Contacting companies for the first time can be scary and uncertain for Inventors. You want to do it right and get the company interested in your product and see it on store shelves. My invention submissions have resulted in licensing deals in toys, tools, eyeglass products, kitchen utensils, and even a device used in the nuclear industry. I did it spending less than $100 on each and some as little as $8. I utilized an NDA and Sell Sheet only, no patent or PPA. My major investment has been my time.
I have been a serial Inventor, a licensing agent and reviewed thousands of Inventor’s products. In short, I see and hear all sides of the inventing process. What I’ve discovered is sometimes inventors can be their own worst enemies. Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to submitting pitches or new products to companies that can help you make a better first impression:
1. Don’t send hand-written submissions. Even if you don’t own a computer most libraries have one you can use for free. If a library isn’t an option, go to a FedEx Office (formerly Kinko’s). If you send your submission via snail mail, include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Don’t assume your target company will pay postage.
2. Do put your contact information on each piece of paper you send. That includes samples and prototypes.
3. Don’t waste a product reviewer’s time detailing how you came up with your idea. Focus on the benefits of your product/technology and why it will make the company money. Companies don’t care if your second cousin twice removed worked on your project for two years once he got out of prison.
4. Don’t use the phrase, “My idea is worth millions.” Let the company decide that.
5. Don’t use the phrase, “There is nothing else out there like my idea.” Most of the time you will be wrong.
6. Don’t say you have researched your product idea thoroughly when all you did was walk into a Walmart and didn’t see it on the shelves.
7. Don’t use the phrase, “Everyone will buy one.” This gets back to being realistic about the size of your market. Know who the target customers are. (See Rule #6)
8. Don’t send a prototype to a company unless they asked you to and are expecting it. Companies do not want to keep track of or be responsible for items they did not request in the first place.
9. Do be realistic about your expectations. Understand licensing royalties usually are about 2% to 5%. Greed can kill an otherwise profitable deal.
10. Do read and re-read everything a company sends you to make sure you understand everything in the documents. Don’t assume everything is fine and sign it. I send people my two-page non-disclosure agreement to read and sign prior to sending me anything for review. I have to include in my email an explanation to make sure they fill in their address on the top of the first page, because so many people don’t do it. This is in the first two paragraphs of the first page. So, if they are missing that what else are they missing in a longer document?
11. Don’t write a novel to explain your invention. Be concise and factual. No one wants to read a novel to get your idea. Be able to explain your invention over the phone or in person in 30 seconds or less. Practice your pitch until you can say it in your sleep. Look at the short blurb on the back of a book. It gives you an overall idea of the 300 page book. Your pitch needs to be that short.
12. Make sure you know your product. You should be the expert on your product. Never assume companies will just “Get It.”
13. Don’t send your submission to a company on Monday and call Tuesday to ask when they will be sending you a contract.
14. Do your research before submitting anything to a company. Make sure your submission actually fits their target market. Don’t submit a lawnmower idea to a soap company.(this happens more than you think)
15. Don’t send your invention submission in care of the general bulk mail of a company. Get a specific person’s name in charge of that department – new product development, marketing, inventor submissions, inventor relations, etc. Don’t send “To Whom it may concern.” The most likely place it will find is the trash basket.
16. If you call a company asking for the person in charge of invention submissions, make sure you are ready if you’re put through. This is not the time to forget pen and paper or fumble your pitch. If you get voice mail, leave a short intelligent message with your call-back number.
17. Make sure you know the time zone difference of the location you are calling.
18. Don’t send a company any package that has special storage requirements, contains a live animal or flammable liquids. Real example: An Inventor sent his new food-sealing device with samples of food sealed inside. It was not opened until a week later, by security due to the smell of the leaking packages.
19. Don’t send a company anything you can’t afford to lose. Accidents happen and things can get misplaced. If it’s a one-of-a-kind item, you may want to send a DVD or link to a video showing the product in action. If you post it on Youtube and you have not filed for any patent protection make sure it is set on Private and not Public.
20. When sending email attachments to companies, do make sure it is in a program they have installed on their computers. Not everyone has Filemaker Pro or Microsoft Office 2016. Ask if the company has a size limit on attachments. Moreover, some software automatically kicks out any email with an attachment that is not on a safe email list.
The more you do upfront to make sure you are prepared the better your chances of success.
Why do I need to do a business plan if I just want to sell or license my idea? It is a great question and we get it all the time.
