to narrow down the closest competing product and focus on those one or two instead of dozens.
Once you know those one or two products that closely resemble yours, make a list of all the stores where those products are sold.
Then - turn to the internet (I use a site called Hoovers) and find out how many "doors" each of those retailers has. Add them up, and presto, you have a good idea of how many stores (we call them "doors") could carry your product.
While knowing the number of doors will give you a good understanding of the opportunity, it does not tell you how many of your product could be sold by those doors.
For that you have to be a little crafty. You see, what you are looking for is called a "movement" - it's the industry term for each time an SKU crosses the scanner in a store. The actual data of how many of that  item sold in that store that week is called a movement report.
What I normally do is pick one or two from each retail chain. I approach a store manager with the SKU for the product from their store (SKU's are not always the same even within a chain) and ask them to run a movement report for me. Some will say no, some will say yes, and for some it may have to become your kids homework - but no matter how you get the information, once you do, you will have enough to do some math.
Take the number of door in the chain, your sample of at least two store's movement on that item, and simply multiply.
This of course is not scientific, and it's only as accurate as the amount of data you feed into the process - but done correctly, with a reasonable sample size, you would be amazed at how close you can get to the real throughput potential of a well developed, well priced product.
Mark Reyland       

Friday, November 7

lessons from life.......

Several years back I took private pilot lessons because I had always wanted to fly.

I went to the airport on my first day, met my instructor (who I swear was like 12 years old) and he walked me around the airplane pointing out the less obvious parts ...like the wings.

After a thorough tour of every nut and bolt on the plane we finally took off. We flew around for my one hour flight, and we landed without incident.
Taxiing back to the ramp, I posed the following question:

Have you ever been here before? - right here, with a brand new student, you just finished your first lesson, you're taxiing back to the ramp, suddenly you look across the cockpit at your student, and almost without thinking say.....You should buy a boat.
His answer was yes. He had actually been in that position several times before after a single lesson with a new student - I suspected as much.

Let's face facts, not everyone should be above our heads flying an airplane. It takes a special set of skills, it takes a commitment to maintaining those skills, a sense of responsibility for the passengers you carry, and a keen understanding that when you screw up , people may die.
Now, inventing isn't quite that dramatic, but there is one piece of very common ground. Not everyone should be doing it.

We see new "inventors" all the time climb into the cockpit without an instructor. They pour in the fuel of hope and quickly fire up the engine of creativity. It's not long before they taxi down to the runway, open up the throttle of excitement and before you know it they've left the ground.
That's the easy part, once you climb out and start to gain altitude the risk starts to go way up. The skills needed to develop and commercialize your invention are often far greater than you possess. In the excitement of jumping into the plane you never thought about how you are going to get back down, so you fly aimlessly around until you either run out of money or you crash.

Either way, it's not the joy ride you envisioned when you jumped into the cockpit. The reality is, inventing is a bumpy ride in the best of weather.

If you don't take the time to prepare yourself, and you don't think long and hard about how you were going to land. The chances are you are going to crash - and when you do, turn around, look in the back seat, that's your family back there - because they always go along for the ride.  
Mark Reyland

Thursday, November 6

Boaters?..... really


Late one night in 1946, a very tired mother was faced with a wet, crying baby yet again. Changing her second daughter's soaked cloth diaper, clothing, and bed sheets, Marion O'Brien Donovan knew there had to be a better way to keep babies dry.

Soon after, she tore down the shower curtain hanging in her bathroom, cut out a section, and sat down at her sewing machine, determined to create a diaper cover that would prevent leaks. That first shower-curtain experiment eventually led to the creation of a reusable diaper cover made from nylon parachute cloth--and a collective sigh of relief from women across the United States.

In 1951, Donovan received four patents for her invention, which was the precursor of the disposable diaper.

That same year, she sold the rights to Keko Corporation of Kankakee, Ill., for $1 million. She called the cover the Boater, “because at the time I thought it looked like a boat.” She used the money to finance other invention projects and went on to create numerous products intended to make life more efficient, organized, and convenient.


Mark Reyland

Wednesday, November 5

I didn't know this.....


Copyright Law: Why Your Favorite Bar Can’t Show The Game On A 60″ TV
By Kate Cox November 3, 2014

Walking down the street to the Metro, I pass so many bars with so many TVs in them that I could probably find live footage of every major sporting event from almost every corner of the world. Obviously it’s not completely illegal to hang a screen by the beer and share a broadcast, or else entire industries would be out of business.

