Getting Started

You’ve identified a common problem in your life, work or home and believe you’ve found a solution. So now what do you do? Getting your product or service off the ground can be a very intimidating and confusing process.

The following information will give you a look at what you can do to protect yourself, design the best product and retain control of you invention.

Do The Research

Invention ResearchA lot of people think an idea sounds excellent when told to your friends or family, yet your first step should be proving your idea is great by having the research to back it up. We recommend searching publications related to your market, the internet and the United States Patent & Trademark Office to prove your invention is desirable, unique and patentable.

We also recommend these sites below for more information on this sort of research.

  • NventNode: Invention Development Software
    The world’s first and only invention management software filled with powerful research tools, development tools and marketing tools. Learn how to invent with a purpose while being able to manage all aspects of your product in a collaborative environment. We highly recommend this service and all Design My Idea clients receive an account while we are working on your project.
  • eHow.com: Invention Marketing
    This article includes information on getting started: researching a market, licensing versus producing the product yourself and tips on finding a reputable marketing company. This is a great introduction for those just starting.
  • Entrepreneur.com: Researching the Inventions MarketThis is another great article for researching your potential clients and customers. You should visit here for resources on how to gather data on markets and general advice on getting started.

Don’t Get Swindled

Invention FraudMany inventors have either considered or met with an Invention Promotional company and while there are legitimate companies, many are fraudulent. These fraudulent companies can require large up-front fees for initial “market research” and even larger fees (sometimes tens-of-thousands of dollars) for development along with excessive royalties.

Protect yourself by visiting these links for information on preventing invention promotion fraud:

Get Protection

United States Patent

One of the first things you should consider after researching your idea is to secure protection.

There are a variety of ways to secure your invention and keep it safe from companies and individuals eager to steal your idea.

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Licensing Book Sale

How to Rent Simple Ideas to Fortune 500 Companies

Stephen Key has successfully licensed more than 20 simple ideas in fields as diverse as the toy, beverage, athletic, music, and drug industries. Collectively, his creations have sold more than half a billion units and generated billions of dollars of retail revenue. His course has attracted more than ten thousand students around the world who he teaches to do the same. Now for the first time you can learn how Stephen has become successful through his new book “One Simple Idea”.

  • Find your million dollar idea.
  • Pick the winners.
  • Do you really need a patent?
  • The most important sales tool.
  • Making contact – who to call, what to say.
  • Getting a company to say “Yes, I want your idea.”
  • Lawsuits – Stephen Key vs. Lego’s / David vs. Goliath.
  • How P&G tried to kill Stephen’s idea.
  • How to play with the big boys.
  • Cutting a great deal.

It’s not to late to take advantage of the special bonus offer I am offering the readers. If you purchase one book we have some very special bonus materials for you. If you purchase two books, one for you and one for a friend, we have an even bigger bonus for you…

Purchase 2 copies of One Simple Idea from March 21st to March 28th and receive Patent Wizard from Patent Attorney Michael Neustel absolutely Free. (A $147 Value) Use patent wizard to write your Provisional Patent Application (PPA).

PPAs are a fantastic tool for inventors. Every inventor needs to know how to file PPAs. If current patent reform legislation passes PPAs will be a must! Don’t miss this limited offer.

Visit www.inventright.com to get these special bonuses.

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Invention Logistics

In my previous article I went over what to generally expect when manufacturing your invention and we left off with our invention’s first order sitting on a loading dock at the factory. One would assume if the factory is making the invention and I ordered it, then they would take care of ensuring that it arrives at my house, office or warehouse. Chances are they won’t.

It is your responsibility to take care of getting your invention from the manufacturer to the next step in the supply chain. This could be relatively simple if the factory is local but chances are they are not. In this example we will focus on using an overseas manufacturer and what to expect when bringing your invention to the US.

The first thing you will need to do is find a shipping/logistics company to help with picking up your invention from the factory and ensuring its safe arrival at is final destination. UPS, FedEx and DHL may be some options to consider.

