Thursday, October 30

Helping a fellow inventor....

John Spinello, Inventor Of 'Operation' Game, Can't Afford Real-Life Operation
The Huffington Post  | By David Moye

John Spinello earned a small spot in pop culture history 50 years ago when he invented Operation, the battery-powered game that lets kids play surgeon.

But now, the 77-year-old Illinois man needs $25,000 in oral surgery and can't afford to pay for it, having sold the rights to his creation for just $500.

Spinello says he's not bitter and prefers to not focus on the healthcare crisis.

"Look, everyone needs medical care," Spinello told HuffPost Weird News. "I prefer not to dwell on that aspect and focus more on the joy that the game has brought to so many over the years."

To help him out, a couple of toy designer friends are trying to help him raise $25,000 for anticipated bills via a crowdfunding campaign at

The campaign had raised more than $1,300 by Monday morning, mostly from toy industry insiders. A sister website,, is selling copies of Operation personally signed by Spinello.

In addition, Spinello is planning a December auction of his original game prototype, hoping to raise at least another $35,000, according to toy designer Tim Walsh, who is organizing the fundraiser along with fellow designer Peggy Brown.

Spinello invented Operation while he was an industrial design student at the University of Illinois. The Bloomington resident was tasked to come up with an electric game where the object was to insert a metal wand into holes without touching the metal edges of the openings.

"I got an A," Spinello said.

A family friend was so impressed that he helped Spinello get a meeting with Marvin Glass, a leading toy designer who gave the world novelty products like fake vomit and wind-up chattering teeth. He was also the force behind such classics as Mouse Trap and Lite Brite.

"I walked into his office and I put it on his desk. I said, 'You have to take this probe and go through the maze and see if you can complete it,'" Spinello explains in a video about the campaign.

Glass didn't seem impressed until he touched the wand to the metal plate.

"It went 'BLATTT' and a spark jumped out of the stylus," Spinello said. "He threw [the stylus] up in the air and says, 'I love it! I love it!'"

Glass offered the young college student $500 -- about $3,771 in 2014 dollars -- and the promise of a job upon graduation in exchange for all the rights to the game.

But the job offer didn't happen.

"I did get the two checks -- eventually," Spinello said. "I had to call for them."

Walsh says Spinello is not bitter about the lack of royalties, though he estimates the game has generated at least $40 million in sales since its 1965 debut.

By the early 1970s, the game was heavily advertised on TV, and has made several comebacks over the years, with a "Shrek" edition in 2004, followed by "Simpsons" and "Spider-Man" versions.

Spinello's daughter has an extensive collection of Operation memorabilia that celebrates the game's history.

"John celebrates the game wherever he can, though his kids do give him a hard time in a good-natured way," Walsh told HuffPost.

Mark Reyland

Wednesday, October 29

It's just an opinion

It seems in this industry the one thing inventors want almost as much as a million-dollar deal is feedback.

Professionals in this industry are often asked: what do you think of my product? Will people buy it? Can I get a deal on it?… Even, will you invest in it?

Although there may be some people in the industry that feel that they do, most of us realized long ago we have no crystal ball. At the end of the day we all have to walk to the end of the diving board jump off, and hope there's water in the pool. Although there are a lot of things that we learn in this industry about how consumers react and what they may likely buy - none of us know for sure.

So what is this elusive feedback but and individuals opinion. Because it's just an opinion, it's probably less important that we get the opinion, than it is who we get it from.

The spectrum of experience in the inventing industry is vast and varied. The feedback an inventor is likely to receive is based on that individual’s expertise in their one section of this linear commercialization process. Sales, development, testing, importing.... all valid areas, but all just single parts of the process.

A good example of this may be asking for feedback from a sales rep. The response you will receive should be very accurate in terms of the kinds of products retailers are currently looking for, the process, - however, it may be inaccurate in terms of the product’s manufacturability, distribution, or function.

That doesn't in any way make the opinion lesson valid, as long as the inventor understands it's rooted in the part of the process where that person has experience.

So how do we get the best feedback? We look for MANY professionals in the industry who specialize in different functional areas and we asked the questions over and over.

The answers should be taken exactly as they are given – as a single data point to be mixed with other data points and used to paint a mental picture of probability.

No one has all the answers, and although after years of taking products to market you can get a "feel" for what works and what doesn't, there are no single answers, and no one opinion that really matters more than another.

Mark Reyland

Tuesday, October 28

What a great Mom-Inventor story!

Tragedy Inspires A Mother of Two to Create a Million Dollar Line of Baby-Safe Bling
By Lori Weiss

It was a moment that some might say was God given. It was a Sunday morning and Amy Maurer Creel was in church with her family. Her baby daughter, Alice, was sitting on her lap, seemingly content playing with Mom’s necklace, when all of a sudden laughter broke out all around them.

