In a growing company, juggling side projects and a full-time job is often frowned upon.
bySam Radocchia, Co-Founder at Chronicled // Blockchain // Forbes 30 Under 30
In a growing company, juggling side projects and a full-time job is often frowned upon.
Everyone is supposed to be focused on one goal and one goal only — building the company. Any work that appears to sway from that overarching goal is viewed in a negative light.
But side projects don’t actually have to steal focus away from the company’s main objective. They can be useful as an outlet for creative energy, as a way to develop employees, and even as a tool to bring in new clients.
It all depends on how you treat these projects. If they’re looked down upon and discouraged, you won’t see any of the benefits.
If leadership embraces the idea of passion projects and offshoots, some spectacular things can happen.
Think of it like a daily walk. It’s comfortable to take the same route every day because you see the same stores, the same people. There may be minor deviations, but usually you know what to expect.
But if you want to see something new, you have to take different streets.
The original path may be trustworthy and dependable, but it won’t ever take you out of your comfort zone or help you see things in a new light. It’s only when you change your route that you run into new people, hear new voices, find new restaurants.
That’s what your side projects are — little side streets that can lead you to new ideas.
Here’s why they’re so important:
Deviating from the norm opens you up to new opportunities.
I’m not advocating you split your attention between multiple time-consuming ventures. Honestly, 90% of your time should be focused on your core business and its requirements.
But sometimes, in order to get where you want to go, you have to take an approach that isn’t totally linear.
I’ll give you an example.
Our team at Chronicled established a company as a passion project called the Blockchain Art Collective (BAC), which is separate from the work we do with supply chains. Recently, we were helping an organization register art and antiquities through the BAC.
And now, that party has expressed interest in using our supply chain capacities to track pharmaceutical drugs — one of our core company solutions.
So what started as a side company ended up bringing our organization business. It wasn’t the most direct route, but it did open up an opportunity we might not have had otherwise.
It can improve employee retention and company sustainability.
Passion projects are often about giving people the time, permission, and resources to do something a little different.
These opportunities can be significant, say a sabbatical after several years of hard work. Or they can be smaller, more frequent breaks for people to pursue their interests.
Allowing employees to invest just 5% of their time at work into related projects can lead to major growth and new discoveries. In fact, it can help attract the younger generation of workers since 78% of Millennials believe being involved in side projectsis beneficial to their careers.
And outside projects give employees some leeway to work outside the strict confines of their normal day-to-day workload.
That outlet can be key to retaining employees for the long run. High turnover rates are costly, not just financially, but in terms of the human capital you lose and the negative impact it can have on morale.
Giving your team an outlet — even one that’s tangentially related to the work they’re doing — is a good way to foster individual growth and keep people from burning out.
Ideas will compound into something bigger and better for your team.
Many people are actually more productive when they have a lot going on.
When they know they need to get several things done in a day, they work harder to meet those deadlines.
I started my first company while I was still getting my Masters. Looking back, it’s hard to believe I was doing all that at once. But that’s how I’ve always been. Even in college I gravitated toward interdisciplinary studies — combining what I learned in my logic or astronomy classes with what I was writing about in my English or anthropology classes.
I never felt like my company and my schoolwork were at odds. I never felt like any one of my classes pulled my attention away from the others.
Side projects at a company don’t have to compete with the main goals. Ideally, team members will apply what they learn from those projects to their work — leading to new ideas, new opportunities, and a more flexible and innovative company
Image credit: Mila Supinskaya Glashchenko/Shutterstock
Determining whether your invention will be successful or not is an integral part of being an entrepreneur. Here are three reasons inventors are outsourcing the review process to increase efficiency.
When entrepreneurs and companies invent new products or technologies, they are understandably reticent to share their ideas with outsiders. After all, the business landscape is cut throat. They do not want to risk giving away their competitive edge. Still, most entrepreneurs are aware they need some feedback to ensure that their ideas are viable. They may form an internal review team to analyze their prototypes and conduct a market analysis.
While this choice may seem logical, internal invention reviews can be a waste of time and money. External reviews are a smarter choice. For instance, consider independent taste testers, who food companies outsource sensory testing of their products to in order to capture a broad and objective range of preferences. Beware of in-house reviewers, who are often incapable of delivering the objective analysis and insights you need to make sure your product does not fail.
