Thursday, July 31

Meet my friend Kedma.....

I've met a lot of people in my day, many of them memorable for things they have accomplished, and some memorable for the people they are, every once in a while you meet someone who is both. One such person I met years ago is a staunch, take no prisoners style advocate of the independent inventor.  Her name is Kedma Ough, and although she has an "all business" exterior, inside she's a soft, kind, and extremely intelligent woman.
Here's an article she recently had published in Entrepreneur magazine.....see, I told ya she was smart.
In 2009, I decided to attend the National Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Conference to understand how the government could partner with businesses and support innovative ideas and technologies.
I was frustrated with the lack of capital available for small businesses. Most of the funds being promoted in the finance community were either debt financing requiring the repayment of a loan or equity financing requiring the business to give up a percentage of the profit in exchange for the necessary funding.
Sitting at the SBIR conference, I listened to agency after agency share their funding allocation for research and development. I couldn’t believe that these agencies were willing to pay for the infancy stage of innovation and kept pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. That experience led me to host the 2012 national conference and introduce the opportunity for free research and development dollars to thousands of small businesses.
Here are the five key things to understanding the SBIR funding program.
1. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) mission. The SBIR program, established in 1982, is focused on providing grants and contracts to small businesses with 500 employees or fewer in the development of a new concept. More than $2 billion is distributed annually to support early-stage concepts that need the necessary research and development to validate feasibility and compete in the global innovation marketplace.
2. The benefits of winning an SBIR grant or contract. There are several benefits to winning an SBIR grant or contract. The small business doesn’t have to pay back the funds or give up a percentage of equity in the business. Any intellectual property is owned exclusively by the small business. Collateral or exceptional credit is not a requirement. In almost all cases, the goal of the program is to fund early-stage high-risk technologies, a completely different funding philosophy to standard lenders or venture capitalists.
3. The typical award size and success ratio. In a phase-one grant, the small business can receive a grant up to $150,000 for the initial research and development of the idea. Assuming the project is successful, the small business can apply for a second grant ranging up to $1 million over a two-year period.
The average success ratio of a phase one grant is one in 10 applications reviewed. In phase two, it’s one in five.
4. The type of topics that can be found in an SBIR solicitation varies. The SBIR program solicit topics through 11 federal agencies, including the Departments of Health, Defense, Education, Energy and Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health and many more.
Hundreds of topics are released quarterly, ranging from software system development, health-care solutions, online learning tools and clean energy.
5. Resources and information available about the SBIR. Tapping into the opportunity to apply for government grants begins with learning about the grants process. One of my favorite sights to research SBIR funding is the SBIR Gateway This site is filled with a lot of valuable SBIR information including solicitation dates, calendar of events and upcoming trainings in your area.
The SBIR program has provided hundreds-of-thousands of small businesses the opportunity to develop their concept in collaboration with the government in the pursuit of innovation.

Wednesday, July 30

Rose asked a good question....

Hello mark, I have just invented something good and had a prototype made of my design, have a company name, but it hard to get packages,, what eve else has to be done, I'm stuck, I don't not know what I'm supposed to do now time running out.. End line is in Dec,, I need help, is there any advice that you can give?


Hi Rose,

Sure, I can give you the same advice I give hundreds of inventors. STOP!

Not stop pursuing your dream. Stop in the sense that you are on the wrong path.

What you are attempting to do is the most common mistake in our industry. Somehow you got it in your head (probably from one of those stupid TV shows) that you know how to invent, develop, sell, and distribute retail products. Well, news flash Rose - you probably don't. In fact, I know people who do this for a living and still don't know the complex processes involved in those tasks - and several of those morons have a book to sell you. 

So where does that leave you? Simple, in the same boat as thousands of other inventors. You now have the chance to stop your current process, correct your direction, and attempt to monetize your invention in a way that makes sense.

What you want to do now Rose is focus on licensing your invention to a company who already does all those complicated tasks you thought you could handle. In return they are going to give you a percentage of the money they receive from the retailer. Not as much as you may have gotten had you taken the product to market yourself, but the reality is Rose, 100% of zero is still zero.

Here is a link to a blog posting on licensing - it's 10 steps and I promise if you do them and get good at doing them you will find success.

Tuesday, July 29

I didn't know that...