“I was wearing a strand of pearls,” Amy explained,” “and Alice yanked on them. The pearls flew everywhere -- up and down the pews. I was so embarrassed. All I could think about was how to get out of there. Actually, I did have one other thought. I knew I had to create something that wouldn’t break.”

And almost immediately, Amy began doing research -- checking on patents other people might have and sketching out ideas -- but then, as it does for most new Moms, time ticked away and other responsibilities took precedence. Until one day, a tragedy made Amy ask herself, what exactly she was waiting for.

“My sister-in-law, Maria, had just had her first baby at 40 and we were all so happy. But then a week after she gave birth, she wasn’t bouncing back. It got to a point where all she could manage was to sort the mail. She went to lie down and she never woke up again.”

Marie died from a congenital heart defect that had gone undiscovered and the labor was too much for her.

“It was a profound turning point for me,” Amy remembered. “She was just a few years older than I was, and I was acting like I had all the time in the world. I began to question what I was doing and what I should be doing.”

“Maria grew up in Toledo, Ohio and moved to New York City because she dreamed of becoming a clothing designer. She worked day and night to make that dream come true and just two months before she died she had landed a job designing sweaters for Eileen Fischer. I realized after her death, that I’d never be able to do the things I wanted, if I didn’t just jump in.”

That was December of 2005. By the fall of 2006, Amy’s rough sketches had morphed into a product she called Teething Bling -- jewelry that was fashionable, yet baby-safe, and would ultimately bring in more than a million dollars.

“I started going to jewelry stores, to get the ideas flowing,” she said. “I needed to figure out how I could create something that would be esthetically pleasing to wear, but still be safe for babies to put in their mouths. And then I just began looking around my house at all our baby items. When my eyes landed on the infant spoons, I knew I had to find the material they were made from. They had a silicone coating on them, so if the baby bites down it doesn’t hurt their gums. They were food safe and they could go into the dishwasher.”

Amy went to the internet and found the material she needed. Now it was just a matter of having prototypes made up from her sketches. A few more clicks and she found a list of companies that seemed to be the perfect fit -- if only they would talk with her.

“Most of the people I called weren’t interested because at that point, my product didn’t exist. But then I found a woman who said they could definitely help me, but they’d have to charge me $10,000. That was daunting, because I really didn’t have that kind of money. But then she suggested someone who was much smaller and could do what I needed at a fraction of the cost. This complete stranger helped me. I never could have done this had she not made that introduction.”

And once Amy made that connection, all the pieces began to fall into place. The person who helped her with her drawings guided her to a manufacturer and soon after, Teething Bling was born. She ordered 4,000 pieces and officially became a mompreneur.

“And there they were, 4,000 necklaces, all sitting in my basement,” Amy laughed. “I hadn’t even thought about packaging! I had a friend of a friend build a very basic website for $500 and I began doing local craft shows. I spent four years working from my basement, putting each necklace in its own little jewelry box and printing labels. I was going to the post office six times a week.”

With a little success under her belt and packaging that could actually go on store shelves, Amy decided it was time to take the next step and made her way to trade shows, hoping to get her baby-proof bling into a national chain.

“And that’s where I made my first big mistake,” she sighed. “I met a woman who claimed to be a buyer for the Army and Air Force Exchange and she placed a $70,000 custom order for camouflage necklaces. That was huge and it totally blew me away. I put $20,000 into production costs and sent her a broker fee, along with travel expenses. And then I sat in my garage and waited for them to be picked up. The truck kept being delayed and delayed, until finally I got suspicious and called the exchange’s headquarters.

As it turned out, they knew exactly who this woman was -- she was a scam artist, who’d fooled others before Amy.

“I sued her and won, but I never saw a dime. But what I did get was an important lesson. I tend to be very trusting, which is a good quality in my personal life, but maybe not so much in my business life. I grew up really fast after that. And I also learned that a real distributor won’t ask for money up front. They’ll actually sign an agreement that guarantees they’ll sell a certain amount of product.”

“I definitely had some dark days after that. I wondered whether I was cut out for this. I questioned myself, but what I never questioned was the idea or the product and that’s what kept me going.”

What also kept Amy going was the support of Mommy bloggers and the success she’d see from placing her product in the gifting suites that celebrities frequent during awards season.

“Mommy bloggers really embraced Teething Bling,” Amy said. “They’d write about it, and then Mom’s groups would get in touch with us. I’d send them samples and they’d give me feedback about designs and colors they’d like to see. They had so many great ideas and they were gratified to have someone who wanted to know what they had to say. So often the stay-at-home community feels overlooked. They wanted to be part of this and to see it succeed.”

“And I have to say, the first time I saw a celebrity wearing my jewelry, I was screaming! I sent someone to give away samples in a gifting suite just before the Oscars. I couldn’t go because one of my kids was sick, but they promised to send pictures. And the first one that came through was Angela Bassett! I couldn’t believe it was really happening.”