Internal vs. external reviews
We will come back to the point about internal reviews inherently being nonobjective. There are additional reasons to outsource the invention review process. For starters, internal reviews can require significant time and money. Since the team members tasked with the review are employees, they may have to balance this assignment with their other responsibilities.
Generally speaking, internal reviews can take up to 30 hours at minimum, although they can take up to 30 days at larger companies. If you are paying employees over $75,000 per year (and, in the case of an attorney, far more) and you assign several people to the task, you are looking at thousands of hours and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars to conduct your internal reviews, when they could be working on developing the top ideas and technologies instead. Be aware of where you’re spening money, as very little of your review expenses should be on the front end.
In addition, internal reviewers are not necessarily trained to conduct these types of analyses. A quality product study includes thorough research into your market, competitors and patent prospects. Someone who is not trained to vet ideas for commercial potential will not be able to generate the level of insights and recommendations you need to screen a technology. By comparison, external teams specialize in product analyses.
Privacy can be a concern when inviting outsiders to review your ideas. However, a non-disclosure agreement or confidentiality clause can prohibit external reviewers from revealing any sensitive and proprietary information. There are both legal and business incentives to adhere to these guidelines as the reviewers want to build a reputable business and are not in the business of stealing ideas for themselves. If the right safeguards are in place, you can trust that the review process will not expose your business’s important competitive information.
Here are three ways in which an outside review is more advantageous than an internal report.
Unlike your team members, review agencies focus solely on compiling invention reports. They can turn around an analysis much faster than your internal staff, and it will include a SWOT analysis, competitive research and intellectual property (IP) research – all the information you need to decide whether to move forward.
While some consultants charge high rates, many third-party vendors offer fast and affordable services. Instead of paying salaried employees to produce a lackluster review, you can secure a top-quality analysis at a fraction of the cost, freeing up your employees to concentrate on the development of your best ideas and IP assets.
I promised we would come back to this and saved it for last because I cannot stress it enough. When it comes to evaluating your commercial prospects, objectivity is everything. You need input from professionals who have no stake in the product’s performance. A third-party team is solely concerned with getting you informed answers and giving them to you with no pretense. Their jobs and egos do not depend on your product’s success. Those are the people you want reviewing your invention because then you will have solid feedback and perhaps fresh insight into whether your idea can be successful.
The worst thing you can do for your company is go to market blindly or with misinformation. Sourcing high-quality evaluations from professional invention reviewers will provide you with the necessary knowledge to help your company succeed. Whatever the reports contain, it will give you the knowledge to make informed decisions and develop ideas the world really needs and wants.
When a company copied their invention, Natasha and Fred Ruckel began investigating — and got an inside look into how products are ripped off.
On Valentine’s Day in 2015, Natasha Ruckel and her husband, Fred, were sitting in their living room in Gilboa, N.Y. Natasha was improvising on the piano, and Fred was listening while messing around with the couple’s cat, Yoda. Fred noticed a ripple in the living room rug, forming a half circle on one side. Again and again he tossed toys into the ripple and a delighted Yoda darted in and out. Natasha looked up from her playing. “That’s when we came up with the idea for the Ripple Rug,” she says.
The Ruckels, who had spent around 25 years earning their living in marketing and advertising for brands from PepsiCo to ESPN to Hasbro, were already in the midst of creating their first venture: an app that provided a way for amateur photographers to monetize online images. But they both agreed that the Ripple Rug was a better bet.
A couple of days later, Fred went to Home Depot and bought some cheap pieces of carpet, and they got to work on a prototype. When they had that, they launched a Kickstartercampaign in May 2015, pricing the American-made product at $39.95, to test the market. Within 30 days, they received $15,000 in backing. They had the products made in Georgia for $15 each, and filled the orders.
The Ruckels were weighing their next step when, that fall, the opportunity of a lifetime hit. QVC, in conjunction with the Today show, hosted an ongoing competition called the “Next Big Thing” for entrepreneurs with new retail products. Participants presented their offerings on the TV program, and the winning products received an order from QVC.
