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About to Go “All In” With Your Invention?  Take a Breath and Read This First.

If I told you I just bought an old car and then without so much as a peek under the hood or start of the engine, immediately sent it off to a body shop for a $5000 paint job, you would probably say I was crazy.  And you’d be right.  After all, how could anyone invest so much in something without knowing any of the details about its condition, potential, or true value?  Well, whether you realize it or not, many of you are doing just that.

In my recent article on the importance of a great sell sheet, I told the story of an inventor who came to us after spending a small fortune on a development “package” from one of the big inventor companies. Despite her large investment and many pages of cool “stuff,” her idea was going nowhere. Unfortunately, her story is not unique and every day we see evidence that more and more inventors are making the same costly mistakes.

It’s easy to understand how it happens – when it all began for us we made similar errors. If you’re a new inventor (or even a seasoned one for that matter), it’s natural to get caught up in the excitement of your idea.  That excitement is actually a good thing and comes from a passion only the truly creative and inspired can understand.  It’s the reason we do what we do and can be an effective tool in driving you forward, but should never be part of the decision-making process.

Lack of experience is probably the biggest culprit. Most of the big companies will dazzle you with impressive packages that sound amazing and if you’ve never taken the journey before, it may seem like a safe bet regardless of the hefty price tag.  But you should always keep the $5000 paint job analogy in mind.  Never make a big investment in something that is unproven just because you think (and they may tell you) it’s a great idea.

A lot of inventors come to us with expensive development packages in tow.   Sometimes the materials they bring are just mediocre, but often they are extensively done with beautiful graphics and many pages of detailed marketing and IP info – elaborate and seemingly perfect product development.   Yet still they come, disillusioned and lost, saying they’ve “hit a wall,” “are going nowhere,” or have “lost all hope.” Why do you suppose that is?  Yes, the paint job.  If the core concept, application, direction, etc, is not sound or market appropriate, no matter how you dress it up, it will always be destined to fail.

Fortunately, there are often chances to turn things around if you know how and where to look. Sometimes, just properly identifying the main benefit and building on it can do the trick, while other times adjustment of the product itself is needed to get it back on target (which will then void any expensive IP work that was done – so don’t do any yet!). We find that more often than not, there are salvageable qualities that can be built on and used to create new opportunities - sometimes, even regain lost ones.

Bottom line: you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get your idea realized and presented to potential licensees.   To do so is just a bad decision and considering the odds against you, a terrible bet.  So take small steps, work smart, and never get ahead of yourself.  If you’ve already overextended yourself however, are going nowhere and feel like you may have just lost everything at the craps table, don’t give up hope just yet.  There are often possibilities and we see inspiring transitions all the time.

Glen Eckert, Inventor Angels