In order to determine which freight company is the best option you will need to provide them with some information in order to secure quotes. They will need to know the number of master cartons (A box that contains several of your inventions and is the largest box that would be involved in the shipment), dimensions of the master carton and weight. Your manufacturer will be able to provide you with this information. You will also need to provide the pickup point (origin of invention) and the destination.

The last thing they will need to know from you is the method for shipping. Below is a breakdown of typical options.

  1. Air – quick but very costly for large inventions or large quantity orders
  2. Ground – Cheapest method for shipping if made in the US
  3. Ocean – Slow but most affordable for large inventions or large orders from overseas. This method will also involve ground freight.

One of the questions you may have asked is what am I going to do with all these once they arrive? If you have the means to store and fulfill each order your can certainly operate from your home or office. However if you are looking for an alternative solution that doesn’t require your involvement, you may consider hiring a fulfillment company.

These companies take care of warehousing your invention and are responsible for sending the invention to the consumer or retailer. Depending on the company a website can be developed that automates this whole process. Your only involvement would be to receive payments and monitor your inventory to ensure you don’t run out of invention and have a lag in supply (This can also be monitored by the fulfillment company).

These two steps can add as much as $10 to the final cost of your invention depending on the options selected. Before settling on a price ensure you have accounted for these costs as it could have a very significant impact.

The other impact these steps have is on the timing of everything. Ocean Shipments from overseas can take 3-6 weeks. Then they have to go through customs and be delivered from the port. US customs can be a slow process and this is where an experienced freight company will provide their value. They know what codes and classifications are needed for your invention in order to make this process as fast as possible.

In the next installment we will look at some ways to market your invention and what is necessary to encourage sales.

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Time to Manufacture

Congratulations you have made it through the research & design phase and are ready to begin producing your invention! So now what? Where do I find a factory? What are the costs? What do I need in order to sell my product?

Bringing an invention from finalized concept into mass productions isn’t as complicated as it may seem but having a good understanding of the vocabulary and what to look for play a key role in determining your potential for success. First let’s make sure you are ready.

If you can answer yes to these questions you should be ready to get started on the quoting process for manufacturing.

Finding the Right Factory

The best place to start for identifying factories in the US is thomasnet.com. On this website you are able to search by manufacturing process to help narrow your focus for quoting. If you are looking to go outside of the US into Asia, your best bet is to use AliBaBa.com. The process for locating a factory here is a little different and requires you to look for similar products rather than by manufacturing processes. By identifying factories that make similar products you should be able to find a factory capable of producing your product.

When selecting a factory quoting you want to ensure that they have quality standards in place, follow environmental regulations and have a good track record. Ask the factories to provide their quality certificates and environmental certifications. You can also check their status as a reputable company by looking for their D&B report. If they do not have or are unwilling to provide this information you don’t want to work with them.

Preparing a Quote

Shopping for a factory to produce your invention is not the same as going out to buy a DVD. Yes, if you shop around you might be able to save a few dollars on that DVD but the reality is that most stores will have the DVD for the same cost with maybe a few dollars difference. Factory quotes however can vary greatly, many times $1000’s or even $10,000’s difference between one factory and another. The more quotes you can gather the better you will be in the long run.

I have broken out some vocabulary that will be important when seeking and reviewing quotes:

  • Tooling Cost – Upfront money required to create the plastic injection forms or tools necessary to mass produce the unit.
    • Tool Lifespan – how many units can be produced before having to remake the tool
    • Tool Material – determines the life of the tool. Hardened Steel is the best
    • Cavities – Refers to the number of parts that can be produced at once.
    • MC – Monthly Capacity – Refers to the number of units that can be produced in the span of one month
  • Lead Time – Amount of time it takes for the factory to switch from producing another product to producing yours. This is based on their production schedules.
  • MOQ – Minimum Order Quantity – The lowest number of product you can order from the factory at any given time. This number is determined by the factory and typically is based on their setup costs.
  • Unit Cost – Cost for the manufacturing, assembly and packaging of the unit. This cost may be composed of the following aspects:
    • Part Cost – cost of material and time required to make an individual part
    • Packaging Cost – cost for materials and preparation of packaging
    • Labor Cost – cost of a factory worker to perform manufacturing actions
    • Overhead Cost – cost the factory incurs for producing your product.
  • FOB – Freight On Board – describes where the product will be placed for pickup.