Following an arduous vetting process — including proof of a multimillion-dollar insurance policy, a guarantee of having 1,500 items available for sale and sample videos of the Ruckels in pitch mode — Ripple Rug made the cut. “We drove into New York City, and at every exit, we practiced the pitch,” Fred remembers. “We were there by 5 a.m. and hardly slept the night before.”
They sold a few hundred units immediately. QVC bought 1,500 more and Ripple Rug became a top seller. “It was pretty damned amazing,” says Fred. “We were profitable out of the gate, which is virtually unheard of. It felt like a great moment.”
It was, and it wasn’t. Over the next 14 months, the Ruckels learned that coming up with a truly original innovation attracts not only devoted customers but also the kind of highly organized, deep-pocketed bootleggers who rip off products and systematically grind their inventors into the ground — both financially and emotionally. “It creates so much discord that you are willing to give up the dream of entrepreneurship and go back to your day job,” says Fred.
In the thick of battle, however, the Ruckels learned critical lessons: the importance of copyrighting assets before launching; the reality that people will steal everything from your marketing pitch to your product to your advertising photos; the need to continually patrol for ripoffs and take action. They also got a darkly fascinating glimpse of how ruthless, well-funded, deeply sophisticated bootlegging operations work — and how, with tenacity, vigilance, a good lawyer and the right strategy, they can be beaten.
To read how they won, here is the rest of the article:
Read the fine print before giving money to an invention help company
It all sounds so good, and easy. You have spent hours and perhaps years creating your product. You have spent money making prototypes and patents. We know those are not cheap and can take years to get. You see an ad on TV and it sounds great! They can do it all! You meet with someone and they love your idea as much as you do, or so they say.
Here is the kicker. They are in it for the money. I am not saying they aren’t entitled to be paid for their work. The problem is, they rarely do work. Inventors do not ask enough questions or talk to enough people about the company they are choosing. It is based on pure emotion. They sign a contract to pay and they don’t know what they are getting in return.
Inventors are easy pickings for a lot of companies. They tell the inventor what they want to hear and the inventor jumps at the chance. Their credit card is out so fast, they forgot to read the fine print.
Christmas 2017 is upon us! Children worldwide will soon be comfortably tucked into their beds as they anxiously await the arrival of Santa Claus (a.k.a. Kris Kingle). This is a great time of the year to be young, or at least young at heart!
Several years ago we profiled the Top 10 Iconic (and Patented) Toys in our Christmas Eve edition. This year we decided to profile the most iconic and patented games, many of which are still likely to be found waiting for good little girls and boys under the Christmas tree. Profiled are Monopoly®, Rubik’s Cube, Battleship, and Rock’em Sock’em Robots, Twister and Simon.
We also want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! Thank you for reading IPWatchdog.com!
In 1935 the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued U.S. Patent No. 2,026,082 on Monopoly®, one of the most successful and beloved board games of all time.
As the story goes, Charles Darrow, an unemployed salesman, was struggling to support his family during the Great Depression. It was during this time that he claimed to have fondly remembered summers in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and dreamed about being a real estate mogul. These diversions purportedly lead to him formulating what has become the most popular board game of all time – Monopoly®.
Darrow felt certain he had a hit on his hands so he contacted Parker Brothers, who initially turned him down, but only after explaining that his game violated some 52 fundamental rules of a board successful game. Undeterred, Darrow marketed the game himself. As fate would have it, a friend of Sally Barton, the daughter of Park Brothers’ founder, George Parker, bought the game. At the time Mrs. Barton’s husband was the President of Parker Brothers. One thing lead to another and eventually Parker Brothers became convinced that this game, with minor modifications, could be a huge success. As a result of his invention Darrow became the first millionaire game inventor, thanks to royalty payments.
The irony, however, is that Darrow may not have invented the game at all, but rather he may have taken a locally popular game and made only a few changes. By the time Parker Brothers realized that Darrow might not have been the true inventor the game was already a huge success. To protect the game and its investment the decision was made to buy up all patents and copyrights on any related game, thereby ensuring the monopoly on Monopoly®.
One of the most popular games of the 1980s was the Rubik’s Cube, a puzzle game that proved enormously frustrating to many who attempted to unlock its solution.