Automatic Teller Machines - ATM
The ATM Machine of Luther Simjian
By Mary Bellis, Guide

An automatic teller machine or ATM allows a bank customer to conduct their banking transactions from almost every other ATM machine in the world. As is often the case with inventions, many inventors contribute to the history of an invention, as is the case with the ATM. Read each page of this article to learn about the many inventors behind the automatic teller machine or ATM.
In 1939, Luther Simjian patented an early and not-so-successful prototype of an ATM.
However, some experts have the opinion that James Goodfellow of Scotland holds the earliest patent date of 1966 for a modern ATM, and John D White (also of Docutel) in the US is often credited with inventing the first free-standing ATM design. In 1967, John Shepherd-Barron invented and installed an ATM in a Barclays Bank in London. Don Wetzel invented an American made ATM in 1968.
However, it wasn't until the mid to late 1980s that ATMs became part of mainstream banking.
Luther Simjian came up with the idea of creating a "hole-in-the-wall machine" that would allow customers to make financial transactions. In 1939, Luther Simjian applied for 20 patents related to his ATM invention and field tested his ATM machine in what is now Citicorp. After six months, the bank reported that there was little demand for the new invention and discontinued its use.
According to BBC News, the world's first ATM was installed in a branch of Barclays in Enfield, North London. John Shepherd Barron, who worked for the printing firm De La Rue was the chief inventor.
In a Barclays press release, the bank stated that comedy actor Reg Varney, star of TV sitcom "On the Buses", became the first person in the country to use a cash machine at Barclays Enfield on June 27th 1967 (see photo). The ATMS were at that time called DACS for De La Rue Automatic Cash System. John Shepherd Barron was the managing director of De La Rue Instruments, the company which made the first ATMS.
At that time plastic ATM cards did not exist. John Shepherd Barron's ATM machine took checks that were impregnated with carbon 14, a slightly radioactive substance. The ATM machine would detect the carbon 14 mark and match it against a pin number.
The idea of a personal identification number or PIN was thought up by John Shepherd Barron and refined by his wife Caroline, who changed John’s six digit number to four as it was easier to remember.
John Shepherd Barron never patented his ATM invention instead he decided to try to keep his technology a trade secret. John Shepherd Barron stated that after consulting with Barclay's lawyers, "we were advised that applying for a patent would have involved disclosing the coding system, which in turn would have enabled criminals to work the code out."
In 1967, a bankers' conference was held in Miami with 2,000 members in attendance. John Shepherd Barron had just installed the first ATMs in England, and was invited to talk at the conference. As a result, the first American order for a John Shepherd Barron ATM was placed. Six ATMs were installed at the First Pennsylvania Bank in Philadelphia.
Don Wetzel was the co-patentee and chief conceptualist of an automated teller machine, an idea he said he thought of while waiting in line at a Dallas bank. At the time (1968) Don Wetzel was the Vice President of Product Planning at Docutel, the company that developed automated baggage-handling equipment.
The other two inventors listed on the Don Wetzel patent were Tom Barnes, the chief mechanical engineer and George Chastain, the electrical engineer. It took five million dollars to develop the ATM. The concept first began in 1968, a working prototype came about in 1969 and Docutel was issued a patent in 1973. The first Don Wetzel ATM was installed in a New York based Chemical Bank.
Don Wetzel on the first ATM installed at the Rockville Center, New York Chemical Bank from a NMAH interview.
"No, it wasn't in a lobby, it was actually in the wall of the bank, out on the street. They put a canopy over it to protect it from the rain and the weather of all sorts. Unfortunately they put the canopy too high and the rain came under it. One time we had water in the machine and we had to do some extensive repairs. It was a walkup on the outside of the bank.
That was the first one. And it was a cash dispenser only, not a full ATM... We had a cash dispenser, and then the next version was going to be the total teller (created in 1971), which is the ATM we all know today -- takes deposits, transfers money from checking to savings, savings to checking, cash advances to your credit card, takes payments; things like that. So they didn't want just a cash dispenser alone."
Read more about the ATM and other inventors at
Mark Reyland

Monday, July 28

What will they say about you in 100 Years?


Invention Of Stapler One Of Many Feats By Henry Heylul 12 2012 00:00:00 EA03_LS
Los Angeles
, INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY delivers unique stock investment research, education and stock tips for new or seasoned investors, combined with daily business and financial news.askibd@investors.com310-448-6600WilliamO'Neil12655 Beatrice StreetLos AngelesCA90066USA12655 Beatrice StreetLos AngelesCA90066USA
Henry Renno Heyl displayed a knack for playful creativity starting with his first two big ideas in 1870.

