When I started my invention career in 2002, it took a great deal of time to get any real progress on commercializing my first invention: Savvy Caddy wallets.
Below are 3 things I wish I knew when I started:
- There are many paths to the marketplace for an innovative product
- Licensing your product is generally a long shot, but worth the effort
- Commercializing your invention on your own will be very costly in time and capital
For any new innovative product, there are many paths to the marketplace. The paths and options have increased greatly since I started 12 years ago. Below are just some of the paths any product may take to the marketplace:
- HSN and QVC – sell on TV
- DRTV – direct response television selling – “as seen on TV”
- Licensing to a manufacturer in exchange for royalties
- Selling through retail stores
- Crowd funding sites: Indiegogo, Kickstarter, et al
- Selling online via your website, Amazon, eBay and other sites
- Selling through catalogs
Work to determine, as soon as possible, which path(s) will be most effective for your product; every product has a unique path to the marketplace. I spent too many years in the beginning attempting to license my product to a small set of key manufacturers. Only later did I realize that selling on TV was the obvious best path forward for my product.
Some books written about licensing seem to imply it is easy to do with a few phone calls, a presentation meeting, followed by wrangling over a licensing agreement. That is simply not true. Why is it generally a long shot?
Most manufacturers have their own product development group and are hesitant to license from an outside inventor/product developer – NIH – the not invented here syndrome. In essence, you are competing with their own internal team. Also, manufacturers often prefer to wait until a patent is issued for your product before giving it a serious look. Lastly, manufacturers tend to be risk-averse: new product employees fear being blamed for green-lighting a product that doesn't work out. They would rather simply say no.
Commercializing your own invention – building a business around it – will be very costly in time and capital resources. Not only must you develop a retail-ready product, you must develop attractive packaging, cost-effectively manufacture it and have a retail price that is competitive with similar products. Many mistakes are made along the way – all of which will cost you money.
Had I known the 3 key elements described above when I started inventing, I would have certainly pursued a strategy that would have cut years off the process I actually followed.