I would suggest preparing a form for them to fill out regarding these terms and costs (Example Here). This will help you to better compare one quote to another. It also helps them to answer all the necessary questions for your production needs.

Reviewing Quotes

Now that you have solicited and received some quotes how do you decide which factory will produce your invention? I would review quotes in this order:

  • Reputation & Certifications – Ones who have a proven track record and are reliable are worth the investment.
  • Unit Cost – Which companies had the lowest unit price?
  • Tooling Cost – Which companies had the lowest tooling cost?
  • Timelines – Who was able to tool up quicker or had short lead times?

If you are finding that the reputable companies are far more expensive than the others see if they are willing to negotiate on the price. There are no set costs for manufacturing a product and there is always room to haggle on the price. Start first by working on the unit price rather than the tooling. The tooling costs are upfront and a onetime charge, where as the unit cost is something you will pay for every product.

Other items to look out for are payment terms, payment methods and how they handle product returns or defects.

Time to Hurry Up & Wait

So you are confident that the factory meets all your requirements and have determined that they will be producing your invention. Things get very exciting at this point and you can almost feel your product but be prepared to wait months for that to happen.

Tooling development usually takes around 6-8 weeks, then there are the first production samples for you to review (another 3-4 weeks typically). Chances are they will not be perfect and they will have to make more revisions (another 3-4 weeks typically). This process may go on a few more times depending on the level of changes required. Once you finally sign off on the product you are ready to make that first order (add another 2-4 weeks).

Typical manufacturing timelines are 4-6 months from quote approval to first order completed. Having that first order completed doesn’t mean you are ready to sell just yet. The product has to get from the factory to your warehouse or to the retailer. In the next article I will go over what to expect and look for in the logistics portion of your development.

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Competitor Research

What is a competitor and how do I find them?

 

A competitor is a competing product that offers similar benefits or features to your proposed idea. So, for sake of argument let’s say we have developed a new writing device called a Marker. Now our product has many benefits:

 

  • Great for handwriting
  • Great for coloring or artwork
  • Creates large clear lines
  • Has very few parts

Now one thing I did leave out is the price of the product. Our marker can be made relatively cheaply due to the limited number of parts. However competing on price alone is extremely difficult for a new product unless your invention is an improved way of manufacturing the device. So it is best to leave the price benefit out of consideration at this point.

 

With our list of benefits we can begin to search for competing products. So our first search might be for handwriting tool. In those results we might see a pencil, pen, mechanical pencil or mechanical pen. Each one of these devices has its own set of benefits as well its drawbacks. We want to note the benefits of that product and the shortcomings. In addition we want to know the retail price.

 

We would repeat this searching process using our remaining benefits, each time noting what we have found. In these other searches we might find a mechanical pen with three different inks or a fat pencil which produces large lines.

 

With this research we can answer the question, “Do you have any competitors?” Which is great but the next question is where our research pays off. “Ok, so what makes your product better?” We now can point out the short comings of the existing products and explain how our product is superior. By knowing what is great about our competitors we can position our product so it plays to our strengths rather than competing on the same level. Every company, licensor and customer will ask these questions as some point, the better you can answer these questions the better your product will do.

 

Great, so we know why our product is great but how do we determine our price point to make the most money. This comes back to the retail prices we collected. The general rule of thumb is that there is a markup of 4 to 5 times the manufacturing cost of a product for retail. This means we can use the retail prices we have collected and work backwards to figure out the ideal manufacturing price of our product in order to be in the same retail price range.

 

Armed with this information you have established a clear list of design requirements for your product and a target manufacturing cost. It also proves that there is a market for our product, even though our solution is unique.