At age 28, Heyl unveiled his Magic Lantern Projector to an audience of 1,600 in Philadelphia. It projected onto a screen a rapid succession of images — of a waltz synchronized to orchestral music. His demo would ignite the motion picture industry.

His second idea that year was a portable croquet table.

For the next 41 years, Heyl patented nine more inventions, ranging from a book binding system to paper cups and a bicycle seat.

But the one that swept the world was his invention of the stapler.

Numerous inventors had developed methods for stitching sheets of paper with brass or metal clasps.
The earliest known stapling device was developed in the 1700s for King Louis XV of France, using ornate staples imprinted with the royal court's insignia.

Other notable stapler inventions came from George McGill in 1866 and Charles Gould in 1868.
But the devices were large, clunky and impractical.

A better, simple solution was needed, and Heyl came through.

In 1877 he filed a patent titled "Improvement in Devices for Inserting Metallic Staples." It was the first machine that could insert and clinch a staple in one step.

His patent describes "an implement in the form of a hand-stamp by which metallic staples may be forced through sheets of paper documents, and secured by clinching the legs on the reverse side."

Mark Reyland, Executive Director of the United Inventors Association of America, told IBD: "Previous versions were not commercially viable. What Heyl did was create a way that addressed the core function of a stapler in a way that made it a commercial success."

Further advancements in stapler design came from various inventors. The dominant look of today emerged around 1940.

While the functionality has stayed the same, the form and design have evolved. One China-based stapler manufacturer, Diao, lists on its website 218 models of various colors, shapes and sizes.

It's a typical part of the invention process, says Reyland. For example, Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb, as is widely thought. Historians count more than 20 inventors of incandescent lamps prior to Edison. His big breakthrough, though, was developing the tungsten filament along with a bulb configuration that blew past the competition.

"Previous versions of the light bulb did not address the problem at a functional level of viability," said Reyland. The same idea applies to the stapler. Heyl did not invent the first stapler, but he showed a better way to make it work.

In addition to his stapler, projector and book binding system, Heyl invented a system for making paper boxes, one for making paper tubes, and a system druggists could use to quickly make suppositories.

Despite his inventive success, not much has been written about Heyl (1842-1919). He was born in Philadelphia, one of eight children to Lewis and Maria Heyl.

He married Mary Knauff and had four children. He also served in the U.S. military. Inventing was clearly his passion, as records show that for many years Heyl was involved with Philadelphia's Franklin Institute, a bastion of inventive minds.

Heyl demonstrated his Magic Lantern, better known as the Phasmatrope, at Franklin soon after its official introduction.

When Heyl shared that early version of the movie projector, a printed program said, "This is a recent invention, designed to give various objects and figures upon the screen the most graceful and lifelike movements. The effects are similar to those produced in the familiar toy called the Zoetrope, where men are seen walking, running and performing various feats in most perfect imitation of real life."

Heyl worked at the Franklin Institute from at least 1885 through 1908, rising to chairman of its committee on science & arts. He also received a laureate from Franklin for his book binding invention.

In his executive positions, Heyl was involved in observing and reviewing many inventions that came through the Franklin doors.

Heyl's inventive nature was passed on to at least one of his sons, Paul Heyl, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a science degree in 1894. His laureate from Franklin came in physics, for measurements of gravitation.

Despite his significant contributions, Heyl largely remains an obscure figure.

That's common among inventors, says John Lienhard, professor of mechanical engineering and history at the University of Houston.

An example is the invention of the airplane. Though the Wright brothers are credited as the first inventors with their 1903 flight in Kitty Hawk, N.C., numerous people before them contributed mightily to their success.

Leonardo da Vinci is hardly obscure, but his flight study of 1480 is. George Cayley, considered the father of aerodynamics, modeled the principles of a plane as early as 1792. Samuel Langley in 1891 flew his Aerodrome plane for three-fourths of a mile before running out of fuel. Langley later gave up on further improvements.

"The plane was a collection of inventions, and the Wrights were finally able to get to the stage where people could look up and say it flew," said Lienhard.