But as it turns out, it may not always be exactly legal, either — and the rules that say when and where you’re good to go are a bit more specific than you might think.
Over at GigaOm, they’ve delved into when it is and isn’t legal to share the game with a hundred of your brand-new, somewhat inebriated, closest friends.

If you’ve got a TV pulling broadcast signals from the air, it’s completely legal to have that TV showing something — even the Super Bowl or World Series — in a bar or restaurant provided that:

You don’t charge an admission or cover fee,

The bar or restaurant in question has less than 3750 square feet of space,

No more than four screens are showing the broadcast, and

None of the televisions are larger than 55 inches.


If those restrictions seem weirdly specific, well, they are. We saw earlier this year that the entire idea of “public performance” under the Copyright Act eventually doomed Aereo. So what makes a bar of 3700 square feet (but not of 3800) different?

It’s all thanks to particular concessions in a 1998 copyright extension bill.  

The most recent round of copyright extensions guaranteed that nothing in the U.S. — literally zero works — would enter public domain until at least 2019. But it was the 1998 extension, as GigaOm explains, that expanded the “Homestyle Exception.”

That exception allows certain kinds of places to be considered, basically, home-like and not participating in public performance when they show live broadcast TV. The exception in the law was a particular concession to the restaurant and food/beverage industries, which benefit tremendously from it.

But the home-style exception specifically applies to broadcasts. If your local watering hole uses cable, satellite, or fiber — as many do — then they aren’t allowed to show big-screen content without first securing permits. Which, let’s be honest, there’s a pretty good chance they haven’t done. 

Of course, GigaOm is tech-focused, so they’re thinking about the future. Sure, cable and satellite companies don’t play along. But what about internet media? It’s the future now, right? 

Well, the future it might be, but new techs play by old rules. Like their coaxial brethren, Netflix, Hulu, and Apple all specifically only permit private, noncommercial use.
 
As GigaOm points out, this is as much a practical concern as a philosophical one: “Netflix and Apple have to pay the content provider for a license so that they can serve the content to their subscribers. The less expansive the license, the less expensive.” 

Verizon and Comcast certainly aren’t going door to door at every place in town, making sure every license is a properly paid commercial one, with its i’s dotted and t’s crossed. But you can still get caught, and if you do, your decision-making becomes penny-wise and pound-foolish in the worst way. Like taking your chances going 75 on a stretch of interstate with a 65 speed limit, it’s a risk — even if it seems like everyone else is doing it. 

And it’s a surprisingly large risk, thanks to the joy of statutory damages that a court can award.

One restaurant owner, as GigaOm points out, had to pay a $32,000 penalty for showing just one pay-per-view UFC match in his establishment.



Mark Reyland

Tuesday, November 4

Just ask yourself these 3 little questions....

The three most important questions an inventor can ask – and the three questions EVERY inventor should ask before launching down that path of pain and expense to commercialization are….
 WILL IT WORK?
That’s right, not every great idea will actually work. Many inventors have their bar napkin at the ready just set to solve the world’s problems with nothing more than imagination.
The reality is that imagination can’t be monetized. We know that in the case of innovation (an unproven theory) this is the standard. However even innovators have an obligation to “imagine” their designs in a well thought out, practical, and producible way.
If you are an inventor (a proven theory) on the other hand, you have likely taken the time to prototype the theory and proven the end result can be accomplished.
Either way - Will It Work? Is always the first question the business side of the proves will be asking.
 WILL ANYONE CARE?
So it works, but will anyone really care that it works? Another way of asking this question is to ask - How large a problem is it solving? Innovating and inventing are both the process of solving problems. So it would stand to reason that success in commercialization is tied in some way to the size of the problem the solution addresses.
I have a dresser in my master bedroom that blocks the light switch. It’s very difficult for me to reach the switch when I enter the room. So I break out the bar napkin and sketch up what I think is a great new device for reaching over the dresser to flip the switch – I have innovated a solution. I then head to the basement and build the device based largely on the bar napkin design. I have invented the device and I can test it. It works great! I have a new product for turning on and off the light switch when your dresser is blocking it.
But who cares? Well I do, but I already have the device - bringing us to the last and most important question of commercialization.
WILL ENOUGH OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO CARE BE WILLING TO GIVE YOU MONEY TO SUPPORT A REAL MARKET?
In the case of the new light switch flipping tool we can surmise the answer to that question is likely “No”. The fact is unless you have something blocking the light switch you have no need for that product – and we all know that unless you have a need (because you also have the problem) you are very unlikely to take out your wallet and pay for the solution.
Great product ideas die at lots of stages along the journey, but more product ideas die at question number three than any other place. Because this is the question that demands you address the dollars. It’s the question that when answered honestly will tell an inventor if he/she has something worth investing in.
You should start every project with these three little questions.
Be honest with yourself, because I promise once you get past your family and friends others will have no problem telling you like it is.
Mark Reyland 

Monday, November 3

You should watch this....