 

Do you need help achieving this? Consider signing up for an NventNode account. NventNode will guide you through out your entire development starting with competitor research. Use the list of suggested starting points for research and then store your research in NventNode for quick reference. There is even a tool to automatically calculate the ideal manufacturing cost. Sign Up today atwww.nventnode.com

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NventNode is Born

NventNode

by Shane Harr, NventNode President at NventNode

NVENTNODE RELEASES INVENTION SOFTWARE TO HELP INVENTORS DEVELOP THEIR DREAMS
NventNode provides tools for turning ideas into sellable products. Salt Lake City, Utah (: November 10th, 2010)-NventNode today announced the launch of its invention management software and defined a new industry — Invention Lifecycle Management or ILM. NventNode is an easy to use, online invention help software solution for inventors and entrepreneurs that streamlines the product creation and development process. With NventNode, anyone can create a development team, manage product research, conduct focus groups, share product information securely, collaborate on development, and promote inventions through NventNode’s public portion of website. Entrepreneurs will be better prepared, create superior designs, and achieve a more marketable product.
Brian Gates, NventNode founder, is known throughout the invention industry and has been featured in Inventors Digest, Inventor Spot, Women’s Day Magazine, Coroflot.com, and Inventright.com. Gates’ exceptional work in the invention industry has made him a leader in the space and garnered the respect and recognition of his peers. He has become the recommended choice for clients looking for help in turning their ideas into reality.
“I created NventNode with the simple idea of enabling inventors to achieve their dreams. After working with hundreds of inventors and entrepreneurs, two traits began to emerge. Those that were successful had a clear understanding of the process and knew how to manage their development,” said Gates. “Realizing these traits, I developed NventNode to provide inventors with a wealth of knowledge in a controlled environment while enabling them to manage all aspects of the process. The simple interface, clear explanations and powerful tools allow inventors of all levels to benefit from NventNode.”
This industry-defining solution is obtainable for anyone who has the next great idea, whether it’s a first time inventor or experienced developer.
For more information, visit www.NventNode.com

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How Do I Know if I Have a Great Idea?

How do I know I have a great idea?

The short answer to this question is: You Don’t.

Regardless of how much money, time and effort you have put into your invention, there are no guarantees for success. However there is a big difference between feeling you have a great idea and proving you have the potential for a great idea.

All inventors feel they have a great idea otherwise they wouldn’t pursue it. The problem lies in how to make others, whether that is the consumer, licensor or companies feel the same way.

The first step to accomplishing this is to research the idea and collect compelling facts to prove your potential. Determine any competitors, search for similar patents and identify the market potential.

The statement, “This product is great because I really believe in it” means little compared to “This product is great because it is the only product of its kind in a potential market of a 1 billion customers.”

You want to replace your emotional response towards your invention with one based on facts.

If you start to have cold feet on your idea, refer to your research in order to re-evaluate it. Then make sound decisions based on the knowledge you have developed. You are the champion for your invention and need to be fully committed to it in order to achieve success. Having the research to rely on for power and drive will only increase your resolve.

The second step is to have a clear, professional presentation of your idea. A hand drawn sketch or a less than professional presentation doesn’t inspire confidence. Even if you have a great deal of supporting research, a poor presentation will lose the viewer before you even get a chance to present it.

Having a clear, professional presentation with research to back up the idea will go a very long way in converting the skeptics into believers, increasing your chances for success and bringing you closer to knowing you have a great idea.

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TV Timeout Success Story

We recently heard from one of our clients about his selection as one of the top forty inventors of the year at 2010 INPEX show for his product, TV Timeout.

 

“Brian and the rest of the team at Design My Idea did an amazing job with my invention. They literally took it from an idea and turned it into a great representation of a final product. Now I have been selected to exhibit at the ERA-D2C Convention in Las Vegas, known internationally as the one show for direct-to-consumer marketing. Thank you Design My Idea!”

Chris Campbell - TV Timeout

 

Chris came to us with a provisional patent application and needed some quality presentation materials in order to promote the product. Design My Idea provided him with a solid set of presentation materials and virtual demos that helped him reach potential licensors/investors. The recognition he received for his great idea was made possible by the clear and professional presentation of his product, developed by Design My Idea.