Lienhard, author of "How Invention Begins: Echoes of Old Voices in the Rise of New Machines," said inventions come into being over a long time: "It's the work of many people, just like the stapler was. Someone reaches a form that is sufficiently functional as to catch the public's eye."

Some inventors make many things but are known for just one. Example: Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone. Bell also had key breakthroughs in optical communications, medical devices and aeronautics — but who remembers?

Then there are inventors stuck on a single idea. Take Cyrus McCormick, who lived in the 1800s and is credited with making the mechanical reaper, liberating farm workers from hours of grim labor. "Instead of inventing new stuff, McCormick spent the rest of his life fighting patent wars," said Lienhard.

Heyl did confront one major patent battle, which he won.

Otherwise, he was inventing from his 20s through his last patented invention, known as "Paper Drinking Cup," filed in 1911, when Heyl was 69.

Apparently, it wasn't the first paper cup. That reportedly goes to Hugh Moore in 1908, inventor of what became the Dixie cup.

Here again, the question of who invented the paper cup is murky.

According to the 1905 volume "The Paper Box Maker and American Bookbinder," Union Paper Cup Co. set plans to manufacture paper milk bottles and cups that year. Heyl was president of the company, which aimed to build a large factory in Trenton, N.J.

By 1908, though, the company was in bankruptcy proceedings.

All the while, Heyl was constantly designing or associating with pioneers — a classic trait of the true inventor. "Great artists, creative artists of any kind will always find a coterie of people to talk to, defying the stereotype of the lonely inventor," said Lienhard. "Bell and Edison did that."

The last patent Heyl received was in 1913, for a seam clamp used to make paper tubes. He was 71 - he died just five years later at age 76.

Mark Reyland

Friday, July 25

I'm no Boy Scout

When I was a kid I was a Boy Scout. In fact I have a brother and two nephews that are Eagle Scouts. They obviously worked much harder at the process than I did, and in the end they achieved what they set out to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my years in scouting. But being more the analytical type and not really the knot tying guru scouting requires, I guess I just lost interest.
One thing I would have enjoyed earning while I was a scout didn’t come on the scene until 2010 - The Inventing Merit Badge. It’s true – in 2010 the Boy Scouts of America rolled out the official Inventing Merit Badge.
As I read through the requirements for this Merit Badge I could not help but think about all the inventors I come across who would actually be more successful if they just followed the same steps as the Boy Scouts earning the Inventing Merit Badge. Take a look for yourself. In fact, the next time an inventor asks me what they should do first – I may just tell them to earn this Merit Badge.

1. In your own words, define inventing. Then do the following:

a. Explain to your merit badge counselor the role of inventors and their inventions in the economic development of the United States.

b. List three inventions and state how they have helped humankind.

2. Do ONE of the following:

a. Identify and interview with a buddy (and with your parent’s permission and merit badge counselor’s approval) an individual in your community who has invented a useful item. Report what you learned to your counselor.

b. Read about three inventors. Select the one you find most interesting and tell your counselor what you learned.

3. Do EACH of the following:

a. Define the term intellectual property. Explain which government agencies oversee the protection of intellectual property, the types of intellectual property that can be protected, how such property is protected, and why protection is necessary.

b. Explain the components of a patent and the different types of patents available.

c. Examine your Scouting gear and find a patent number on a camping item you have used. With your parent’s permission, use the Internet to find out more about that patent. Compare the finished item with the claims and drawings in the patent. Report what you learned to your counselor.

d. Explain to your counselor the term patent infringement.

4. Discuss with your counselor the types of inventions that are appropriate to share with others, and explain why. Tell your counselor about one nonpatented or noncopyrighted invention and its impact on society.

5. Choose a commercially available product that you have used on an overnight camping trip with your troop. Make recommendations for improving the product, and make a sketch that shows your recommendations. Discuss your recommendations with your counselor.

6. Think of an item you would like to invent that would solve a problem for your family, troop, chartered organization, community, or a special-interest group. Then do EACH of the following, while keeping a notebook to record your progress:

a. Talk to potential users of your invention and determine their needs. Then, based on what you have learned, write a statement describing the invention and how it would help solve a problem. This statement should include detailed sketch of the invention.

b. Create a model of the invention using clay, cardboard, or any other readily available material. List the materials necessary to build a prototype of the invention.

c. Share the idea and the model with your counselor and potential users of your invention. Record their feedback in your notebook.