And there was a lot more to come. Between the trade shows, Mommy support and celebrities who were sighted wearing Teething Bling, stores like Target and Buy Buy Baby began calling. Now Amy has distributors around the world and she gives a portion of her proceeds to Dress For Success, a charity that provides professional attire to women trying to break into the workforce -- a tribute to her determined sister-in-law who never gave up on her dreams.

“Maria helped me to see that we can create the life we want,” Amy said softly. “And I hope that by doing this, I can pass that on to my daughters, Alice and Daisy, and to Maria’s daughter Emma, who is seven now. I want them to see that anything is possible.”

Mark Reyland

Monday, October 27

Scam Alert!

We have a growing problem in our industry and although it's been around for a long time, in the last few years it has gotten out of control.

I want to say something that I'm hoping you will listen to - DO NOT PAY PEOPLE TO SEND YOUR IDEAS TO ASOTV COMPANIES! - I'm not sure I can say it any clearer.

This growing trend in the industry to have you "represented" by someone who can get your idea shown to these companies for either a fee, or in exchange for part of your royalty is 100% scam.

Let me explain how the ASOTV industry is structured.

You have three basic layers.

First, what I call the "Manufacture to Market" companies who can take your idea, invest their money, and actually do design, development, cut the spot, and have distribution - These companies will NEVER ask you for money.

Second, the "Posers" These are actual companies who appear to be manufacturer to market companies, and they will tell you they are actual ASOTV companies, but the reality is they may do a single part of the process (like filming the spot, or hosting some online search) and then they send your idea to a real ASOTV company -These companies will often have some upfront fee and then require a part of your royalties.

Third, are the "Scam Companies" These are individuals or companies that purport to work for, or have relationships with the ASOTV companies and for a fee and/or part of your royalty they will get your idea in front of the people you could "never get to" - that is simply a lie.

The latest scam within this group of cons is the "Paid by the company" scam - they actually skim off a % and tell you the royalty was less than it actually was - this is what they mean by "paid by the company" and "free" to the inventor - In many years of working in this industry I have NEVER seen a legitimate ASOTV company hire anyone to find them products who was not an actual employee - and finding someone who will take your product to a company for "free" is like spotting bigfoot.

So let's get you some links to legitimate ASOTV Manufacture to Market companies who are more than willing to look at your ideas and if they like them make you the same deal they would make to one of those poser or scam companies.

Please remember - I'm not endorsing any of these companies - you should thoroughly read the Terms & Condition before submitting your idea, and if you have questions ask an attorney.

Below are three links to submission pages you can use yourself to submit your ideas directly to legitimate ASOTV companies.

These next three links are real ASOTV companies, but for some reason they have chosen to use Invention Home as their submission program so you will need to opt-out of the tiny little box they have checked for you that authorizes an "affiliate" to contact you - or in real language - for Invention Home to try and sell you stuff.
It saddens me when I meet inventors who have no idea they are being scammed by these people posing as something they clearly aren't.

If you know what questions to ask, and how to decipher the answers maybe you can save yourself a lot of time, money, and hope the next time you come up with that great new ASOTV idea.

Mark Reyland

Friday, October 24

Am I being paranoid?... Yes

When searching the web seeking information, I’m scared to use too many descriptive words, fearing some computer program will put two and two together and figure out what I’m trying to figure out myself.
Does anyone think there are programs out there doing this type of surveillance?
I recently found this posting from a person on an inventor forum. It sounds kind of paranoid to me, but what we know for sure is the writer is anything but alone in their fear.  
Several weeks ago I met an inventor who refused to get business cards printed because they thought it would keep them from getting a trademark. Others think that even talking to a family member is public disclosure – while even more inventors fear their inventions are being stolen by people they never even met.
The fact is this is a very paranoid industry – warranted or not, it’s the way people view the value of the idea they know is going to make them millions.
The reality is, while every industry has some dishonest people, and there are many legal considerations you should know about how to protect your ideas – I don’t think we have to worry about random computer programs tracking people who have an idea by the words they type in Google.
Mark Reyland 

Thursday, October 23

It's about how we act...Not how we look

Do you see these people? They all look quite different, but they have one very important common denominator – They are all Inventors.
That’s right, each of them is an inventor, and try as we might we can’t tell that by how they look.  But we can often tell an inventor by how they act. In fact, some of the behavior of those who claim to be inventors has caused more than just a little angst for many in the industry.
I was reading a forum posting recently where a new inventor was asking what company they could trust. The responses were amazing.  It was classic mob mentality that spiraled quickly into convincing this new “inventor” that some companies were bad and others were great.
The problem is – they had no idea what they were talking about and the “facts” they were throwing around were attributed to the wrong company.
I love this industry, and it saddens me when I see this happen to good people because some “inventors” don’t have the personal integrity to say only what they personally know to be true, while others simply make stuff up. So when it comes to representing our industry let’s remember a few simple guidelines.
1.    Just because you read it on the internet does not make it true.
2.    Information, both good and bad should always be taken for what it is – a simple data point to be added to others used to form an impression.