Industrial Design

Logo Design

Sales Sheet

Tv Timeout Industrial Design Logo Design Sales Sheet

Interactive Virtual Prototype

Informational Website

Interactive Virtual Prototype Informational Website

For more information on the TV Timeout Product or to view the sales sheet, demo or website please visit: www.thetvtimeout.com

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A prototype is a prototype is a prototype?

There are two things that are most commonly asked for by inventors as soon as an idea is conceived.

How do I get a patent and where do I get a prototype?

Most inventors, when they think of a prototype, envision a consumer ready product with proper materials, finishes and quality. While this would be ideal it is not required to get your product into the market place by any means.

Achieving a production quality prototype is very costly and usually is not worth the expense for the average inventor. You would be better off saving the money for future expenses in either marketing or production as these will require just as much expense if not more.

So what makes a prototype a prototype and what should I be seeking as an inventor?

A prototype is a device that proves either a concept works or doesn’t. The materials, appearance or quality of a prototype are second to proving the concept valid, which should be your main goal. Get a prototype which proves that the idea works and then focus your energies on fine turning the design for production or seeking a licensor.

But I thought I needed a high quality prototype in order for someone to purchase the idea?

As we have seen through the years, a rough prototype with proper images of a consumer ready product are just as good if not better than having a high quality prototype. The rough prototype proves the concept while the conceptual images present the product in the best possible light. Companies who are looking to license the product will inevitably review the engineering of the design and make adjustments for design reasons, production needs or safety concerns regardless of how great the idea is.

Design My Idea has the ability to produce a functional prototype and supporting imagery that will present your product in the best possible light. We have seen this through our work with licensing companies, inventors and businesses that use this same development to speed their products to market.

Ok, but I still want a prototype. How do I get one?

Prototypes can be made by companies like ours or in your garage; it all really depends on your capabilities and the product. Below are some things to keep in mind when getting a prototype:

  • Plastic Prototype – Typically these are developed using a Rapid Prototyping method and require 3D CAD files in order to produce a part. Design My Idea offers a turnkey solution for getting your idea into 3D and producing parts using several popular rapid prototyping methods.
  • Metal Prototype – This may require welding, bending and cutting of metal in order to produce your parts. If the design requires cutting shapes out of sheets of metal, then a water jetting method would be recommended (Design My Idea can provide you with these parts). The cost is minimal and results in a reproducible part via the use of CAD models.Another option is to do a rapid cast of the product which will create 3D shapes similar to that of a plastic part only out of metal. The rapid casting method requires a 3D model in order to produce the part.
  • Fabric Prototype – Requires a pattern to be developed which will allow for the final design to be reproducible. A good seamstress or Design My Idea will be able to help you with the creation of your idea and pattern development.

What should I expect to receive?

If using a rapid prototype, expect the parts to be either brittle or have a stair stepped finish on curved surfaces. These parts can be fine tuned either using a more expensive process or part refinement after producing the unit. While these parts may look similar to the intended design, the overall functionality and appearance may not be comparable to a mass production piece.

The same can be said for any handmade prototype whether plastic, metal or fabric.

For more information on the types of rapid prototyping for plastics ready this article.

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Inventors lead the way

Over the years of developing our company, Design My Idea, I have had the pleasure of working with some of the greatest minds on the planet. Whether it is as simple as a device that prevents you from dropping your phone or a new way to improve the tastiness of your meal, inventors have a way.

Not all ideas will be winners but the tenacity to pursue your dream continues to inspire. Even if an inventor fails to bring their product to market, chances are the experience that they have encountered along the way will be tremendously valuable when it becomes time for their next great idea.

It has been said that inventors usually prevail on their tenth idea which illustrates the point that trying is the first step to success. Failing may be an option but it is only a stepping stone to the next opportunity.

Understanding why inventors fail and helping to prevent this has been a mission of Design My Idea since our conception. We have developed tools, development paths and best practices that increase your chance of success. By providing design and developing services tailored to inventors’ needs we have helped more individuals pursue their dream year after year with an increasing rate of success.

Over the next several weeks, Design My Idea will be releasing a new tool for developing your products that combines our years of experience with our understanding of how to increase your potential for success. Stay tuned for further details.

We encourage all inventors to pursue their dreams and wish you the best with your products.

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