7. Build a working prototype of the item you invented for requirement 6*. Test and evaluate the invention. Among the aspects to consider in your evaluation are cost, usefulness, marketability, appearance, and function. Describe how your original vision and expectations for your invention are similar or dissimilar to the prototype you built. Have your counselor evaluate and critique your prototype

Thursday, July 24

There are no shortcuts....

Websites Wooing Tomorrow's Thomas Edisons
An 'industry of failure,' flooded with folks trying to build a better spatula.


Everyone wants to be an inventor. So when I had the opportunity to test-drive an idea at Quirky, a company that helps people commercialize their product ideas, I jumped at the chance.

During a presentation at Quirky's industrial-chic Manhattan headquarters, 25-year-old founder Ben Kaufman wowed us with tales of how he took his first trip to China to sell the headphones he invented -- while still in high school. I found myself fantasizing that my own idea -- conjured up the night before -- could yield a globe-trotting business trip. I was soon to learn, however, that the odds of seeing my product on a store shelf were less than 1 percent, according to the United Inventors Association of America . And those odds are getting worse every day, thanks to a flood of would-be inventors and "want-repreneurs" egged on by reality TV shows and economic malaise, says Mark Reyland, the association's director.

Kaufman launched Quirky after he sold his iPod accessory company. Quirky relies on crowd-sourcing, or input from an online community of experts, to improve the design process. There are other websites with similar business models, but Quirky claims it's the only one in which its community of helpers can share in the profits. And you can actually find a few Quirky projects selling at the mall. Pivot Power, a flexible power strip, is sold at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Target sells Tether Stemware Savers, which protect wineglasses in dishwashers.

My brilliant idea was the Phone Finder, a clip-on device that would prevent kids from losing their cell phones by buzzing or vibrating when they got too far from their phones. Since my two sons have lost a dozen phones between them, I thought this could be a hit with parents.

Other than a $10 submission fee (presumably to screen out time machines), Quirky's system is free to inventors. Once uploaded, my Phone Finder would be reviewed for 30 days by Quirky's users -- there are over 200,000 registered, and about 24,000 qualify as "active." The community could give its approval and weigh in on how my device could be improved; the company picks two products a week to develop. Quirky owns the rights to any submitted product and pays for manufacturing and distribution costs. Inventors can collect as much as 10 percent of the eventual sale price -- a fair deal, compared with what the United Inventors Association of America says is the typical cut of 6 to 8 percent.

Excited as I was, I got a first hint of dismay when I toured the site to see the competition. My breakthrough was up against a knife holder, a fridge magnet notepad and a wet suit with zip-off arms and legs -- most of it looked like stuff you'd find in the SkyMall catalog. Quirky says its product line has a preponderance of household gadgets because it asks its inventors to solve everyday problems.

I waited to see what the community thought. And if my 30 days hadn't expired, I might still be waiting. The only two responses I received were from other Quirky "inventors," one of whom had a product that sounded eerily like my own. Neither wrote with helpful suggestions but encouraged me to check out their own inventions.

Crestfallen, I consulted a friend who's well-versed in technology. He helped me do some market research. I had originally tested my idea with a quick Internet search, and it turned out I had used the wrong terms. Honestly, the phrase "Bluetooth proximity alarm" never occurred to me. Now I found a whole page of results for my "unique" product, offered by assorted Chinese manufacturers. Worse, my product looked to be on sale for under $3. One is clearly aimed at children; the design featured a picture of a dopey little dog waving its paw. Waving goodbye to my profits, I decided.

Sulkily, I checked in with Quirky's Kaufman to analyze my failure. Promoting an idea on social networks is important, he informed me. "Did you tweet your idea?" he asked. Yes, but I, ahem, don't have many followers. My submissions page on Quirky was also not so well designed. And then there's the originality problem. "Frankly," added Kaufman, "I have seen a lot of things like this." Ouch.

The conventional inventor community takes a dim view of crowd-sourcing. United Inventors' Reyland says a patent challenge could theoretically come from crowd members who contributed to a licensed product. "It's a time bomb" to manufacturers, he adds. Quirky says its experience with large retailers belies the idea that big companies don't like crowd-sourced ideas; it also says the patent risks are fully disclosed in a five-page release form that inventors sign. As for the eventual payoff, Quirky says it will send out checks totaling $1 million this year to its community members; the average amount paid to an active member, however, is just under $50.