The suggestion of doing a business plan is important for many reasons. If you are fortunate enough to be able to speak to someone or a company that might license your idea or product you need to be prepared. The interested party may ask you any or all of the following questions (example is for a product):
When you do a business plan, you go through all of these things because at the end of the day, if it cost too much to make them, it might not be worth it. There are other costs most inventors do not take into consideration such as Boxing, Labeling, Warehouse space, Marketing or sales reps commission
And there are many other costs involved. So the companies considering your product need to know that you know your business and how they will make money if they license your product. In doing the business plan, you will better understand the real costs involved and will be able to explain why they would want to take on your product. You will also have the data if you should decide to create the business and manufacture it yourself.
Every company we have pitched to has asked many of these questions. They want to know you understand the process. I have seen them ask inventors these questions and when the inventor did not have any answers, the comment is – “Why should I care about your product more than you do if you haven’t taking the time to find out this information?”
There is a lot to consider, after you have come up with the idea, in order for you to make money. It is possible and there is help available.
Keep Inventing Daily!
You have, what you think, is a fantastic idea that will make millions and be perfect for Shark Tank but you don’t know what to do or where to start. Here is a list of the first things to do:
After starting the process, you will see that there is a lot to do before you spend money on a patent or on prototypes. There is help available and it will take time. Just Keep Inventing Daily!
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Tuesday, May 10th starting at 6:00 pm, Startup Grind Orlando & Google for Entrepreneurs will be hosting founders of Fattmerchant, Suneer Madhani & Salman Rehmetullah. Learn more and get your ticket here, and use code “CATALYST” to get $4 tickets (normally $12)!
The event kicks off at 6:00 pm with a casual hour of craft beer, pizza, music, and networking. Around 7:00 pm we’ll start the fireside chat with our featured guest, followed by Q&A and more beer and networking.
Grab your ticket(s) here, and remember to use code “CATALYST” to get them for only $4 each.
See you there!
Submit your best new product designs in up to seven categories for a chance to win $20,000 USD, other great prizes, and global recognition. There’s no cost to enter and everything to gain!
Click here for more information and to Apply:
While every inventor wants a magic list of companies to submit their ideas to, very few real lists can be found. Below are links from a list compiled by a company out of Cleveland Ohio named NineSigma. (https://ninesights.ninesigma.com/resources)
Nine Sigma has been around for years, and while they don’t work directly with inventors, they do develop Open Innovation outreach for their corporate clients. Who knows maybe they have a program you can get involved in.
For now – take a look at their list below of companies you may want to submit your invention to. While I can’t personally vouch for this list, I can tell you that NineSigma has done a pretty good job of compiling it.
3M 3M accepts only patented ideas through this corporate website. This means that all submitted ideas must be protected.
AbBInBev Anheuser Busch InBev is always looking for new ideas to help make their brands refreshing and relevant.
Aqua Leisure Aqua Leisure is a maker of pool and swimming gear that invites Solution Providers to submit new ideas through their site.
Audi Production Award This is a contest sponsored by Audi to create innovative new visionary ideas in the industry and science.
Avery Dennison Particularly interested in novel and patented ideas that can advance Core Capabilities including: Decorative and Information solutions for label and packaging applications; External embellishment, identification, and tracking solutions for retail; Sustainable materials and adhesive films; Other adhesive and bonding solutions
AkzoNobel Seeking new ideas that are both brilliant and applicable solutions that are connected to their work in any way.
BAE Systems Creating innovative solutions from the amazing ideas of our network.
BASF This is a global technology scouting website that encourages visitors to browse and check into new ideas.
Beiersdorf Innovations are essential to Beiersdorf’s success. As a global company we have always cooperated with innovative partners. With Pearlfinder we want to further expand our global network.
Black & Decker Black & Deck receives thousands of idea submissions per year for new products through its website. It is interested in new products and ideas that will help meet consumers’ needs.
BMW BMW has founded the Co-Creation Lab so people interested in cars can meet share ideas and concepts.
Bosch As a user of power tools, you can get involved in our development. Do you have suggestions or concepts for innovative applications, products or technical solutions? Technically good and market-relevant ideas are welcome at Bosch Power Tools.
Boston Scientific Innovation Portal Do you have an innovative idea? We are testing out new ideas and technologies constantly and we welcome your ideas that could improve the health of patients around the world.
Cisco iPrize One of Cisco’s most public innovation Challenges, which has closed but may serve to spark ideas.
Clorox Clorox’s Hive open innovation hub
Colgate Colgate is looking for patented ideas to add to its product line. Submit patented ideas via the corporate website.
Crown Holdings Inc. Crown details its idea submission process on its corporate website. The company is looking for ways to enhance convenience, improved functionality and make its products more visually appealing.
Dell Ideastorm Dell’s Ideastorm website accepts ideas from the community.