Invented in 1974 by Hungarian inventor Ern? Rubik, the device was patented in the United States with the issuance of U.S. Patent No. 4,378,116 on March 29, 1983, with the title Spatial logical toy.
On a classic Rubik’s Cube, each of the six faces is covered by nine stickers, each of one of six colors: white, red, blue, orange, green, and yellow. See Wikipedia. A Rubik’s Cube craze captured worldwide attention in the 1980s, with tournaments and even the Guinness Book of World Records recognizing the fastest attempts to solve the puzzle.
Today the Rubik’s Cube has been a part of pop culture for decades, and has once again gained a new following with over 40,000 YouTube pages dedicated to the puzzle game.
Another long time favorite game is Battleship. U.S. Patent No. 1,988,301 was issued on January 15, 1935 under the title Game board, the originally patented game does not bear a lot of resemblance to the one that many of us grew up playing.
The patent explains that the invention relates to a perforated game board and pins insertable in the perforations. Although the patent explains that this perforated game board could be used for number of different games, the game we know as Battleship is described.
“The game herein illustrated as in progress might be called Battleships,” the patent reads. The game is described as requiring two players to sit facing each other. “One player, making use preferably of some erasable marking means, such as chalk, places an enclosure or line around a number of arbitrarily chosen series of perforations in groups of 4 (representing a battleship), in groups of 3 (a cruiser). The patent explains that play will go back and forth with each player calling out shots at the unseen target created by the other player. “Play continues thus and when one of the series of perforations within an enclosure has been filled with pins, that ‘ship’ is ‘sunk’.”
Rock’em Sock’em Robots
U.S. Patent No. 3,235,259, titled Toy boxers, was issued on February 15, 1966. The patent explains: “It is the primary object of this invention to provide a new and amusing toy in the form of a novel boxing game manually operated by opposing players.” Inventors Marvin Glass, Harry Disko and Burton Meyer, assigned the patent to Marvin Glass & Associates, and the first version of the Rock’em Sock’em Robots game was manufactured by Louis Marx and Company in 1964.
Rock’em Sock’em Robots was a game of battling robots, with each player trying to knock the others head off the block. The Red Rocker and the Blue Bomber would battle it out inside the ring.
Designed for two players, this boxing game required each player to a robot by operating the mechanism with his or her thumbs.
Twister has to make this list just because of the patent art on display in Fig. 3 (to the left) alone.
Invented by Charles Foley and Neil Rabens, and assigned to Milton Bradley Company, U.S. Patent No. 3,454,279, titled Apparatus for playing a game wherein the players constitute the game pieces, was patented on July 8, 1969. The patent explains: “The invention relates to a method of and equipment for playing a game of skill and chance for amusement and exercise purposes.”
The game is played with a playing surface the size of a large blanket, which has “a plurality of columns of loci, said loci being of such size and so spaces as to enable the players to place a hand or a foot on any designated locus, the columns of loci being different colors…” Don’t you just love the way patent attorneys write?
A “chance device” such as a spinner is included with the game. Someone not playing (i.e., a referee) will spin the wheel and call out a hand or foot with a corresponding color, which requires the players to twist and contort themselves in order to place the appropriate hand or foot on the color. The object of the game is to move into the appropriate position without falling. If a player falls or touches an elbow or knee to the surface the game is over and the other player declared the winner.
Ralph Baer, Hall of Fame inventor of the video console, was also the co-inventor of this extraordinarily popular, frustrating, and fun game. Baer, along with co-inventor Howard Morrison, invented this electronic game in the late 1970s, and launched in 1978.
U.S. Design Patent No. D253,786 was issued on Christmas Day 1979 (Fig. 1 of the patent shown left). While that might seem odd to many, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issues patents every Tuesday, and December 25, 1979 happened to be a Tuesday. Obviously, all the work to allow the patent to be done was complete well in advance. In the U.S. a patent is not officially issued until it is published, which occurred on Christmas Day 1979.
For those not familiar with this iconic game, the device is made up of four colored buttons, which light in a series. The player must repeat the sequence correctly once the lights stop. Each time the player successfully completes the correct sequence the sequence becomes longer, and as the player continues the sequence gets faster and faster. This game can still be purchased today, but the new age Simon Optix seems more virtual reality headset than anything else. In an attempt to keep the game fresh for the next generation you wear the headset and wave your hand in front of the proper color in sequence. Other varieties of this classic game include the Simon Swipe and Simon Air.