As for my own invention's results, I felt marginally better after Reyland reminded me that inventing is itself "an industry of failure." The market is flooded with folks working on a better spatula in their backyard, he adds. "The common denominator is hope."

Mark Reyland

Wednesday, July 23

A dream comes true

For the 1.6 billion people worldwide with no access to electricity—and at least a billion more subject to shortages and rolling blackouts—some form of lighting is essential; however, until recently the choice has been kerosene lamps or even dirtier choices, such as wood and dung. One company, Nokero, is bringing a healthy solar lighting and phone-charging option to people in 120 countries, many of whom would otherwise rely on dangerous energy sources. But in January of 2010, the company was only a dream. Quite literally, a dream.

“The date of conception of the first bulb was January 23, 2010,” says Nokero founder Steve Katsaros, recalling his flash of insight, in a conversation with Organic Connections. “I woke up with the idea and sketched it in the morning—something I commonly do.”

Katsaros is a life-long inventor, mechanical engineer, and patent agent by training; so perhaps it’s no surprise that he was able to sketch the bulb, file for a patent four days later, and have his company up and running within six months. In its first month of operation, Nokero sold $50,000 worth of its first offering, which features a built-in solar charger and hook so that it can hang to charge outside by day and then be brought in to provide lighting at night.

The funny thing is, Katsaros initially thought his design would be most useful on the modern American patio. “It was only after I conceived the product that I learned that one out of every four humans in the world has no access to electricity,” he confesses. “I found the problem after I came up with the solution!”

Always Inventing

What makes an inventor tick? “You should talk to my mom,” Katsaros says. “I was taking off doorknobs by the age of three, and at six I swapped out a new thermostat for the house. By the time I was in high school, I’d invented a ski tuning tool for sharpening skis, which I sold to shops to support my ski racing. In college I developed a bike rack and brought it to market, and after college I sold an invention to the ski company Dynastar, leading to the first shaped ski with risers.”
Katsaros received a BS in mechanical engineering from Purdue and in 2002 followed up his ski-related inventions with a design for RevoPower, a wheel with a built-in two-stroke engine that could be retrofitted to a bicycle, essentially converting it into a motorcycle. In 2012, he was recognized by his alma mater with the annual Outstanding Mechanical Engineer Award for his work launching Nokero.
But at the moment in 2010 when the light bulb came on in his brain, Katsaros was working unhappily as a patent agent in a law office, and he was bored. Once he’d developed the concept for a solar light, Katsaros realized just how many people in the world could benefit from such an invention. All he needed was a name.

The Birth of Nokero

Katsaros brainstormed more than a hundred possible names. He wanted something that the company could clearly brand, and he wanted it to have meaning. Kero, he learned, is common parlance for kerosene, as gas is for gasoline. And kerosene, for many of the world’s poor, is one of the few available sources of light.

“The world’s poor are spending $38 billion annually on kerosene,” Katsaros points out, “but it’s really a lighting source of last resort. For fifty cents, they can buy enough light for a night or two. Yet there’s a huge amount of data on the carcinogens it releases and its effects on the respiratory system.
The United Nations has declared this the decade of sustainable energy for all,” he continues, “so this issue is really on the radar and the sector is taking off. But even though we’re seeing an acceleration of sales, we have a long way to go before we have five hundred million people with solar lights.”

Delivering Light

For the world’s poorest, the idea of spending eight to fifteen dollars on a solar light is unfeasible; though the purchase will break even in just two months, they simply don’t have the savings. To get their products in consumers’ hands, Nokero works both with humanitarian groups and with networks of distributors around the world.
“I classify our buyers in two big buckets—aid and paid,” Katsaros laughs. The humanitarian groups include ChildFund International, microlender EarthSpark International and many others, as well as countless church groups and smaller organizations that purchase bulbs to distribute during aid work.
But the paid networks are truly unique. “Our reseller networks are different all over the world,” explains Katsaros. “In India, we work with a famous old company with seven thousand door-to-door salespeople. In Nigeria, boys on bikes sell ice cream and solar lights. In Tanzania, a group of women entrepreneurs go out in the streets of Dar es Salaam whenever there’s a brownout. Rule number one is go where the market is.”
In four years, Nokero has grown to have a staff of fifteen—ten in its Denver home office, the rest in China and Kenya. In the near future, the company is aiming to ship a million units per quarter. “We’re a for-profit company,” Katsaros concludes, “but it’s about people and the planet, not just dollars. Our work is from the heart, and the stories we hear daily mean so much more than money.”
For people in 120 countries around the world, Nokero means light—clean, safe light that allows families to connect and children to study without breathing in smoke and fumes. And for Katsaros, Nokero is nothing less than a dream come true.