It took a little while, but after their misguided association with Quirky, General Electric has finally managed to team up with someone who could put a positive spin on the inventor community.

After all - who doesn't like kid inventors, and funny? that just another name for Jimmy Fallon.

Yes sports fans, Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show is producing segments with General Electric (okay, so it's a PR play for GE...) to highlight the inventions rolling around in those adorable little heads.


Good for them I say - and thanks to the kid inventors for inspiring other young creative minds! 
 

Friday, October 31

"Inventing" an Easy Bake Oven

When I was about 10 my older sister Susan wanted an Easy Bake Oven – We lived in Northern VA - and with a family of 7 kids understandably you didn’t always get what you wanted.

So, being an enterprising young lad, and an adorable little brother - I set out on the mission to build my big sister an easy bake oven. Come on, how hard can it be?....it’s a light bulb in a box!

Okay, so I got this cardboard box and lined it with aluminum foil I snuck out of my mom’s kitchen - 3 rolls of scotch tape later and it was a foil lined cardboard box. Then it was off to find a “heat” source. Simple enough, a broken lamp in the basement would do nicely. keep in mind, “Broken” was more a term the adults used, to a 10 year old boy it was entirely “fixable” or at least had some really cool parts.

Off I go, broken lamp, foil lined box, and a really sharp knife from my dad’s tool box to “modify” things the way I needed them. Maybe an hour or so later, I had a 10 year old's facsimile of that famous childhood icon “The Easy Bake Oven”

My sister was so impressed – (I would learn much later in life that was not as big a trick as I thought when I was 10) Long story short – she wanted to make me a cake in her new and improved Easy Bake Oven. She hobbled all the ingredients together (did I mention she was 12 at the time) mixed them just like she had seen mom do, and placed them in the “oven door” I had so meticulously cut in the side.

Easy right?....well remember that “broken” lamp?....it really was broken. No kidding, and in my mind the concept of a short and impending electrical fire had not been born yet. So when the sparks started and 3 rolls of tape melted, and the cardboard started to smoke and flame…. It was every man for himself. She ran… I ran… we all ran.

As always I got in trouble, she got nothing, and neither of us got cake.


Mark Reyland

Thursday, October 30

Helping a fellow inventor....

John Spinello, Inventor Of 'Operation' Game, Can't Afford Real-Life Operation
The Huffington Post  | By David Moye


John Spinello earned a small spot in pop culture history 50 years ago when he invented Operation, the battery-powered game that lets kids play surgeon.

But now, the 77-year-old Illinois man needs $25,000 in oral surgery and can't afford to pay for it, having sold the rights to his creation for just $500.

Spinello says he's not bitter and prefers to not focus on the healthcare crisis.

"Look, everyone needs medical care," Spinello told HuffPost Weird News. "I prefer not to dwell on that aspect and focus more on the joy that the game has brought to so many over the years."

To help him out, a couple of toy designer friends are trying to help him raise $25,000 for anticipated bills via a crowdfunding campaign at Crowdrise.com.

The campaign had raised more than $1,300 by Monday morning, mostly from toy industry insiders. A sister website, ILoveOperation.com, is selling copies of Operation personally signed by Spinello.

In addition, Spinello is planning a December auction of his original game prototype, hoping to raise at least another $35,000, according to toy designer Tim Walsh, who is organizing the fundraiser along with fellow designer Peggy Brown.

Spinello invented Operation while he was an industrial design student at the University of Illinois. The Bloomington resident was tasked to come up with an electric game where the object was to insert a metal wand into holes without touching the metal edges of the openings.

"I got an A," Spinello said.

A family friend was so impressed that he helped Spinello get a meeting with Marvin Glass, a leading toy designer who gave the world novelty products like fake vomit and wind-up chattering teeth. He was also the force behind such classics as Mouse Trap and Lite Brite.