3.    Opinions can be molded by many things you may not know about.

4.    In addition to Death and Taxes, the only other thing in life for certain is that there are always two sides to a story.

5.    It is never acceptable to harm the reputation of a person or company with information you have not taken the time to verify.

6.    To be fair, try to find a good thing for every bad thing you dig up.
In the end it’s our industry, and because those people who interact with us can’t tell us apart just by looking at us, it’s our collective behaviors that define us.
Don’t be sheep and simply follow what you hear, take the time to find out for yourself and form your own opinions. Believe 50% of what you hear and 100% of what you’re shown.
After all, we can all do a better job of treating people with the respect we hope to enjoy ourselves. 
Mark Reyland

Wednesday, October 22

An NCA...Who knew?

Most people in the inventing industry have seen or used an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) But how many inventors know the NDA has an evil twin called an NCA (Non-Confidentiality Agreement) ?

What is a “Non-Confidentiality Agreement”? Basically it’s a document a company has an inventor sign stating they will not assume responsibility for keeping your invention confidential, and the only rights you have to protection of your idea are those extended to you by way of your patent.

It all started with the Toy companies – In the early 1980s the toy makers got hit with a rash of lawsuits accusing them of stealing ideas from inventors who had submitted them for consideration. Back then, you could simply mail your idea into a company like Mattel and if they liked it they would license it from you. This practice inevitably resulted in times where the inventor’s idea was similar to one the toy makers already had in development. A rejection letter went out to the inventor, and a few months later the idea shows up at the local toy store. Now you have an angry inventor, but a company that actually did nothing wrong.

The inventor sues the toy company and everyone ends up in court - where truth often takes a back seat to emotion. The toy companies had done nothing wrong, yet they were portrayed as taking this great idea from the poor helpless inventor. Play that in front of a sympathetic jury and the toy company doesn’t stand a chance. These companies were getting hit by lawsuit after lawsuit, and every time they were being hammered with huge jury awards.

After years of being sued, the Toy companies struck back. Most stopped taking unsolicited inventions all together, and those who would, started using the “non confidentiality agreement" to put the inventor on notice that they may already be working on this idea and at the end of the day, the only rights they had dealing with that company were patent rights.

Other industries soon followed and over the years this one little document has dramatically altered the landscape of how companies do business with inventors. Some simply won’t. While others make sure you have a patent in place so they can’t be accused of stealing the idea. while still others use the “non confidentiality agreement" as a way of making sure the inventor understands he/she may not be the only one who came up with that great idea.

Mark Reyland

Tuesday, October 21

Well...that was the last step.

I was driving home from a meeting the other evening and started thinking about the rush of new "Inventing" services that have crept into the industry lately and trying to wrap my mind around how they fit in - and what they really mean to the longevity of the inventing industry as we know it.

This is what I came up with –

In the beginning, people like Edison, Gillette, Marconi, and the many others who shaped the way we live were faced with many steps to climb in order to enter the inventing industry. That is, they had limited technology to build on, they had limited education, and they had few people to help them.

As the years progressed the next wave of inventors were able to build on the earlier innovations and the number of steps to the industry front door became less. Sure, people like Fuller, Goodloe, and Mueller had their problems, but at least by that time they were not inventing by candlelight.

As time progressed the staircase got shorter and shorter as it became easier to become an "Inventor" or at least to enter the industry. Patent laws became more inventor friendly, submission companies sprouted up all over the place and a few more steps came off the climb.

Now we see the introduction of the "Invention Lottery". This model allows the inventor to pay a modest fee, and submit a description of the idea to a company for consideration. The thousands of submissions are then combed through to find the ones the company is willing to acquire (for a small sum) and/or represent (for a % share) to a manufacturer that may in turn want to acquire the idea from them. The original inventor then receives some % of royalty paid on the developed product.

I think this effectively takes the last step in the staircase away for people to get involved in the inventing industry. Like most things that happen in life, this has pro’s, con’s, and a reality.

After all, someplace in that mass of people sending in their fees may be a significant contribution to society – without such a process we as a community may never get the benefit of that great idea.

But on the other hand, we have thousands of people running around putting themselves in the same league as Edison with nothing more than an idea and a checkbook….and that doesn’t feel right.

The Reality – This new "system" is selling hope to people who have a very small chance of achieving anything from the process.

It’s not the money really; it’s that the people who can now walk into the inventing industry because the last step to climb has been removed - have no process for educating themselves about the realities of the business. They are being greeted with a big smile by people at the door who lead them to believe they have a better shot at success than the statistical data actually shows.
This industry worked very hard for the laws that now protect inventors and require companies to disclose the odds of success - The Inventor Protection Act of 1999.

I don't think anyone will die from entering an invention lottery - but they will lose far more than $25.00 - they will ultimately lose hope.

Only time will tell the real impact of removing that last step – but one thing about the inventing industry has changed forever – you can now become an "inventor" for $25.00 and a bar napkin.

