Friday, January 30

What a total scam....

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 "Scammers" 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 of the company - If you see language like this "We are not an invention submission company. Because our client companies contract our services, they pick up the tab. That means we do not charge inventors any upfront fees for our assistance and retain no royalties from any deal you enter into with the company" Ask to see their contract, ask if the money they were paid would have been in your royalty, and then run away - it's just the latest in a string of scams. 

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 have a sales person call to 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. For now - just be carful out there.

Mark Reyland

Thursday, January 29

Do a little VooDoo....

Product development is an interesting process. At its core, it’s simply a set of related tasks generally performed by people trained in a particular field such as Engineering, Packaging, Marketing, Web Design and so on.

Using this small army of professionals you can in fact develop any product you like. However, it may not be the right product for the consumer.

The problem for many product development companies is failing to realize that each of the “trades” involved in the process is always going to be excited about working on their part of a new product.

It's only natural that the Engineer wants to engineer and the Designer wants to design. They all do a great job at their task, but often the overall result ends up being selection of new products by committee. Not that the input isn't valuable to the process, just that product selection by committee is not a good way to select what products to develop for a very fickle consumer.

To be successful you need someone who can do the “Voodoo” - not real Voodoo mind you, but product Voodoo.

Product Voodoo is actually a combination of things - it’s a set of experiences you've had with other products, it’s an in-depth knowledge of the development and manufacturing processes, and it’s a feeling you get because of the way your mind works.

Most importantly product Voodoo is your intuition about the question "Why?". Why does the consumer need, desire, use, require, demand, and ultimately pay for this product?

The Voodoo is all those not so abstract thoughts wrapped into a single perspective. The exercise of a mind trained to quickly walk through the entire development process. Mentally visualizing the completed product on a retailer’s shelf with such detail you would swear you can reach out and touch it.

If you are trying to develop an invention into a product - get qualified professionals from all the functional areas to help you - but don't forget to find someone who can do the Voodoo to lead them.

Mark Reyland

Wednesday, January 28

Listen up people....

Some basic requirements when approaching a retailer with your product.

I once asked a retail buyer what the most important advice they would give an inventor trying to bring a product to them. What they said was short, simple, and telling. "If you don't come prepared, then don't come at all".

Here are some of the basic requirements you will have to have if you want to sell your products to major retailers:

- Effective sell sheets that tell the story of your product in a visual way

- Complete spec sheets that contain all product measurements, weights, UPC codes, freight information, lead times, colors, styles....

- Comprehensive wholesale, distributor, dealer, and suggested retail pricing (MSRP) for each type of customer segment - supported by actual data from your audit of the market.

- Retail ready product samples. Remember, you can NEVER change a product once you show it to the buyer. The sample they see better be the product they receive.

- High res images of product and product in packaging, logo ...

- Display and packaging options you offer

- Product materials such as instructions for use, warranty card, customer service contact information, and safety statements

- A fulfillment and/or distribution plan. You must be able to show the buyer every step between your factory and their shelf.

- Product Liability Insurance (PLI) every major retailer is going to force you to add them as a rider on your PLI

- Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) capability. All major retailers require you to be EDI compliant so you better know what that means and what you will need.

- The ability to finance an order. The retailer may give you the order but they will only pay for it 30, 60, 90, and yes, even in some cases 120 days after it's in the store.

I know you think you may be the only one calling this poor buyer, but the reality is you are one of hundreds that week alone who wanted their great new product on the shelf - and most of those calls came from professionals who know what is expected of them. If you hope to compete you had better step up to the plate knowing how to swing the bat.

Like the man said - if you don't come prepared, don't come at all.

Mark Reyland

Tuesday, January 27

The Inventor Of The Selfie Stick Gets Shafted

I normally don't like to post articles like this because it feeds the paranoia of our industry.  We as humans love a good train wreck, and while I'm 100% sure there is more to this story than meets the eye - it's a good train wreck.

