If you've been reading my series of articles for inventRight's blog for any length of time, you have likely realized that I write about the struggles and triumphs my students are facing in real time. My goal has always been to provide a fresh snap shot of what people like you are currently experiencing.
If you are paying very close attention and are one of my inventRight students, you may have realized that one of my posts was even about you! (Doesn't a famous pop singer with the initials of T.S., whom our cofounder Stephen Key worked with, do this?)
As of late, I am seeing a trend of students dead set on submitting only to the big companies. The crème de la crème. The mega corporations, as Stephen calls them. Truly, it makes sense. These companies have mass distribution and are household names. However, there are a number of reasons why having such an exclusive focus on these companies is not in your best interest.
Most first-time inventors can't quite see the logic that I'm about to explain. I am met with much resistance when I introduce the following reasons to focus on contacting less than huge companies as well. Typically, I hear, "Ya, but...."
Hear me out! Let's take a look at the top five reasons not to submit to big companies only.
"I'm the King of the World!"
Take a look at the items under your kitchen and bathroom sinks. See all of those? They are all manufactured by one or two massive corporations. You know them, trust me. They are household names. And guess what? They own that category. They are at the top. Are they as hungry as a mid size company that is trying to get a piece of that market share? Not likely. They do not need your simple improvement to stay at the top of the mountain. They are already there and will remain there with or without you.
Yes — I understand that these companies all have 'submission portals' and say they subscribe to open innovation. Why wouldn't they? I truly believe that inventRight has put open innovation on the map. What was once a relatively unknown term has certainly become a buzzword in this community. Touting open innovation is good for business. It humanizes the brand. But I argue that many of the big boys, as I will affectionately refer to them from here on out, truly do not subscribe to it.
Play by the rules or you're outta here!
The big boys require patents. Many of them quite simply refuse to even review your material without an issued utility patent. A shoe brand which we all know, officially calls their submission process the "Patented Idea Submission." They make it very clear that if you do not follow their process exactly as outlined and submit anything outside the scope set forth, "[They] will discard them without review." This doesn't sound very inventor friendly to me. Doesn't reaching out to a product manager or brand manager via LinkedIn, email or cold call at smaller company make so much more sense?
Massive R&D departments.
The big boys have extensive design teams inhouse. These teams are comprised of artists, engineers, and professional product developers. It is very likely they are already working on something similar to your idea. This is one reason why everything is more difficult.
I did a bit of research into one of those companies you found underneath your sink. They have 95,000 employees. No, that is not a typo. 95,000! How badly do you think they need you? On the contrary, one of their much smaller competitors — that shares the exact same shelf space — has around 300 employees. Which company do you think you have a better chance of standing out at and getting your product seriously considered? Be pragmatic.
Moving at a snail's pace.
The big boys are in no rush. The bigger they are, the slower they move. Rolling out any new innovation is planned many seasons in advance. It could be many months before your product is reviewed and upwards of a year for them to make a decision on whether or not to move on it! When their legal team gets involved, you can expect another series of delays. Working with large companies is not a quick play. Be prepared for this to be a multi year project.
Take a number.
Often overlooked by inventors is that when you submit your product to one of the big boys, you are competing with potentially hundreds of other inventors whom are also licking their chops to have their product licensed. The odds are not so good! The smaller company may get a handful of ideas a month.
I urge you to find the right medium sized companies to pitch your ideas to. In my experience contacting companies about my new product ideas, they are much more inventor friendly. I rarely, if ever, go to the big companies. It would truly have to be a perfect storm for them to let you in the door, let alone start talking numbers with you. Of course, inventors have licensed to these types of companies, but it is exceedingly rare. Something overly simple or a small tweak to an existing product just isn't going to excite an industry giant enough to take action in most cases.
If you must submit to a big company, then do so. It pains me to say, but to the industry Goliaths in most industries, we are small potatoes. If you want to be taken seriously, look elsewhere — for the many other mid-sized companies that can make your dream a reality too!