Edison must be rolling in his grave.

Mark Reyland

Monday, October 20

What's your Value Index?

We talked in previous posts about how the "Use Cycle" and the "Value Cycle", along with the intrinsic qualities of the product, represent the consumer's "Value Proposition" 
To recap, the Use Cycle of a product is the period of time from when the product starts use by the consumer, to when it ends use. While the Value Cycle looks at use in terms of frequency, factoring in cost to create what is known as a value index.
Two well know statements -Everything costs money &Nothing lasts forever – provide us the basis for the value cycle. It is in fact, the relationship between time and money in a consumer's mind as it relates to the value of a retail product. In simple terms, the longer the products serves its consumer and the less the consumer paid for it, the higher the value index of that product.

To explore this concept let’s return to our friend the Chip Clip. At .99 cents the clip has a relatively low value expectation to the consumer. The consumer expects it to work, but only a limited number of times before the parts fail and it no longer keeps those potato chips fresh.  That expectation would obviously change if the consumer were paying $4.99 for the clip. In fact, the promise you are making as the manufacturer would be that much greater and the quality would be expected to follow.

The math is pretty simple: The cost of the item (divided by) The average number of uses (equals) The Value Index.

"Value Index" is just a way of describing the mathematical result of the equation - but whatever you do, don't ignore it. The Value Index is a score of sorts, a grade if you will that ultimately determines how well you did your job.
If the cost is high, the average number of uses low, the value index will be very poor and people may buy your product once (remember first sale) but never a second time. 
In the inverse, if the cost is low and the average number of uses is high, your value index will be through the roof and people will not only buy you product twice, they will talk about it to others and encourage them to purchase as well.
Say our Chip Clip was used 200 times before it failed. At .99 cents, the cost (99 cents) divided by the average number of uses (200) would give us a value index of about 1/2 of a penny per use - that's a good value index for a product like a chip clip in that price point. But, change the cost, or the number of uses, and things rapidly go up or down - and so does your chance for a sale.
At this point you're likely asking how some of these numbers can even be found by you, the inventor. The fact is, at the development level the numbers you are normally using to arrive at a value index are largely notional. You can of course test your product samples to find their failure point (something you should be doing anyway) and use that as your "average number of uses".  Audit the market (another thing you should be doing anyway) to find the average MSRP (Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price) to use as your "cost" value, and the rest is just math.
Keep in mind, the value index doesn't mean anything to anyone but you. It's a tool used to help you work the bugs out and increase the value proposition to the customer. It's not printed on the package, it's not on your sell sheet, it's your way of dialing in your product to make sure when it comes out on a store shelf people want to take it home.

We as consumers use our personal experiences and common sense to develop value expectations for everything that costs us money. When the value of that product exceeds our expectations we think we got a great deal. It's imperative that the value proposition of the product always exceed the value expectation of the consumer since that sets the tone for the product reputation - and that sports fans will always impact sales.

Learn to use tools like the Use Cycle and Value Cycle in the development of your products, don't be afraid of scoring your work with a value index. These things ultimately help make better products, and dramatically increase your chances of success.

Friday, October 17

Well that's Handy....

I have a name, you have a name – in fact most people I know have a name. Come to think of it, most things I know have a name. I guess it should be no surprise then that we come to identify things by those names – retail products are no different.

In looking at naming a product we start by asking the question - what are we trying to accomplish?
Are we looking for - fun, catchy, descriptive, short…all of these? Yes, all of those things rolled up into a nice easy to remember, simple to spell, won’t take up too much room on the label name.
We start by looking at the values of the product. Say we're developing a product for a disposable trash bag packed tightly in a small plastic case for your car or to carry in your purse.
We know the product's prime value is the containment of trash. However, it is also has additional values such as convenience, compactness, ease of use, disposability and so on. We have to communicate as many of those values as possible to the consumer - we do that through the name and the packaging.
In naming this particular product we almost have to use the word "bag" because looking at the tightly rolled product in the plastic case it’s not apparent to the consumer that it contains bags.
Once we have established in the consumers mind it is a bag. The consumer will make certain assumptions about the product based on what they know from previous experience. They know the function, they know that in that small case it's likely a small bag, they know it's probably a light duty bag since only a thin plastic could likely be compressed that way into a small case.
They already know how a bag works, so now we have to build on that by communicating to the consumer the priority of the remaining values.
Large volume
Small size

So how do we find a mate for the word  “Bag” in the name? We turn to the Thesaurus.
Let's take the value of “Convenient” as an example. Right off the bat the thesaurus spits out a good candidate in the word “Handy”.  Handy Bag
This may or may not be the name we want, but for the sake of this discussion you can see it compounds the know values the consumer has about the bag, and adds a value the consumer may not have thought about this particular bag.
Quick, Tough, Sturdy - Adjectives like these help paint a picture in the consumer's mind of value and the more the consumer feels value from the product, the more likely they are to purchase it.
Mark Reyland

Thursday, October 16

Novice Inventors Easy Prey for Scammers

 By  The Career Hot SeatFOXBusiness

Any conversation about American inventors typically congers images of the likes of Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford. This country was founded on great inventors and our tradition for encouraging innovation still makes us great. However, the process is tough and the odds of getting an invention to market are slim.   

