Top Ten Inventor Myths
Assistant Director for Technical Consulting
Bucknell University SBDC
10. I don’t need a business plan. Of course you don’t need a plan. You’re an expert at this, having done it so many times now. Big league coaches don’t bother to plan for a game; they don’t really care that much about the outcome, anyway. Generals don’t make war plans. Surgeons don’t have the right knowledge, staff and tools at the ready. Just wing it; you’ll do fine.
9. There are plenty of grants to fund my invention. If you are a PhD. involved in cutting-edge research, yes, there are grants available. For the rest of us it will not be that easy, regardless of what you heard on TV from the question mark guy. Prepare to invest your hard-earned cash, along side the hard-earned cash of others.
8. I don’t need help; I’d have to share the profit. Let’s see…didn’t some California gold rush miners have this mentality? “The mine is mine, it’s all mine, mine I tells ya’.” Too bad they couldn’t get the gold out to market without the picks, shovels, dynamite and mules potential partners had at their disposal. Inspiration may be the purview of the individual but getting it to market takes a team.
7. People will invest because of my enthusiasm. Anybody with any sense will invest because they think it will bring them a nice return for the risk they’re taking in you. Prove to investors you’ve worked long and hard enough to find out what the risks are and how to mitigate them.
6. Everybody will want one because my mom/ sister/ cousin/ best friend told me so. Ahhhhhh, just to be sure, you might want to ask a few people who are not expecting to spend the rest of their lives in your presence. Just to be sure, mind you.
5. I can license my idea. Sure, if it’s so outstanding, and so well-protected, and so good a fit with a company’s present product line, and you can get to the right people, and so on. If the planets align in just such a way, you’ll get checks in the mail without having to earn them. People have done it, but more pigs fly.
4. You’ll do that for me, right? No. Many will be happy to assist you; nobody is going to do it for you.
3. I need a patent to keep competitors away. Nothing short of heavenly intervention will keep competition away, so you may as well plan for the inevitable. Think timely action and reaction (like speed chess), not shoot and pause (like a video game).
2. If I build it, they will come. A working prototype is well, well down the road of things to do. A question we like to ask is, “If you had a warehouse full of them right now, what would you do with them?” If you don’t know exactly, see number 10.
1. It’s the idea that makes you rich! As of this writing, there are about 6,684,000 utility patents issued. Right about 2% of those make money. It’s safe to assume, too, that the likes of mega-corporations can be counted in among the money makers. For individual inventors, making money tends to have a lot more to do with the inventor’s hard work than with how great an idea they stumble upon.
The most important rule of all for successful inventing is an easy one to remember, though many forget. Lots…and lots…of people need to buy your product for you to make lots…and lots…of money. They will only buy in large numbers if what you are offering is needed by them and superior to everyone else’s offering to them.
Find a problem, solve the problem, faster to market than anyone else and you will likely succeed. Perhaps, even wildly succeed.