When Nikola Tesla had a great idea, did Thomas Edison’s lightbulb appear over his head?
As Sheldon Cooper would say, “Bazzinga!”
Tesla vs. Edison! Arguing over which man was the better inventor is almost as pointless as debating whether Batman or Superman would win in a street fight.
They are different characters. One was an idea man. The other was a businessman. Successful inventors need to be both.
From the groundbreaking to the weird, inventions are the backbone of civilization. And, like all inventions, the inventors started with an idea.
But is an idea enough?
No. Both the ThighMaster and the printing press required execution to become actual inventions.
Which means having an Archimedes “Eureka!” moment won’t make you into the next Ron Popeil – not without taking the necessary steps to turn the thoughts in your head into a product in your hand.
As Popeil would famously say, “But wait, there’s more!”
Do you think you’re the only genius who came up with this idea? Maybe you are. But there’s only one way to find out: research.
The first thing you need to do is find out if there are any patents from people who came up with the same, or similar, invention.
You could hire a patent attorney, but patent attorneys cost money. Their time is valuable, so the meter starts running each time you call with a question.
Do as much research as you can before calling the law offices of Cha-Ching, Cha-Ching and Cha-Ching.
Does anybody need this invention of yours?
Sure, your mother thinks it’s a great idea but she’s your mother. Her biased opinion means little when seeking investors.
Do a little sleuthing to see if there is a demand for your invention.
Most people aren’t mind readers and most inventors don’t have the descriptive powers of Billy Mays, so you’re going to need something physical to show for your brilliant idea.
A prototype is proof your idea works.
Patents, “patent pending” and “provisional patents” are all words or phrases you probably knew nothing about before you came up with your invention. To move on, however, you’ll need to know how to protect your idea. Just posting a picture of your invention on Instagram won’t be enough to keep your idea your idea.
Now, you need to decide if you want to manufacture your invention yourself or if you want to license the idea to another company.
However, a licensing deal may require the product has a proven track record in terms of sales, so you should be open to the possibility of having to manufacture your product before letting one of the big boys take it to the next level.
While branding yourself may sound painful, you need to realize that you are your best product.
Whether it’s talking to a lawyer or an investor or a vendor, you are the salesman for your invention. The Chop-O-Matic wasn’t the greatest invention since sliced bread, but Ron Popeil was a better salesman than Otto Rohwedder—the inventor of sliced bread.
Marketing is crucial to getting your invention into the hands, the garages, the yards, the cars and the kitchens of consumers.
If you want to be your own manufacturer, you should decide how to package your product. Where will it be sold? Do you need a social media campaign? Who is your competition? Where should you advertise?
But wait, there’s more!
If all of this seems overwhelming—or if you just want to see what other inventors are selling—check out Quirky.
Quirky describes itself as “a community-led invention platform that turns the great ideas stuck in people's heads into real products.”
If you don’t have the time or energy to go through the necessary steps to turn your idea into an actual invention, then turn to the Quirky community for much needed help and support.
Once you share your idea on the Quirky invention platform, you can avail yourself to the talents of artists and experts in 3D rendering to help make your idea a reality.
In return, you share some of your “influence,” which is Quirky’s way of saying you give them a cut of the product revenue.
Then, the Quirky staff, community and brand partners, determines which inventions to manufacture and distribute. If chosen, your product will either be sold in stores or in the Quirky Shop.
Currently, over 300,000 inventions have been submitted to Quirky with over 10 million dollars of royalties paid. Shop Quirky to see what type of products are being sold.
So, you can do it alone or you can get by with a little help from your cyber friends. It all depends on how much time, energy and money you want to invest.
Whatever you decide, remember two things:
Always write down your great idea… and Superman would definitely beat Batman in a fight.