The Power of One Simple Idea

by | Feb 28, 2022

Watch the video to this article at the bottom of the post.

Hi, Stephen Key here. In this article, I’m going to discuss my book, One Simple Idea, and why everyone who has ideas needs to read it.

Back in the 2000s, I received a call from a vice-president in the San Francisco office at the publishing house McGraw-Hill.

He said, “Steve, you need to write a book.” I replied, “What for?”

“Look,” he said, “You’ve got this great information. You’re helping people around the world so they can bring their creativity to market. You need to put your strategies in a book.”

So, that’s exactly what I did. I put all of the information I’m going to share with you in this article, plus much, much more, down on paper in my first book One Simple Idea.

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I wrote One Simple Idea for people who are creative and don’t know what to do with their creativity. These people do not want to start a business, but do want to bring their creativity to life.

I explain how in One Simple Idea. (Find it here on Amazon.com)

When I first started out as a young person, all I wanted to do was be creative. I did not want to take a day job, and I did not want to work for someone else. I wanted to be creative and share my creativity with the world.

So, I developed a process that worked for someone like me — someone who did not want to start a business. Someone who did not want to manage employees. I didn’t think I had the skills or the time, or even the desire to start a business — but I knew I wanted to be creative.

I was able to learn about the licensing business model early on in my career as the Manager of Design at Worlds of Wonder, the toy startup based in the Bay Area. When Ken Forsse invented and licensed Teddy Ruxpin, the world’s first talking teddy bear, to Worlds of Wonder, he achieved something my father talked to me about.

My father said, “Steve, in order for you to create great wealth, you’re going to have to find something that has a multiplying effect and does not require your hands or your presence.”

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Teddy Ruxpin in production in Hong Kong and me working on other plush products.

As I watched Teddy Ruxpin after Teddy Ruxpin come off an assembly line in China, the inventor, Ken Forsse, was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t there. He wasn’t using his hands. And he had accomplished a multiplying effect, which I knew because he was collecting $1 million dollars a month in royalties.

That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks. That’s exactly what I want to do!

I wanted to lend my creativity — in the form of a license — to companies that were already in business, that already had the shelf space, that already had the relationships. I could show those companies my ideas, and they would do all of the heavy lifting for me.

The best part about writing One Simple Idea has been meeting and getting to know people from around the world who have used my process to bring their own creative ideas to life. People like Mohamed Ali, an entrepreneur from Egypt. I got to meet him in person in the fall of 2021 at the 8th annual RiseUp Summit in front of the pyramids in Cairo, Egypt.

Mohamed is a gentleman from Cairo who licensed his simple idea to make power and electrical cords safer, and now it is selling all around the world. (He also manufactures his product domestically. His business partner is his wife.) His invention is called Power Lock. It’s simple, it’s brilliant and he brought it to market by following the advice that I provide in One Simple Idea.

The problem that it solves is the locking mechanism for plugs. Especially for the European plug, he told me.

Mohamed’s background is aerospace engineering, but he’s fond of new ideas and inventions. So, he used the internet to research how to take advantage of his ideas and new inventions. That’s where he found my book One Simple Idea.

“I followed carefully the steps, step by step, starting from Chapter 1: The Power of Simple Ideas, and passing through also Prototyping, Idea Validation, and Protection. I learned how to generate leads, connect with them, and negotiate a licensing contract. And, guess what? I’m now in the last chapter, Living the Dream.”

I am so happy for Mohamed.

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Here I am in Egypt at the Rise Up Summit with Mohamed.

During my career, I’ve learned that not every idea that you come up with requires a patent.

Now, if you’re watching Shark Tank on Friday night, or if you’re listening to your friends, or maybe you’re calling a patent attorney up and you say, “Hey, I’ve got this great idea,” the first thing that they’re going to tell you is, “You need a patent on that.”

But that’s just not true. What I’ve learned, and what I explain in One Simple Idea, is how to test the market to see if you have a product that the market truly wants, and then take the correct steps, such as filing a provisional patent application (which you can do yourself) in order to determine if your idea has legs.

And if it does, then you have the option later of filing a non-provisional patent application, or even better, having the company you’re going to license your invention to pay for all those patent costs.

Having companies work for you allows you to travel the world. It allows you to work on things that you truly love to do. It allows you to design your own life. I’ve been able to do this, not only from Cairo, but from every place I’ve ever traveled.

I love to build things, but I’ve also learned that if you were to build a prototype on every idea that you have, you’re not going to be successful at invention licensing. And the reason why is because you have to be smart with your time and money — your resources. Licensing is a numbers game.

You have to come up with a lot of ideas and spend just a little bit of money on each idea to determine if it has legs — if the market really wants it. So, what I’ve learned is the importance of selling the big benefit of your idea first. I talk a lot about that in One Simple Idea. It’s a really a guide for how you can test every idea that you have very affordably, so you find that one, that one idea that people want. That’s what One Simple Idea is about.

There are other books on inventing out there. In my opinion, some are okay and some are just not very good. The ones that approach licensing from a legal perspective, I don’t think they’re very helpful to inventors at all. They just tell you basically what you can learn anywhere. I believe inventors really need to come at this whole process — the process of commercializing inventions, patents, and licensing — from a business perspective.

There are other resources that look at this whole process from the perspective of big companies, which is absolutely terrible from my point of view. Why? Because these resources don’t explain what we can do as independent inventors to be successful. They just reflect the point of view of big companies.

Most of the other books that I’ve read about product licensing are a little dated. They’re not current. The big difference with One Simple Idea is that it describes a process that I’ve used for 30 years to support my family. Meaning, I’ve looked at product licensing from the perspective of, how do I pay the bills? How do I put my kids through college? How do I make a good living being an inventor? That’s the way I approached it, and that’s why One Simple Idea has been selling for year after year after year.

All right, so what is in One Simple Idea?

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One Simple Idea describes what you need to license your own ideas. At the very beginning, you need to study the marketplace to determine if your idea is new and whether you should go forward with it.  

After you determine that you do have a new idea, One Simple Idea shows you how to increase your chances of success by coming up with more ideas. It also teaches you how to market your ideas by putting together the right sell sheet with the right marketing copy, so companies are interested right away.

Before you send your marketing material off to those companies, One Simple Idea discusses how to protect it with a well-written provisional patent application. Meaning, a provisional patent application that’s written in such a way that companies see the value in your idea.

After you’ve done all of that, and you’re ready to reach out to those companies, it teaches you how to do it the right way and find the right people.

And once they’re interested in your idea, what happens when you get the licensing agreement? One Simple Idea goes through all of the different things in a licensing agreement, such as the right royalty rate, how to protect yourself with audit clauses, and also how to make sure your licensee is performing to keep those royalties coming in. All that is included.

So please, if you’re interested in learning about how to license your idea, One Simple Idea has all the information you’re going to need.