As a veteran coach of inventRight, I have the privilege of being introduced to many new products on a weekly basis. The amount of creative talent out there is astonishing. All inventors, or product developers as we teach our students to reference themselves as, have the creative bug. Heck, if you are reading this article, you likely have more ideas in your head than you do fingers on your hand.
I am often asked, “Ryan what do you think of my product?” Truly, what I “think” isn’t worth much. What I know however, is we all have to start looking at the bigger picture. We must learn to utilize a critical and honest assessment of our projects. You have a neat idea, sure. But the real question should be, “What are my hurdles and chances for success?” With a law enforcement background, which is quickly approaching fifteen years, I thrive on facts. There is very little room for speculation, emotion, or bias. Doing so could have potentially deadly results! So when it comes to the students I mentor, it is no wonder I take the same fact based approach. I immediately identify the hurdles which students can anticipate and let them know that initially, the journey they are about to embark on may not be all sunshine and rainbows. All products have hurdles. This isn’t a bad thing. When I invented and licensed the Woof Washer 360, we knew our hurdle would be manufacturing a product that did not leak when under high pressure. I can’t tell you the number of doors that were slammed in my face because a licensee didn’t want to take on the task of creating a leak free product while maintaining tight margins. Woof Washer 360 had the “wow” factor, but reviews of leaking product could be detrimental. We identified this issue early on and attacked it over many meetings with manufacturers.
What is going to be your hurdle to overcome? Will you be offended by my frank and honest feedback? You shouldn’t be. I do not live in a sugar coated world, and if you want to license your product, you shouldn’t either! I expect those under me to accomplish a task quickly and effectively. I say let’s attack that hurdle now!
So, let’s be honest; shall we?
- You have identified what you believe is an extremely unique product that the world is going to fall in love with. Let’s review that sentence again: You have identified what you believe is an extremely unique product that the world is going to fall in love with
LET’S BE HONEST: Did you really identify an extremely unique product. Will the world really love it? Or, did your own fear place blinders on you and your usual sound judgement when doing your market study and prior art search? Blinders at this stage of the process, could potentially derail the whole project. You do not want to pitch a product to a company, only to be told it has been tried before or there are currently items on the market which are extremely similar. Could this have been avoided if you studied the marketplace more thoroughly? Absolutely. Do some inventors chose to ignore the fact that their product may not be unique? Unfortunately, yes.
- You have identified a new product that is highly technical and made of electronic components. You tell yourself that company X and Y are going to love it. It all just makes so much sense...
LET’S BE HONEST: Do you know anything about electronics and how electronic components all come together and interact with each other? If the answer is no, and your product is described as having Bluetooth, Wifi, Thumbprint Reader, Iris Scanner, GPS, Transistors, Resistors, Diodes, Fuses, Batteries or any of the hundreds of other possibilities, then you better do your research and have an understanding of what this all means. Will the electronic giants of the world care that you have an idea, but no understanding or solution as to how it all comes together? Probably not. In these scenarios, I encourage students to reach out to an electrical engineer. Believe it or not, there are many electrical engineers on crowdsourcing websites who will draw up schematics for next to nothing. Imagine approaching that electrical giant with that in your back pocket! Now we are talking.
- You have identified a product that “Johnson and Johnson” or “Proctor and Gamble” are going to love. They will sell millions of them, you tell me.
LET’S BE HONEST: “JJ” and “P&G” as they are often referenced, are the industry giants. They literally are the largest of the large. Their infrastructure is so massive and complex that simply put, they most often, do not need us. But wait Ryan, they both have submittal portals to submit your innovations, you tell me. What you fail to acknowledge is that both also require issued utility patents and a myriad of other specific criteria must be met. It is not uncommon for new inventors to want to submit to these companies. Of course landing a deal with them could potentially change your life in an instant! Unfortunately, this is not a likely scenario. Get it out of your system, submit if must. Afterwards, please aim for a medium sized company. They need us. They want us. They welcome us. They are hungry for market space. Companies who are the size JJ and P&G neither need us to thrive nor to survive.
- You tell me that you have identified a product that every household in America will want and need.
LET’S BE HONEST: If you truly have a product that every house in the United States needs, then you are sitting on a gold mine! Are you looking at this analytically? Do you really, truly mean this? Or is this typical inventor talk that makes us sound like, well, “typical inventors”? Nothing will make a potential licensee’s eyes roll back in their head like the typical crazy inventor who states, “Every house in America will want this.” Be passionate about your product. Don’t be foolishly optimistic.
- You show me your product. It is rather large and quite heavy. It is apparent this will be a nightmare to package. Still, you advise me that every Walmart, Target, and drug store in the nation will be beating down your door to stock this on their shelves.
LET’S BE HONEST: The first generation Woof Washer 360 was an awkward shaped item. It took a box that roughly looked like and was dimensioned to that of a pizza box. With a little pushing from Walmart, the second generation Woof Washer 360 was developed. The new design utilized several hinges which allowed the unit to fold up. Sure, this looked neat, but the reality is that this allowed us to package it in a very small box. It all makes simple sense. If Walmart can fit 10 units on a shelf as opposed to 5 units, did they not just double their potential revenue? Retailers calculate their retail sales per square foot. It is a metric that is taken very seriously. If you can shrink your product down, then run with it! Aren’t the majority of products at Walmart fairly small? Think about it.
- You advise me that your product’s name and logo is spectacular. The company is going to use your name and logo on the box. The trademark alone is worth thousands.
LET’S BE HONEST: It is highly unlikely the licensee will keep either your name or logo unless you have established some level of brand identity that can be leveraged. Additionally, your product’s name, logo, and colors will likely need to be consistent with other lines the licensees offer. Please do not spend money on trademarks at this point. There are other less expensive ways to protect a name that you are passionate about, but this should be the least of your concerns from a licensing perspective.
I have said it many times. Licensing is extremely easy. Nothing myself or any of my colleagues at inventRight will teach, or ask you to do, is difficult. But why take on a product and invest your time and money if you haven’t looked at it with a critical eye? Failure to do so could bring on unexpected delays and cause a lot of unneeded stress.
So you want me to have a look at your product? I’d be happy to. But first, there are just a few thing I have to be honest about...