Actress Cobie Smulders Teams Up with Frito-Lay Variety Packs to Inspire Families to “Dreamvent” Together for $250,000 Grand Prize
Frito-Lay Partners with STEM-Focused Museums to Offer Free Admission and Help Spark Creativity
PLANO, Texas, Dec. 13, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Families that play together can invent together. Frito-Lay Variety Packs, one of the flagship brands from PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division, is calling on families to dream big in the second year of its “Dreamvention” program and submit ideas to solve an everyday problem for a chance to win $250,000. Frito-Lay, which initially created Dreamvention after seeing so much ingenuity from families in their daily lives — from big inventions to daily life hacks — is bringing the program back after receiving thousands of creative ideas in its first campaign. After all, Frito-Lay Variety Packs believes that if you can dream, you can invent. Families can submit invention ideas and learn more about the program starting now at MyDreamvention.com.
Cobie Smulders, a mom of two young children who knows the importance of spending meaningful time with family and making each moment count, is helping Frito-Lay encourage families to brainstorm invention ideas together. Smulders, best known for roles such as Robin Scherbatsky from “How I Met Your Mother” and Maria Hill from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has long had a passion for creativity and scientific endeavors — she was even an aspiring marine biologist in her youth before she pursued acting full time.
“As a mom of two kids, we’re always making really weird stuff together!” said Smulders. “It’s really cool to join them on these projects and help them with their imagination. That’s why I admire the Dreamvention program, because it gives families a platform to showcase their creativity, hard work and determination. I can’t think of a better way for families to spend time together than by encouraging each other to dream big.”
To spark creativity for Dreamvention, Smulders and Frito-Lay are partnering with four STEM-focused museums across the country to offer families free admission between December and February, with Smulders helping kick off the first event today at the New York Hall of Science. Families will get hands-on Dreamvention experiences to inspire their own invention ideas to submit online. To see the museum schedule, visit MyDreamvention.com.
Earlier this year, Frito-Lay Variety Packs announced the inaugural “Dreamvention” contest where thousands of creative inventions were submitted by aspiring entrepreneurs from coast to coast. These imaginative and practical inventions were narrowed down to five finalists and an eventual $250,000 grand prize winner, including:
Maria DeLong from Brownsburg, Ind., who submitted “Pleasant Awakening” (finalist)
Anna Kreager from Cedar Park, Texas, who submitted “Chalkers” (finalist)
Julia Luetje from Leawood, Kansas, who submitted “Storm Sleeper” (finalist)
Grace Murphy from Needham, Mass., who submitted “Shoe Purse” (finalist)
Andrew Young from Batavia, New York, who submitted “Toaster Shooter” (winner)
All of these ideas were brought to life for the finalists to experience, with the help of MAKO Designs + Invent, a full-service consumer product development firm, through official prototypes of their inventions. Families can see the prototypes at the museum stops between December and February.
“This year’s competition was fueled by the passion and creativity that aspiring entrepreneurs brought throughout the contest, proving that if you can dream, you can invent,” said Jeannie Cho, Vice President of Marketing, Frito-Lay North America. “We are pleased to announce next year’s competition to keep this celebration of innovation and family connection going. And we’re looking forward to what families will ‘dreamvent’ together next as they work to bring their best ideas to life.”
About the Contest
Families can participate by thinking up a fun invention idea, creating a simple drawing and short explanation of it and uploading both1 to MyDreamvention.com starting now through February 26, 2018 for a chance to win. Five finalists will be announced in October 2018 at which point Frito-Lay will pass the baton to America to vote for its favorite Dreamvention. The winning invention, based on votes, will be announced in December 2018.
Here are a few tips for how families can get started:
Have a brainstorm with family and friends.
Look at everyday things and think of a way to make it better.
Think of an everyday problem you have and dream up a way to fix it!
