A Forbes.com article from Zack O’Mallet Greenburg is suggesting that now is a great time to be an inventor. But, the landscape is littered with prototypes of projects that never saw a store shelf. So, if you want to be a successful inventor, what are the key steps to follow and common pitfalls to avoid as an inventor?
Don’t give up
If you ask Lonnie G. Johnson, he would suggest perseverance. Although you might know Mr. Johnson’s name, you are probably more than a little familiar with his product, the Super Soaker. This pressurized squirt gun was developed by accident while Mr. Johnson tinkered in his bathroom.
But, inventing the Super Soaker was perhaps the easy part of the journey. Despite trials along the way, Mr. Johnson was steadfast in his belief that his product was a winner.
Starting by solving a simple problem that affects many people would most likely be Tim Leatherman’s suggestion. A Popular Mechanics article recounts Tim’s frustration while trying to turn the stripped fitting on a hotel room heat radiator. Tim thought others might like to have pliers attached to a pocket knife and the Leatherman pocket tool was born.
Although you might think that the tool was a no-brainer and sales of over 40 million units might agree, Tim would be the first to tell you that the Leatherman was anything but a quick road to riches. Like Lonnie Johnson and many successful inventors, Tim saw his share of twists and turns before the Leatherman truly became a hit invention.
Stand out from the crowd
Eric Migicovsky might suggest daring to be different. He has become the poster child for crowd-funding sites such as Kickstarter. With crowd-funding, Eric’s Pebble Watch bypassed traditional investor channels and went straight to the consumers, raising a record ten million dollars in the process, according to Wired Magazine’s January 2014 article.
Protect what’s yours
Hans Lippershey would most likely suggest that you protect your idea in every possible way, says an article from MSN. Hans had a good idea, but his original patent was denied. Someone else noted the failed patent application and was able to rapidly create the revisions necessary to gain a patent. The someone else was Galileo and the idea was the telescope.
Inventors can handle much of the patent process themselves, but most successful inventors suggest hiring an attorney to oversee the process. Ensuring that your idea is properly protected will help to ensure that you receive the credit and the earnings from your invention.
Don’t go at it alone
Finally, there may be strength in numbers. Just ask Zack Zien. Although it’s not clear why, it seems that Jake was either impatient, fearless or both. Jake took his idea for a flexible power strip to Quirky. Jake apparently was willing to gamble on his idea without legal protections. This strategy is probably best reserved for invention ideas you aren’t passionately attached to.
Quirky is a website where inventions are chosen, refined, produced and marketed by consensus. Members of the site choose which product ideas from thousands of submissions should enter development, then refine the design in the same manner. Users who contribute to the process receive a royalty from the eventual product sales. In Zack’s case, he’s made close to a half million dollars from Pivot Power sales and the membership has been paid one and a half times that for their help.
Lean on those that know
Edward Lakatis, CEO of Idea Design Studios, has helped thousands of inventors get their product to market. There are advantages to using those that have been there and done that. They know the common pitfalls and the tricks of the trade. Don’t be afraid to spend a little money to bring your dream to market.
Regardless of the product you hope to see in stores, these and many other successful inventors would suggest that perseverance, protection and consideration for the unconventional are ways to increase your odds of invention success.