"I walked into his office and I put it on his desk. I said, 'You have to take this probe and go through the maze and see if you can complete it,'" Spinello explains in a video about the campaign.

Glass didn't seem impressed until he touched the wand to the metal plate.

"It went 'BLATTT' and a spark jumped out of the stylus," Spinello said. "He threw [the stylus] up in the air and says, 'I love it! I love it!'"

Glass offered the young college student $500 -- about $3,771 in 2014 dollars -- and the promise of a job upon graduation in exchange for all the rights to the game.

But the job offer didn't happen.

"I did get the two checks -- eventually," Spinello said. "I had to call for them."

Walsh says Spinello is not bitter about the lack of royalties, though he estimates the game has generated at least $40 million in sales since its 1965 debut.

By the early 1970s, the game was heavily advertised on TV, and has made several comebacks over the years, with a "Shrek" edition in 2004, followed by "Simpsons" and "Spider-Man" versions.

Spinello's daughter has an extensive collection of Operation memorabilia that celebrates the game's history.

"John celebrates the game wherever he can, though his kids do give him a hard time in a good-natured way," Walsh told HuffPost.


Mark Reyland

Wednesday, October 29

It's just an opinion

It seems in this industry the one thing inventors want almost as much as a million-dollar deal is feedback.

Professionals in this industry are often asked: what do you think of my product? Will people buy it? Can I get a deal on it?… Even, will you invest in it?

Although there may be some people in the industry that feel that they do, most of us realized long ago we have no crystal ball. At the end of the day we all have to walk to the end of the diving board jump off, and hope there's water in the pool. Although there are a lot of things that we learn in this industry about how consumers react and what they may likely buy - none of us know for sure.

So what is this elusive feedback but and individuals opinion. Because it's just an opinion, it's probably less important that we get the opinion, than it is who we get it from.

The spectrum of experience in the inventing industry is vast and varied. The feedback an inventor is likely to receive is based on that individual’s expertise in their one section of this linear commercialization process. Sales, development, testing, importing.... all valid areas, but all just single parts of the process.

A good example of this may be asking for feedback from a sales rep. The response you will receive should be very accurate in terms of the kinds of products retailers are currently looking for, the process, - however, it may be inaccurate in terms of the product’s manufacturability, distribution, or function.

That doesn't in any way make the opinion lesson valid, as long as the inventor understands it's rooted in the part of the process where that person has experience.

So how do we get the best feedback? We look for MANY professionals in the industry who specialize in different functional areas and we asked the questions over and over.

The answers should be taken exactly as they are given – as a single data point to be mixed with other data points and used to paint a mental picture of probability.

No one has all the answers, and although after years of taking products to market you can get a "feel" for what works and what doesn't, there are no single answers, and no one opinion that really matters more than another.


Mark Reyland

Tuesday, October 28

What a great Mom-Inventor story!

 
Tragedy Inspires A Mother of Two to Create a Million Dollar Line of Baby-Safe Bling
By Lori Weiss
MarloThomas.com

It was a moment that some might say was God given. It was a Sunday morning and Amy Maurer Creel was in church with her family. Her baby daughter, Alice, was sitting on her lap, seemingly content playing with Mom’s necklace, when all of a sudden laughter broke out all around them.

“I was wearing a strand of pearls,” Amy explained,” “and Alice yanked on them. The pearls flew everywhere -- up and down the pews. I was so embarrassed. All I could think about was how to get out of there. Actually, I did have one other thought. I knew I had to create something that wouldn’t break.”

And almost immediately, Amy began doing research -- checking on patents other people might have and sketching out ideas -- but then, as it does for most new Moms, time ticked away and other responsibilities took precedence. Until one day, a tragedy made Amy ask herself, what exactly she was waiting for.

“My sister-in-law, Maria, had just had her first baby at 40 and we were all so happy. But then a week after she gave birth, she wasn’t bouncing back. It got to a point where all she could manage was to sort the mail. She went to lie down and she never woke up again.”

Marie died from a congenital heart defect that had gone undiscovered and the labor was too much for her.

“It was a profound turning point for me,” Amy remembered. “She was just a few years older than I was, and I was acting like I had all the time in the world. I began to question what I was doing and what I should be doing.”

“Maria grew up in Toledo, Ohio and moved to New York City because she dreamed of becoming a clothing designer. She worked day and night to make that dream come true and just two months before she died she had landed a job designing sweaters for Eileen Fischer. I realized after her death, that I’d never be able to do the things I wanted, if I didn’t just jump in.”