Dow Chemical Dow Chemical accepts ideas through its Collaborate to Innovate submission form on its website.
Dremel Innovations Portal Invites you to tell about your concepts for innovative applications, products or technical solutions in the category of multitools. If you have an innovative and market-relevant idea and you know how to implement it, then simply send it to Dremel.
DSM A great example of a b2b organization embracing the open innovation mindset, with their Chemelot community for the chemical industry.
Elmers At Elmer’s we’re proud of the products and inspiration we provide to encourage consumers to create, build, and learn. They inspire us to do the same. Consumer needs are changing daily; their expectations and behaviors change over time. In order to maintain relevance, we strive to grow and evolve with our consumers through innovation
Evriholder Evriholder licenses products in variety of industries, including food. It allows inventors to submit ideas through its website.
Faultless Inventors Faultless Inventors is a company that purchases products or licenses them for the inventor that either has a patent or is going through the approval process. It is not a licensing agent or an invention submission company.
Fiat Fiat continues to accept ideas for future car models and features after developing a car based on a crowdsourcing project.
Ford Motor Company Ford Motor Company accepts ideas for vehicles from inventors through its website.
General Dynamics The EDGE® Innovation Network is a revolutionary model where industry, academia, and non-profit organizations, along with government entities, collaborate in an open community environment to rapidly deliver new technologies and innovative capabilities to warfighters and first responders
General Electric GE accepts ideas for products through its corporate website. The GE Submitted Ideas Operation handles all unsolicited and voluntary ideas that are submitted to the company.
General Mills We believe that there is a great opportunity for us to enhance and accelerate our innovation efforts by teaming up with world-class innovators from outside of our company.
GlaxoSmithKline With an ever-changing global consumer marketplace demanding better quality, better value and improved performance, innovating our products is key. We know the importance of bringing in external ideas and recognizing that the best ideas often come from innovators like you.
Henkel Henkel’s Innovative Partnership Program allows inventors with patents to submit their invention to the company through an online form on the corporate website.
HP HP’s Open Innovation team collaborates with researchers and entrepreneurs throughout all areas of expertise and field. It is more focused on academia and government.
Integrity Outdoor Brands Integrity Outdoor Brands accepts ideas and patented products from inventors through a submission form on its website.
Intuit Collaboratory Integrity Outdoor Brands accepts ideas and patented products from inventors through a submission form on its websi
Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products Can your idea make a difference? “We must experiment with new ideas.” – Robert W. Johnson, 1943, Johnson & Johnson Credo
Jokari Jokari accepts ideas from housewares inventors on its website. The Texas-based company is always working with new ideas and products.
KCI KCI, a medical device company allows inventors to share their ideas on the company’s website. The company is looking for product ideas that can lead to improved patient care and quality of life.
Kellogs At Kellogg, we’re always trying to look for ways to brighten your future, from better-for-you ingredients to labels that encourage a healthier tomorrow.
Kraft Valuable solutions can come from anywhere and Kraft invites you to Innovate with Kraft.
Lego Cuusoo This is a part of Lego’s recent push for innovation strategies and represents another great external touchpoint for the organization aimed at their consumers and users.
LG Collaborated & Innovate LG has posted its technology needs and broad interest themes on this site. LG invites innovators to post their offers and become an LG external partner.
Lisle Corporation Idea Program If you have an original tool idea for the automotive service industry which others may need, Lisle Corporation is interested in evaluating your idea.
Local Motors One of the first open-source communities for car designers and fabricators.
Lockheed Martin Corporate Innovation Web Site.
Maddak Maddak accepts ideas for inventions through the Inventor’s Corner section of its website.
Michigan Center for Integrative Research in Critical Care Do you have an idea to advance the science of Critical Care? Whether you are a seasoned clinician, an undergraduate or graduate student, or a new or experienced entrepreneur we want to hear from you. We are looking for partnerships.
MeadWestvaco A standard Open Innovation website, but there is some aggressive thinking behind the site. Look for great changes that help you engage with the company in new ways.
Medtronic Many medtech companies seem to have the potential for open innovation, but most don’t have the priority. This is a great example, but there is certainly room for feedback.
Newell Rubbermaid Newell Rubbermaid accepts patented ideas from inventors on its corporate website.
Nokia As a part of their sweeping new initiatives, Nokia has also reached out to consumers with IdeaProject. It remains to be seen whether or not the organization can survive against its stiff competition.
Northrop Grumman Innovation Network The Northrop Grumman Innovation Network encourages the most innovative academics and other organizations and individuals to work with Northrop Grumman in the development of the next-generation of these critical programs.