To learn more about the challenges modern inventors face I spoke with Akos Jankura, inventor, entrepreneur, and host of My Cool Inventions Radio. Jankura got his start as a chemist developing stain removers and laundry sheets. He eventually developed and patented his own specialized brand of laundry sheets that went on to sell millions. His passion for solving problems through invention led him to want to help other aspiring inventors. Jankura firmly believes “the best asset this country has is inventors.” However, the challenge these inventors and aspiring entrepreneurs face is a minefield of unregulated rip-off artists and scammers looking to take advantage of them. Jankura has seen far too many scammers prey on those budding inventors who have just given birth to their invention and are blinded by the prospect of getting their invention out into the world.

To help new inventors navigate the murky waters of bringing a new invention to market he launched My Cool Inventions Radio. The show is somewhat of a cross between Shark Tank and American Idol where inventors come on free of any charge and present their products to a national audience where listeners will vote on the viability of the product and provide real feedback to the inventor. When it comes to avoiding common pitfalls, Jankura advises new inventors to consider the following:

Stop and Learn: Just as in any business endeavor, you must educate yourself. “I wouldn’t tell someone to jump into a pool if they didn’t know how to swim,” says Jankura. The reality is lack of knowledge can put a new inventor at a tremendous disadvantage because it makes them vulnerable to scammers. Due diligence is important. Be sure to check out trade associations, industry publications, and online resources before making the plunge.      

According to Jankura organizations such as the Electronic Retailing Association, RESPONSE Expo, and USPTO seminars are great places to get information about the process of getting an invention to market.

Connect with the Right People: Jankura likens the inventing process to mountain climbing. “If you are going to climb Mount Everest you will need a guide” says Jankura. You will need an advisor with experience, someone who will help you avoid the traps of scammers. However, you must be deliberate in who you connect with. There are scammers out there who will claim they can get you access to key players or will claim their own affiliations and status will open doors. Jankura advises against paying for this type of access. Take your time and get to know the players before making any commitments.  

Don’t Pay to Play: The vast majority of inventions will never make it to market, yet every inventor wants to believe they will be the one to hit the jackpot. As a result, scamming aspiring inventors has become quite a business. Jankura encourages inventors to really focus on the true viability of their product before opening their wallets. It’s not always easy to take that hard look in the mirror, but you must. Be wary of those who are either too easily impressed or too eager to get you signed-up and going.     

Jankura notes there will eventually be costs associated with bringing an invention to market. You just have to be cognizant of who you are paying and why you are paying them. 

Wednesday, October 15

Just take a deep breath and relax…

 As you may expect, I hear a lot of complaints from inventors about someone stealing their ideas. But even I was taken aback by this one. This was sent to an invention submission company by way of their public forum. Although I doubt they actually stole anything, it does make you think about the strong emotions people have and how they express them.

You claim you don't steal people's ideas?  I did research my idea and it had NEVER been done before I submitted it to you lying thieves! No sooner did my idea stall in the selection process, than the FBI announces their new app for missing children.  THAT WAS MY IDEA!!! I submitted that.  It was almost word for word my idea, about amber alerts, and locating missing children, posting alerts on local computers, law enforcement notification, etc...almost WORD FOR WORD!!!

You stole my idea and you can deny it all you want.  I wouldn't have been so mad if it showed up a  few years later, or even a year later, but not even 3 months after I submitted it to you, all of the sudden, the FBI suddenly has a new app for missing children!!! Coincidence?  I don’t' think so! you stole my idea and  you sold it.

I hope you choke! You lying thieving good for nothing criminal! It will come back on you.  Mark my words, Karma is a bitch and she takes prisoners.  I hope you get what you have coming to you, because you are nothing but a liar.  I want my money back that I PAID you to steal my idea!  Give me back that $25!  That's the least you can do, you sniveling thief!!

So next time you see an inventor react like this, think for a moment about all the people who read it and how they use it as the paint to create a picture of you and I as inventors.

Tuesday, October 14

Quality, Convenience & Cost = What?

From the time we’re young children we’re taught about math. We see math in almost everything we do - often using it to explain the unexplainable and form that ever important baseline of logic we as humans always migrate towards. 

So it should be no surprise that inventors may from time to time use math to express elusive concepts such as customer value.

At its core, inventing is simply problem-solving. We as inventors survey the landscape of society looking for the problems that plague our fellow man - and we solve them.

But does all that hard work actually have value? Maybe, but unless we find a way to express value as a result we will never be able to understand how to achieve it as a result.

How? We turn to our trusted friend of omnipresent explanation - the math problem.

