On June 6th I gave a lecture about how to become a licensing agent. I enjoy speaking events because they provide me with opportunities to interact with inventors before and after my presentation. I love listening to their stories and learning from their experiences.
I’ve met one gentleman in particular several times now. And he’s the motivation for writing this blog. In many ways, he exemplifies the “typical” inventor. I think he has a day job, but he’s always coming up with new ideas. However, he never quite finishes these ideas. He stops and starts and stops again. It’s clear that he’s confused about what steps to take (and in what order!). Like many other inventors, when I first met him, he began our conversation by showing me a picture of his invention and describing its features.
Ten minutes later, I still had no idea what he was talking about! Many inventors don’t tell me the name of their product and don’t explain what problem motivated them to create a solution. I don’t understand the big picture. And oftentimes, it leads me to believe that they don’t either. I asked this particular inventor pointblank, “What problem does your invention solve?” He told me very quickly. He began to get into other details, but I asked a second question. “Is there a demand for your invention?”
He looked at me rather blankly. I clarified. “Are people going to want it?” He told me that he began to develop the concept after watching the weather channel; he made an observation that there was a problem and he could solve it with his invention. That’s great. But I wondered, was that problem actual? Or was it simply perceived? He hadn’t done any research to confirm. THIS IS A HUGELY IMPORTANT EARLY, IF NOT FIRST, STEP.
Before you begin traveling down the inventing road, you must determine if people will actually buy your product. I explained to him that it wasn’t difficult to find out. He could call the individuals who work in the area that was being damaged by the weather; do they notice that this problem is popular? Do they usually need to fix the problems caused by this type of weather, or do they replace the part entirely? Do they have to replace it every season? (I apologize for being vague – I can’t give away his idea!) Within twenty minutes, he might learn that yes, it’s a popular problem that demands a solution. Or he might learn that it really isn’t a legitimate problem at all.
Don’t get caught up in small details before you’ve got the big picture!
Stephen Key is a successful award-winning inventor who has licensed
over 20 products in the past 25 years. Along with business partner
Andrew Krauss, Stephen runs inventRight, a company dedicated to educating inventors about selling their ideas and the skills needed to succeed. You can ask questions and get advice on the inventRight forum, check out the resource center, and listen to the weekly radio show on inventing. Get In The News, list your invention to have media outlets find you for news stories.