How to Start Inventing Things and Get to Market

How to Start Inventing and Get to Market

Everything around you—every item, book, app, and website—started as an idea in someone’s head.

That airplane, memory foam pillow, headache pills, toothbrush, guitar, and internet all began as dreams.

Seeing the world as a library of ideas shows that inventing is for everyone. If others can turn their dreams into reality, so can you.

When it comes to inventing, sticking through the journey from idea to market is crucial. Thomas Edison said it best, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

If you believe you have a genius idea, be prepared to put in the work to make it happen. It’s not as hard as you think!

That’s where this guide comes in.

We’ll walk you through the steps to get your ideas to market and provide useful resources to help you. Just read, develop focus, research, test, and stick with it!

Disclaimer: This article is not legal advice. Consult a patent attorney for information on filing for a patent and getting your idea to market.

1. Believe in yourself

Inventing takes commitment, dedication, and self-belief. If you give up easily or are discouraged by negative feedback, work on believing in yourself first.

Believing in yourself cultivates a growth mindset, which changes your brain chemistry. It allows you to solve problems and find new solutions more easily.

Most inventors say that being obsessive and determined was key to their success. Never give up, even in the face of challenges.

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2. Find a problem worth solving

If you’re an "idea person," you know that coming up with ideas is easy; the real challenge is sticking with one idea.

Inventing means solving a problem, whether it’s your own or someone else’s.

Examples of problems and solutions:

  • Problem: dry skin. Solution: moisturizing skin cream.
  • Problem: need to work at night in the dark. Solution: light bulbs, candles, flashlights.
  • Problem: hairy clothes because of pets. Solution: lint roller.
  • Problem: nail biting. Solution: horrible tasting nail polish.
  • Problem: need to contact someone far away. Solution: telephone.
  • Problem: boredom. Solution: board game.

Figure out which problem you’d most like to solve. It doesn’t have to be completely new; it just needs to be your solution.

Find your exact solution and determine if there’s demand for it. Consider existing competition and whether you can compete.

How to find problems that need solving:

Focus on your own frustrations or pay attention to others’ complaints. Read forums, social media accounts, and reviews to discover problems people are talking about.

3. Do market research

Validate your idea by conducting market research.

1. Know if your idea is already selling and who your competition is

Research online and visit stores to check competing products. Pay attention to name, price range, materials used, claims, packaging, and manufacturer.

2. Minimize risk and check for patents

Search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and Google’s Patent Search for similar ideas. Consult a patent attorney if needed.

3. Gauge interest and ask potential customers

Ask objective individuals for feedback. Use non-disclosure agreements when necessary. Conduct online surveys without revealing your idea.

4. Consider pricing

Set your price based on competitor prices and materials. Understand how pricing affects your business.

5. Find potential licensees

Identify manufacturers of similar products. Make a list to contact after patenting your idea.

6. Gather details for your sell sheet

Create a one-page description of your idea to entice licensees, buyers, or trade show attendees. Include product name, benefit statement, visuals, features, and contact details.

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Validate your idea through the research process. Understand your customer base and know your competition.

4. Build a prototype and test your idea

Create a physical prototype to test your idea. This allows you to gather feedback and make improvements.

Consider your budget and decide on the purpose of the prototype. Use affordable materials and manufacture in small batches.

5. Protect your idea

If there are no matching patents or products, protect your idea legally.

Use non-disclosure agreements when sharing your idea. Apply for trademark protection to safeguard your product’s name, logo, or slogan.

Consider filing a provisional patent application (PPA) to obtain “patent pending” status. Consult a patent attorney for a full patent.

6. Manufacture or license your idea

Decide if you want to manufacture your product or license it to others.

Analyze your personality and budget to make the right decision. Think about your sales abilities, management skills, and willingness to take risks.

Ideas can be realized by both inventors and entrepreneur-inventors. Choose the path that suits you best.

Licensing your invention versus manufacturing it

The advantage of licensing your product is that it requires less up-front investment and eliminates most of the risk in bringing an invention to market. Manufacturing, on the other hand, requires tooling and staffing production facilities, which means you either need a costly set-up or have to find an affordable manufacturer.

Unfortunately, royalties from licensing agreements are often a flat percentage rate, limiting the potential growth in return. Usually, royalties fall between 2 percent and 10 percent of the net profit. Manufacturing, however, allows for exponential returns due to economies of scale.

One risk of licensing is the possibility of an agreement gone wrong, leading to a long legal battle and associated costs. Additionally, statistics show that only 13 percent of inventors are successful in licensing their invention. If you still choose to license, be prepared to DIY if things don’t work out.

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However, the same study found that almost half of inventors who take control of producing and marketing their invention achieve success.

If you’re still interested in finding a licensee, remember that you don’t have to opt into an exclusive contract and can license to other companies first to assess feasibility. Keep in mind that companies licensing an invention have higher profitability expectations, as royalties increase their expenses and decrease overall profitability.

If you’re still unsure which route to take, consider the complexity of your invention. For simpler inventions, it may be more feasible to begin manufacturing. For more complex inventions, especially those with technical complexities, licensing to a better-equipped company may be more sensible.

Remember, licensing an invention requires buy-in from the company. If you can’t find interested parties, manufacturing may be your only choice.

When should you start marketing?

Another question many inventors ask at the manufacturing stage is: Marketing before or after?

If you decide to license your invention, you’ll need to pitch it to prospective licensees. You might need to try numerous opportunities before finding success. In this case, a "sell sheet" is essential.

However, if you choose to manufacture and sell the invention yourself, continuous marketing is necessary. This can be a significant expense. If you lack marketing experience or aren’t interested in learning, the licensing route may be preferable.

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