Let's say for example the amount of "help" your invention provides is expressed as “consumer value”. That is, the overall value to the consumer of the solution you invented for them.

But how do we construct our equation to find the mystical mathematical quantification that will help us place value on our solution?

We start by looking at the "traits" of Consumer Value - Quality, Convenience, & Cost

The first thing you notice about these three traits is that two of them (Quality & Convenience) are benefits to the consumer while the third (Cost) is a detriment.

Knowing that - expressed in a mathematical presentation we can use the equation “Customer Value = Quality - X – Convenience - / - Cost” or alternatively Value = Bene
fits -/- by Detriments


We know as consumers we’re always concerned with quality are the conveniences a product offers us. However, neither Quality nor Convenience can be offered without Cost. As a consumer suffers cost they often look to quality and convenience in an effort to logically justify their expenditure. In our formula we call that "Value".

So what does all this mean to you?

As inventors (especially product inventors) this relationship between Quality, Convenience, and Cost is something we should be thinking about very early on in the inventing process. In fact, It is one of the most important principles in guiding us towards inventions that have commercial viability.

Learn to apply this formula to every idea or invention you conceive. Just ask yourself did I build in enough quality and convenience to offset the cost resulting in good consumer value.  

Mark Reyland

Monday, October 13

Is Invention Home being a little slimey here?....

Let's talk for a moment about the number of ways you as an inventor can be snared by invention submission companies simply by typing in your email, often to an unrelated web site.
There are three main categories of email collection invention submission companies use to find you. The Unconfirmed Opt-In lists they purchase, the Confirmed Opt-in lists they purchase, and lists created from Opt-out harvesting sites or systems they have created themselves.
Let's take a look at these in a little more detail. 
Unconfirmed Opt-In
You are asked to join a mailing list and by entering your email you agree. Your name and email are then used for the recipient company to contact you with other offers, or sold to invention companies who then use that information to market products to you.  As you may expect, these lists have the least value in resale simply because people often use false email addresses.  
Confirmed Opt-In (COI)
You are asked to subscribe to a mailing list, but unlike unconfirmed Opt-In, a confirmation email is sent to verify it was really you.  In COI you are not added to the mailing list unless an explicit step is taken, such as clicking a special web link or sending back a reply email. These lists are again, often sold to invention submission companies at a much higher price because of their accuracy.
This is the data harvesting process that impacts you as an inventor the most because it's the form of slick data capture used most by invention submission companies.
Instead of giving people the option to be placed on a list, they are automatically added if they don't explicitly exercise their option to be removed.  What makes this an issue with inventors is the way these companies often mask the option to be removed. Sometimes it's way down at the bottom of the page, sometimes it's a muted color in the background, and sometimes it's hidden completely.
Probably one of the most glaring examples of how this process is used to ensnare you as an inventor into the jaws of the invention submission companies is a piece of software called Submit My Invention (SMI) developed by Invention Home.
Chances are you've used SMI and don't even know it. If you've submitted an invention idea to AllStar Marketing, Irwin Tools, Lenfest Media, Sky Mall, QVC, Rubbermaid, or many others you have submitted your invention to Invention Home as well - that is if you didn't see, or forgot to uncheck, this little box on the submission page.  
In  this case "Affiliate" actually means Invention Home. In fact, the submission page you used is hosted by Invention Home, not the company you submitted your idea to. The company you submitted to (like Sky Mall as an example) just logs into the server and looks at items you submitted under their link. If they accept the item an email from Invention Home will be sent to you notifying you of your selection.  If they reject your idea, and you did not Opt-out, Invention Home will start actively marketing their invention services to you.
I would love to tell you the companies using SMI are unwittingly feeding you to the wolves, but unfortunately I can't. They know full well they are feeding their rejects to a company that will then try to sell you "products" you likely don't need - of course I'm sure they would rather I don't tell you that.
I'm not saying don't use these submission pages, many of these are good companies simply using a bad system.

What I am saying is be aware of the processes you get involved in, look for the signs, and if you see an opt-in box already checked for you, ask yourself the question:  Who's actually on the other end, and do I want to deal with a company that has to rely on tricks to get me as a customer?
Mark Reyland

Friday, October 10

The Junkyard?

Several weeks ago I received a call from a New York television production company who was producing an “Inventor” show. They wanted to talk about their show premise and ask our help in getting the word out.
They laid out the story line and I listened.  “This is going to be so great” said the excited voice on the other end of the phone, “we are doing an inventor show that follows inventors while they hunt through the junk yard looking for parts to make their prototypes”. As I listened I could not help but go back in my mind to figure out if I even knew and inventor that had ever gone to a junk yard in search of prototype parts – and as I suspected I couldn’t come up with a single one. 
But the thought does bring up a good point – where do inventors get their parts and pieces to make those all important prototypes?
For me, it’s retail stores. I start by breaking the new idea down into functions. Then I figure out what kinds of products already made have those same functions. Maybe it’s a fully developed product, or an individual part from the hardware store. Either way, after a search of retail for the individual parts that match the needed functions, it’s off to the garage for a little deconstruction.
Taking my little treasure trove of products apart to extract just the function I need is actually a really fun part of the process. Maybe it’s a little motor I rob from a toy, or a hinge from a kitchen gadget or sometimes all I need is the package. No matter, it’s all part of the process of invention and the discovery of creating something new.
What I can tell you is that I don’t think this production company is going to get very far with their TV show, after all, even the best junk… is still junk.
You're an inventor - where do you get the parts and pieces for your prototypes?
Mark Reyland 

Thursday, October 9

Here's some Product Royalty math....