Novant Health Innovation Novant Health Innovation is the place where innovators can work together to solve everyday healthcare dilemmas and improve patient care. Submit your ideas through this one, easy-to-use portal.
Pfizer Investigator Initiated Research A global program is open to all researchers who are interested in conducting their own research. Invites research ideas and offers funding for research projects that advance medical and scientific knowledge about Pfizer’s therapies and generates promising medical interventions.
Philips Sense and Simplicity Philips uses crowdsourcing and social media techniques to create new technical solutions.
Procter & Gamble P&G has initiated their Connect + Develop concept that invites people to submit their innovative ideas.
Psion This was a powerful start, but with the Motorola takeover, we will see how their open innovative initiatives proceed. Something to watch in the future!
SAP This international organization’s efforts have always been very strong in open innovation initiatives. They have thriving user communities and many best-in-class technologies and platforms.
SCA Open Innovation Portal SCA is interested in collaboration with external partners with inventions that can ultimately create innovations and more value for our customers, consumers and business.
Scotts Miracle Gro Innovations If you have a new and unique idea that fits within our categories of lawn, garden, and outdoor living products and services, we would like the chance to work with you.
Shell The GameChanger program encourages innovation from external sources as well as integration with internal resources.
Stanley Stanley’s Invention and Idea Portal allows people with patents and ideas to submit their work to the company.
Starbucks Tell Starbucks what you want. Post your ideas and comment on other people’s ideas.
Statoil Innovate If you or your company can contribute with ideas that could lead to real world solutions for Statoil, we have the competence, financial instruments and the capacity to make it happen – welcome to StatOil Innovate.
Syngenta Thoughtseeders Germinating alliances for tomorrow’s innovations.
Tate and Lyle Open Innovation If you have a new product or technology in the areas of specialty food ingredients; texturants, sweeteners and health and wellness ingredients – or a new food technology altogether – we would love to hear from you.
Transport for London Technology Innovation Portal This portal allows users to submit innovative technological ideas and solutions that meet our key challenges.
Unilever Unilever welcomes business opportunities, technologies and third party proposals for products complimentary to their product line.
United States Postal Service Invites ideas on ways to improve their products and services – New products and services, cutting-edge technologies, innovative approaches.
WMS Do you have the next patent pending, patented game, or technology innovation that can help create the world’s most compelling gaming experiences? If so, your innovation may be of interest to WMS.
The Florida Venture Forum and the Angel Resource Institute are collaborating to bring you Pitching to Investors Workshop, taught by the Angel Resource Institute’s lead instructor, Troy Knauss on May 16, 2016 from 1:30 p.m.- 5:30 p.m. at the Hilton Carillon, St. Petersburg, Florida.
The standalone registration fee is $45.00 per person. In combination with the following full day event: 2016 Florida Early Stage Capital Conference the registration fee is $25.00 per person. Learning materials to be provided digitally, so be sure to bring a laptop or iPad to class.
Thoughts from Shark Tank auditions in Miami, FL
People were in line at 3pm the day before. Wristbands were given out starting at 9 am on Thursday. They handed out 500 and there were still more people, so they gave out 80 more, then even more. In all, there were over 700 people whoВ pitched. Last year, over 40,000 tried out and only 180 made to see the Sharks.
While I was not pitching, it was interesting to talk to the people whoВ were and there were several similarities. All were hoping for that Big Break, all wanted to hear that the person Loved their idea, and of course, everyone thought the pitch time went too fast.
While many had samples and prototypes, there was everything including food, websites, baby items and even a new holder for your ipad. That inventor did a rap to get his idea across. I heard that the interviewers loved it.
Dreams are big and fragile. The time, effort and money that went into the products showed that people are creative, looking for a better way, and hopeful that their idea will be the next big success.
There were also some very unrealistic people. Their sense of entitlement was surprising. They did not want to start small and sell a few of their items at a time. They вЂњknewвЂќ that their idea was a million dollar item that should be on the market. There was one person who has an item that might cost $1 to make and could sell for $9.99 (he thought $19.99). He did not want to вЂњwaste his timeвЂќ making a few hundred and try to sell them to show proof of concept. It is unfortunate because he might have a chance with this item if he did that. When I asked him if he knew how Damon John started out, he had no idea.
For all of the dreamers, inventors and entrepreneurs, keep inventing daily, but be prepared for the real world. Any investor, whether on Shark Tank, or not, needs to know that you are giving it 120%. They bet on the jockey not the horse so do your homework and always be prepared. You never know when the opportunity to pitch will arrive. Are you ready?
Carolyn Keane – Founder – Inventor