You can also “Dreamvent” on-the-go! Frito-Lay Variety Pack features pre-portioned, single servings that can be taken with you wherever you go. Variety Packs include everyone’s favorite Frito-Lay snacks, such as Cheetos cheese flavored snacks, Doritos tortilla chips, Fritos corn snacks, Funyun’s onion flavored rings, Lay’s potato chips, Rold Gold pretzels, Smartfood popcorn, and SunChips multigrain snacks. Variety Packs are available at retail stores nationwide for a suggested retail price of $2.69 – $13.99.
To submit an invention idea and to learn more about the contest and the official rules, please visit www.MyDreamvention.com.
Entrepreneurship and innovation are synonymous with MIT. Big thinkers from around the world come to MIT Sloan Executive Education to take advantage of our renowned faculty, research, and resources that can help turn their ideas into successful ventures or social impact.
We teamed up with Professor Bill Aulet of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship to assemble a collection of resources to help you get your venture off the ground. The Entrepreneurship Toolkit includes links to articles, a webinar, a 15% discount code, and other sources of business-building wisdom.
We hope these resources help ignite your entrepreneurial spark and guide your next steps. Click below and get the Took Kit
Once your patent has been awarded you may still need additional capital to turn that patent into a business. Fortunately it is not as difficult to find investors as you may think. Equity crowdfunding is on the path to surpass venture capital as the preferred way for start-ups and small businesses to raise capital.
In a nutshell, equity crowdfunding is the sale of equity (or debt) in your business directly to investors using an online platform instead of a stock brokerage firm. It is also less expensive than hiring one. Although direct to investor funding over the internet has been around since the late 1990s, it came of age with the JOBS Act in 2012.
The JOBS Act provides for three regulations that govern distinct types of offerings. The offerings differ by how much money you can raise and from what type of investor you can raise it from.
Regulation A (Reg. A) permits offerings of up to $50 million dollars. This is a “registered” offering meaning that the company needs to file a registration statement and investor prospectus with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). An audit of the company’s books for the two most recent years is also required unless the company has been in operation for a shorter period of time.
There are two main benefits to an offering under Reg. A. The first is that you can solicit and obtain funds from any member of the general public including younger millennial investors. This might be a benefit to a company whose product is targeted to this audience, like a video game company or a company whose technology might interest younger consumers as opposed to baby-boomers.
The second benefit is that once the offering is complete, the shares you have registered are freely tradable in the public market including the NASDAQ or New York Stock Exchange. There are specific listing requirements for these markets, but companies that go through this process then have access to mainstream capital markets. Also if the company does well, the shares are liquid and can be sold by the insiders.
The downside of Reg. A offerings is that they are time consuming and expensive. It can take 6 months or more for lawyers to prepare the paperwork and for the SEC to review, comment and approve an offering. Legal and accounting fees alone can easily reach 6 figures. There is also an annual audit and given that you will likely have thousands of small investors; you will probably need at least one employee to deal with investor relations.
There is also the cost of finding those thousands of investors. There have been several successful Reg. A campaigns that have raised $10 million or more. The upfront marketing costs for an agency to design and execute a campaign to reach those investors can also be substantial. If you are using Reg. A to raise $10 million or more, a budget of $250,000 or more would be appropriate.
On the lower end of the scale is Regulation Crowdfunding (Reg.CF) which allows companies to raise up to $1,070,000 per year directly from the general public. There is no need for an audit if the raise is less than $107,000 and above that only a CPA review, not a full audit of the last two years is required. There is no SEC review process, just a filing.
Anyone can invest although investors of lesser means are limited to a total investment of $2200 or 5% of the lesser of the investor’s income or net worth within each calendar year. It is not unusual for a company raising $1 million to have thousands of shareholders who put up $100 each. As with Reg. A the legal and marketing costs can add up.
A Reg. CF offering must be made on a crowdfunding portal (website) which in turn must be registered with the SEC. At this time there are about 30 portals that have registered and some are better than others in terms of their visibility and reputation. Several specialize and only host offerings for companies involved in green energy or companies owned by women or minorities, etc. Selecting the right website or portal can be crucial to your offering’s success.
Most companies find that the most cost-effective way for them to raise funds is Regulation D. Reg. D is an exemption from the registration requirements of the federal securities laws. It has been around since 1982 and today is an active $1.7 trillion per year market. That is much more than traditional public offerings or venture capital.