I recently came across a discussion about royalty rates for inventors that shed some light on how one company deals with their inventors.

First, let me say this discussion is about ASOTV products only. Second, let me go on record as saying I have been a long-time critic of Edison Nation and its owner Louis Foreman. In fact, in my professional opinion they are one of the worst companies in the industry.

That said - you don't need my opinion, you simply need to compare Edison Nation with accepted industry standards and you can form your own opinion. 

But we need to start with some facts. - The fact is: ASOTV products generally range in royalty rates from 1% to about 3% - The fact is: Even the worst of the worst ASOTV Product reps I've seen only take about 50% of your royalty. - The fact is: Royalties are normally paid to the inventor quarterly. - The fact is, royalties on ASOTV products are paid based on the on air price, while they are on TV and the normal wholesale price while they are sold in retail. For the sake of simplicity we'll use the on air price for our math example. 

So let's do the math using these facts first: The product sells for $10.00 and at 3% your royalty is .30 cents per unit. If you used a rep and you paid them the ridiculous amount of 50%, you will obviously receive .15 cents. In practical terms a product selling 100,000 units would generate 1 Million in revenue and $30,000.00 in royalty. Split that with the rep and you walk away with $15,000.00 for every 100,000 units sold. 

Now let's look at Edison Nation and the deal they cut with their inventors.

In all fairness we should start by reading the language in their contract:    

"If Assignee [EN] determines, at its sole discretion, that the Innovative Product has met or exceeded certain test criteria, then Assignee [EN] shall make annual payments to Assignor [inventor], subject to the terms and conditions provided in Section 3 of this Assignment, in an amount equal to: 7.5% of Adjusted Gross Revenues received by Assignee [EN]"

It's important to understand here Edison Nation generally does not produce, manufacture, and sell ASOTV products. Like many others, they normally act as a middle man between you the inventor, and the companies that actually do produce, manufacture, and market these products. A great example is Bacon Bowl, an invention Edison Nation brought to AllStar Marketing who actually developed it and took the product to market. Something the inventor could have done themselves for free by clicking this link  ....they are going to do the same deal with you that they would with Edison Nation.

Ownership aside, industry standard is to pay royalty on Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) Edison Nation is doing just that. However, the definition they use of AGR is a bit different than most companies. For retail products standard AGR is basically revenue adjusted for credit card charge-backs, returned items, and sales allowances. 

Edison Nation has a slightly different definition of AGR: "Gross Revenues less the sum of all Selling and Fulfillment Costs, Fees and Commissions, Patent Fees, Production Costs, and Returns and Bad Debts; any and all refunds, credits, credit card processing fees, charge-backs, and other allowances to customers arising from the return or rejection of goods or otherwise granted in the ordinary course of business, and less any attorney fees directly associated with a legal contract under which any Innovative Products or any of the Intellectual Property is commercialized."

Another industry standard is quarterly royalty payments. For whatever reason Edison Nation pays its inventors annually while the rest of the industry uses a quarterly standard. However, standards are just that, standards, not rules. Just because most people use a standard doesn't mean Edison Nation has to use that same standard. 

But Math?...Math is always Math - and that doesn't change. So let's take a look at the same math problem we used before, this time using the numbers Edison Nation provided us in their own contract. 

I have 100,000 units, selling for $10.00 per unit, same as before. The result is the same 1 Million dollars in sales. The royalty rate stays the same at 3% and results in the same .30 cents per unit - but the inventor split looks a little different. We remember at a 50% / 50% we received $15,000.00. But what does a 7.5% / 92.5% split look like?

For those of you without a calculator - It looks like $2,250.00 per 100,000 units - not $30,000.00 and not even $15,000.00. It appears your deal with Edison Nation will get you a paltry $2,250.00 per 100,000 units compared to their $27,750.00. That is of course of they didn't use that seemingly predatory definition of AGR to whittle your cut down even further.    

I'm sure I'll get a flood of emails about how I'm an Edison Nation hater. I'm not of course, but I do hate people who know better, taking advantage of those who don't. 

At the end of the day you don't need me or anyone else to tell you when we think you're getting screwed - after all, that's just our opinion. What you need is to read the contracts, understand the implications, and do the math!

Mark Reyland

If you would like to read through the entire Edison Nation contract - here's a link