Wayne Fromm spent roughly a decade hustling to get his camera monopod off the ground. But, the inventor says, he “met resistance.” People just didn’t get the concept of using an extendible pole to shoot photos of themselves.
They do now. Last holiday season, shoppers scooped up some 100,000 selfie sticks, and they are all but inescapable at tourist hot spots and big tech conventions. They seem to be everywhere and in various incarnations. Too bad—for him, at least—that few of them are Fromm's.
It’s a conundrum gadget makers know all too well. Pour time and effort into a product, only to see cheaper knock-offs flood the market. Here’s how Fromm says it happened to him.
It’s All In The Timing
When Fromm vacationed with his daughter in Florence in 2002, he didn’t relish the thought of setting the camera down for a timed shot or asking strangers to snap a photo of them. A long-time product developer with a deep background in the toy industry, he eventually came up with a better way.
"When I first brought it out, it was called the world’s first handheld extendible monopod,” said Fromm. While the name’s not as catchy as "selfie stick,” he knew the idea was sound. So Fromm sweated through more than a hundred versions of what he would eventually call the Quick-Pod. He filed utility and design patents going back to 2005, for what was described them as “Apparatus for supporting a camera and method for using the apparatus.”
Let’s get one thing straight: He knows he didn’t invent the idea of a camera on a stick. That general idea goes back decades.
The concept might even go back further—say, back nearly a century.
Fromm referenced those predecessors in his patents, he told me. But for his selfie stick, he focused specifically on digital cameras and an extendible pole that can also trigger the shutter—pretty much the same as today’s popular versions. He also patented versions that use an angled mirror, a feature offered in several current items.
Sounds like a case of right product, utterly wrong time. When he started filing those patents in 2005, the iPhone didn’t exist outside of Apple's research labs, and Instagram wasn't even a glimmer in its creators' eyes. At the time, no one could have imagined everyone would have cameras in their pockets and purses, or that selfie photography would become a cultural phenomenon.
Fromm hit the bricks, demonstrating his product over and over again for years, but failed to get traction.
What’s worse, in 2008, he made a regrettable decision. "I agreed to sell some during the Asian Olympics,” he said, referring to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. “That was a mistake.” Fromm essentially hand-delivered his product to the home turf of manufacturers that would later mass produce their own cheap knock-offs.
“The selfie stick today would not exist if it was not for me,” said Fromm. "I spent more than 10 years promoting, showing, demonstrating it, going from New York City—from [retailers] B&H to J&R, QVC, Home Shopping Channel….”
In that way, perhaps Quick Pod should have been as synonymous with selfie sticks as Kleenex is with tissues or Xerox is with photocopies. Instead, the brand looks like one of numerous me-too products on the market. Now, cheap selfie sticks line the real and digital shelves everywhere from Wal-Mart and JC Penny, to eBay, Amazon and other online retailers, not to mention innumerable overseas distributors.
Fromm thinks he has proof that they ripped him off: “They [even] stole my pictures,” he said. "They have pictures of my daughter on the package. Basically, it’s just wholesale theft of the invention and all the photo shoots that we did, so it’s not some coincidence.”
His exasperation is plain. He followed the rules—filing his patents, paying Bluetooth’s Special Interest Group to license the wireless technology, and met FCC approval. Meanwhile, these “cheaters” copied him and sidestepped government approval, flouting U.S. or South Korean law. "They’re just stealing programming,” he said. "We spent a lot of time coding and programming, paying license fees and paying royalties.”
The longer we talk, the more bitter he sounds. But the copycats couldn't totally derail him. He told me his Quick Pods have had success in their own right. Over the years, he has gotten celebrity endorsements and now caters to professional users looking for a quality product that can "withstand everything from the arctic weather to the Sahara, to the bottom of the ocean bed,” he said. Some of his current products support action cams like the GoPro. 
He’s also going after the imitators. Fromm is in the middle of dozens of lawsuits to protect his intellectual property. He’ll have an uphill battle, though. This is, after all, a world in which even Apple couldn't stop Apple Watch knock-offs from beating it to the punch.
In other words, Fromm is going to need a really, really big stick.
Photos of Wayne Fromm courtesy of Wayne Fromm; Quick Pods product photo courtesy of Quick Pods

Monday, January 26

Just STOP already..... I beg you.

I run into an inventors all the time who tell me about the great new invention they've turned into a product. They always want advice on what to do next. 

No problem - Anyone who reads this blog knows I give advice all the time.

I listen to them run down the laundry list of experience they've had along the way - almost hyperventilating with enthusiasm. The story starts to become very familiar. In fact, it's a story I've heard a thousand times.

I had this idea.... my family loved it.... there is nothing out there like it...I got a patent...I had a prototype made...then I... - well you know the drill. A seemingly endless list of things that cost this person money but in reality have gotten them nowhere close to the goal line.

Patents, prototypes, web sites, photographs, packaging, tooling, consulting, design work - and worst of all manufactured goods. These are just some of the high dollar items inventors love to spend money on.

We even had a lady buy a Jingle for her product one time. Nice song, but the product sucked.

I guess it's not a big mystery why the inventor industry has so many people trying to take money from inventors - after all many inventors spend money like drunken sailors.

Please Stop - I'm begging you - Please stop spending money on things you don't need and educate yourself on things you do need before you go buy them.

My advice -

If you have to spend money and you are licensing your idea/invention - Build a homemade prototype, nothing fancy, just show your theory works. Apply for a Provisional Patent Application (even that is optional) then have a computer rendering made of the product and a manufacturers sell sheet done. All in all that's about a $700.00 investment, drop the PPA and you are in the $250.00 range. This small investment is more than enough to license a product to any manufacturer.

If you are trying to take your product to market yourself - Don't. Go back and find a product you can license. Only when you've mastered the licensing process, and the royalties are enough to pay for the trip to market on another product should you even think about going down that road.

It's really that simple.

Many of you simply buy whatever you are told you "need" and have no clue if your really need it or not.

So follow these little steps before you send someone money.

1) Educate yourself about the process so your opinion about what you need actually means something.

2) Reach out to a reputable professional in the industry who isn't selling you something and ask for their opinion.

3) Consult your family - after all they are in this boat with you, and if you throw away money they pay the price. So be a good steward of their trust and make responsible decisions with your family money.

4) 90% of what an invention company wants to sell you, you can do yourself - and the other 10% you likely don't need.

I have seen many inventors get in trouble because they wrap themselves in the emotion of this process - it never ends well so don't do it. Put your wallet away and crack a book. You will quickly find that what you thought you needed was a waste of both time and money.

Mark Reyland