Traditionally these private placements were sold through stock brokerage firms and many still are. The firms and issuers were always limited to making these offerings only to people with whom they had a prior business relationship. The JOBS Act changed that to allow issuers to advertise and solicit investments from accredited investors, those whose income is over $200,000 a year or possess over $1 million in assets outside of their primary residence.
The vast bulk of the money raised through equity crowdfunding is raised using Reg. D. As a practical matter the cost of preparing the legal paperwork is usually less than with either Reg. A or Reg. CF.
Accredited investors are presumed to be more sophisticated and the amount of information that needs to be provided is usually less. At the same time, they often ask more thorough questions before they invest. The company will have to designate a knowledgeable person to help investors who want to kick the tires.
Accredited investors are relatively easy to reach and because they are taking a larger slice of each offering (often a $10,000 -$25,000 minimum investment) issuers need to reach out and connect with a far smaller group of potential investors. This substantially reduces the upfront marketing costs.
In sum, a Reg.A offering raising $5 -$10 million can cost several hundred thousand dollars whereas a Reg. D offering, raising the same amount, may cost less than $50,000. You can use Reg. D for a $1 million raise as well and unlike Reg. CF if you get a good response you can accept more than $1 million to provide your business with some extra cash.
Unlike venture capital or angel investors with equity crowdfunding the company seeking funds controls the process and the terms. The hard part is to present to investors a better deal that will make yours a more attractive investment than the other offers they receive.
There are multiple ways to structure a Reg. D offering that provides investors with a good return on their investment. For patent backed ventures; a licensing, royalty or revenue sharing structure is often possible. That allows the company to structure the financing “off the balance sheet” in a way that the owners of the company retain ownership of 100% of the equity.
There is no way to sugar-coat the fact that 90% of start-ups fail. A study published by MIT last year suggested that the likelihood of growth is 35 times higher for firms that apply for patents. That fact is not lost on investors, but you may want to remind them of this fact when you are seeking their investment.
That is one of the reasons that I am working with PatentAngels, an IP-centric investment platform that is focused on Reg D offerings for companies with registered patent rights. The IP aspect increases the level of certainty for investors, especially when making investments online and they may not be able to meet the management team in person as traditional VC’s do. Think about it, if you made an online investment in a company with multiple unknowns, would you rather know they at least have their technology patented?
I advise any company that is getting ready to start raising funds to take the following actions:
Get dressed. By that I mean get your corporate books and financial statements in order. Have your Board of Directors in place and make certain that they are people who have some experience to the business that you are in.
Have a detailed business plan that is well researched. Any investor will discount your financial projections but that does not mean that your projections should not be based in reality. Know your market, your customers and your competitors.
Hire the right people. Having a patent is great, but investors expect execution. You are going to need marketing and sales executives and a CFO. Hire them or at least identify them so that investors can evaluate their skills and experience.
Know how much money you need and be prepared to describe how you will spend it. A line item that says “general overhead” does not tell investors what they want to know. If you need office or manufacturing space, you should have a good idea of how much space, where it will be located and how much it will cost. You should be able to estimate how much each executive salary and benefits will cost and how many other employees you will need.
Be prepared to mount an aggressive and focused marketing campaign to drive investors to your company. There is a big difference between a presentation that says “look at this great widget I patented” and one that says “look at this great patented business I am building!”
Equity crowdfunding has created a new, intelligent and efficient way for small companies to access the capital markets. If you have taken the time and expense to obtain a patent for your product, it is certainly worthy of your consideration.
Nobody instinctively knows how to build a company. They either throw themselves into the role as a first-time leader, or they begin inside a classroom at the growing number of colleges and universities now catering to entrepreneurs’ needs.
Inside these institutions, future founders and CEOs are taught the skills and — perhaps just as important –meet the people that empower them to turn smart ideas into real companies.
Each year, Entrepreneur partners with The Princeton Review to rank the top 25 undergraduate and top 25 graduate programs for entrepreneurs. The annual survey looks at more than 300 colleges and universities (including one in Mexico) and weighs each institution’s commitment to surrounding its students with world-class mentors, professors, and alumni, as well as an environment for budding entrepreneurs to thrive. (To read more about our methodology, pick up our Dec. 2017 issue of Entrepreneur.)