To learn about or purchase Nokero’s solar bulbs and chargers, visit

This article was emailed to me from a friend, unfortunately I do not know the author or its origin - Mark Reyland

Tuesday, July 22

I'll take a Taco ...plate

Walmart buys one million taco plates from inventor
By Scott Inman,

An Arkansas inventor is putting his creation onto Walmart store shelves.
Hugh Jarratt of Fayetteville says the retail giant put in an order for 1 million of his plastic taco plates Tuesday.

The plates are plastic, with slots made into them that keep tacos upright.

Jarratt was one of 800 inventors to go before Walmart buyers to pitch their products in the company's first-ever "Open-Call" for U.S. inventors.

It's part of a new initiative by the company to get more American products on store shelves.

"It kind of hit us for a second, I was like, 'OK, so we got to produce a million taco plates. Where do we start?" Jarratt's wife Nicole said.

Jarratt said he and his wife, who is also his business partner, are working with a local plastics molding company to produce the plates.

Mark Reyland

Monday, July 21

What's YOUR name?

Choosing a name is one of the parts of a startup I find the most difficult. It’s also something you can easily get hung up on. We all know that the key thing is to move on to actually building something we can put in front of users.

Here are three steps I would take if I was naming a new startup:

1. If you can, stick to two syllables

Often constraints are good when undertaking a creative process like naming your startup. One of the best constraints I’ve found with startup naming is to try to stick to 2 syllables. It’s something I remember talking about a lot with my previous co-founder and good friend Tom. Generally following this rule results in a great name. Just look at some examples of two syllable names:

  • Google
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Foursquare
  • DropBox
  • Pocket
  • Tumblr
  • Flickr
  • HipChat
  • Sparrow
  • Tweetbot
  • Reeder

All great startups. There are always exceptions to any rule, but I find it much harder to think of many successful startups which have names of more than 2 syllables than those with names with 2 syllables. There are some great single syllable names too, but that’s even harder:

  • Square
  • Path
  • Box

2. Make it easy for yourself

I used to try to be very clever about naming my startup. I’d try to combine words in a smart way and come up with something really catchy that sounded great.

Unfortunately, I’m not the most creative person. I have a good idea from time to time, but they happen much less frequently for me than some other people I know. For example, my friend Tom is really great at thinking of short, clear names like Skinnyo, SlideReach or Quotespire.

Therefore, since I don’t have that creativity, I take a slightly different approach. I simply think about a real word that describes the service or a key feature of the service the startup will provide. This is how I arrived at the name Buffer.

I also like the “real word” approach for a couple of other reasons:

  • You’re more likely to end up with a name that can be “spoken” without confusion. I can assure you it’s not fun to spend the years on your startup having to always clarify the name.
  • It’s much easier to stick to the two syllables rule if you’re using a real word rather than combining words to create a new one.

3. The domain name doesn’t matter

I see many, many founders limiting themselves with the domain name. One thing I’ve learned and embraced with naming my own startups is that the domain name doesn’t matter at all. The name itself matters much more than having the same domain name. Pick a great name, go with a tweaked domain name.

My current startup is named Buffer, but the domain name is

My previous startup was named OnePage, but the domain name was

The most interesting part is that having a matching domain name seems to have no bearing at all on whether you will succeed with your startup. Chris Dixon said this a while back, but it's still relevant:

Just take a look at all these successful startups which either had a temporary domain name, or which still have a different domain name to their name:

  • Square was
  • DropBox was
  • Facebook was
  • Instagram was
  • Twitter was
  • Foursquare was
  • Basecamp is
  • Pocket is
  • Bitly was/is
  • Delicious was
  • Freckle is

Pick a great name, then add something to get a domain name. It really doesn’t matter all that much –whether you get the domain later or don’t. Then get building!

Joel Gascoigne: Joel is the founder and CEO at Buffer. He is focused on the lean startup approach, user happiness, transparency & company culture.

Mark Reyland