That was December of 2005. By the fall of 2006, Amy’s rough sketches had morphed into a product she called Teething Bling -- jewelry that was fashionable, yet baby-safe, and would ultimately bring in more than a million dollars.

“I started going to jewelry stores, to get the ideas flowing,” she said. “I needed to figure out how I could create something that would be esthetically pleasing to wear, but still be safe for babies to put in their mouths. And then I just began looking around my house at all our baby items. When my eyes landed on the infant spoons, I knew I had to find the material they were made from. They had a silicone coating on them, so if the baby bites down it doesn’t hurt their gums. They were food safe and they could go into the dishwasher.”

Amy went to the internet and found the material she needed. Now it was just a matter of having prototypes made up from her sketches. A few more clicks and she found a list of companies that seemed to be the perfect fit -- if only they would talk with her.

“Most of the people I called weren’t interested because at that point, my product didn’t exist. But then I found a woman who said they could definitely help me, but they’d have to charge me $10,000. That was daunting, because I really didn’t have that kind of money. But then she suggested someone who was much smaller and could do what I needed at a fraction of the cost. This complete stranger helped me. I never could have done this had she not made that introduction.”

And once Amy made that connection, all the pieces began to fall into place. The person who helped her with her drawings guided her to a manufacturer and soon after, Teething Bling was born. She ordered 4,000 pieces and officially became a mompreneur.

“And there they were, 4,000 necklaces, all sitting in my basement,” Amy laughed. “I hadn’t even thought about packaging! I had a friend of a friend build a very basic website for $500 and I began doing local craft shows. I spent four years working from my basement, putting each necklace in its own little jewelry box and printing labels. I was going to the post office six times a week.”

With a little success under her belt and packaging that could actually go on store shelves, Amy decided it was time to take the next step and made her way to trade shows, hoping to get her baby-proof bling into a national chain.

“And that’s where I made my first big mistake,” she sighed. “I met a woman who claimed to be a buyer for the Army and Air Force Exchange and she placed a $70,000 custom order for camouflage necklaces. That was huge and it totally blew me away. I put $20,000 into production costs and sent her a broker fee, along with travel expenses. And then I sat in my garage and waited for them to be picked up. The truck kept being delayed and delayed, until finally I got suspicious and called the exchange’s headquarters.

As it turned out, they knew exactly who this woman was -- she was a scam artist, who’d fooled others before Amy.

“I sued her and won, but I never saw a dime. But what I did get was an important lesson. I tend to be very trusting, which is a good quality in my personal life, but maybe not so much in my business life. I grew up really fast after that. And I also learned that a real distributor won’t ask for money up front. They’ll actually sign an agreement that guarantees they’ll sell a certain amount of product.”

“I definitely had some dark days after that. I wondered whether I was cut out for this. I questioned myself, but what I never questioned was the idea or the product and that’s what kept me going.”


What also kept Amy going was the support of Mommy bloggers and the success she’d see from placing her product in the gifting suites that celebrities frequent during awards season.

“Mommy bloggers really embraced Teething Bling,” Amy said. “They’d write about it, and then Mom’s groups would get in touch with us. I’d send them samples and they’d give me feedback about designs and colors they’d like to see. They had so many great ideas and they were gratified to have someone who wanted to know what they had to say. So often the stay-at-home community feels overlooked. They wanted to be part of this and to see it succeed.”

“And I have to say, the first time I saw a celebrity wearing my jewelry, I was screaming! I sent someone to give away samples in a gifting suite just before the Oscars. I couldn’t go because one of my kids was sick, but they promised to send pictures. And the first one that came through was Angela Bassett! I couldn’t believe it was really happening.”

And there was a lot more to come. Between the trade shows, Mommy support and celebrities who were sighted wearing Teething Bling, stores like Target and Buy Buy Baby began calling. Now Amy has distributors around the world and she gives a portion of her proceeds to Dress For Success, a charity that provides professional attire to women trying to break into the workforce -- a tribute to her determined sister-in-law who never gave up on her dreams.

“Maria helped me to see that we can create the life we want,” Amy said softly. “And I hope that by doing this, I can pass that on to my daughters, Alice and Daisy, and to Maria’s daughter Emma, who is seven now. I want them to see that anything is possible.”


Mark Reyland