by Sam 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Instead, I felt like they were compounding and creating new perspectives, thought processes, and ideas.
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
Originally published at medium.com
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.
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.
Biomedical engineer Melanie Watson had plenty to grapple with when prenatal tests during her second trimester revealed her daughter, the second-born of two, had a very serious genetic condition called trisomy 18. In this condition, instead of normal two chromosomes on the 18th chromosomal pair, there are three.
Half of all babies born with trisomy 18, or Edwards syndrome, die within the first week, with many others stillborn. Only 5 percent to 10 percent live beyond age 1.
“She is my miracle baby,” Watson said of Claire Juliette Watson-Ray, now 5½. It’s important to get the one-half in there “because every day counts,” said the Trine University assistant professor of biomedical engineering, who earned her undergraduate and doctorate degrees from Louisiana Tech.
Watson has fought every day for her fragile daughter’s life, not accepting the no-hope pronouncement given by doctors at the Texas hospital where Claire was born and not giving up when Claire, at age 14 months, was diagnosed with liver cancer.
That tenacity and resolve to give Claire the highest quality of life possible is what also led Watson on a journey to seek an innovative solution to quickly and easily perform routine blood tests so Claire — and anyone with a health condition that requires frequent blood testing – can do so wherever and whenever they want, with results sent via a cell phone to the doctor.
The eighth version of the hand-held, blood-testing device prototype is now being 3-D printed, and Watson is in the process of patenting the invention. It is the culmination of more than five years of research and development, and Watson’s entrepreneurial endeavors through her company Blaire Biomedical have drawn high praise from regional and state funders. She was recently named one of two first awardees of support through Indiana’s Elevate Ventures’ new Community Ideation Fund.
The fund, created in 2018, enables ideation-stage high-potential companies to move closer to a specific, measurable technology or product development milestones through an investment between $5,000 and $20,000. Eligible applicants include Indiana-based companies with headquarters in communities under a partnership with Elevate Ventures, and with no more than $50,000 in trailing revenue over the past 12-month period.
Elevate Ventures, a venture development organization based in Indianapolis, Ind., provides entrepreneurs with the expertise and resources needed to transform ideas into profit-making companies. The Community Ideation Fund $17,500 convertible note will help Watson move ahead with final development of the blood-testing device by hiring a part-time design engineer.
“We need to improve the optics (in the device) in order to increase the accuracy of blood tests,” Watson said, noting this funding and a recent $1,000 micro-grant from the Elevate Northeast Indiana Farnsworth Fund, plus additional funding she is seeking through other regional and state sources is crucial. “It is essential for up-and-coming entrepreneurs to get into the seed round to draw venture capitalists and angel investors.”
Already available is a hand-held blood glucose testing device that operates similarly through a phone app, but Watson said there is no other such device on the market that can perform multiple blood tests.
“There has to be a better way” To read the rest of the story click:
The patent troll narrative has dominated our cultural consciousness ever since a clever Intel lawyer coined the term in the early 2000s. Even if you know nothing about patents, you’re probably familiar with the concept. Companies with no intention of producing anything buy up overly broad patents to extort other businesses with. Do you remember when the podcast This American Life devoted not one but two episodes to the subject? I do.
It was so persuasive that legislation — the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA)— was passed in 2011 to address it. Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY), an award-winning inventor and successful entrepreneur, began his term the year after Congress passed the AIA.
He perceived the legislation would be damaging, he told me in a phone interview earlier this month, and he was right. It has been. (Read some of the reasons why I believe independent inventors are in danger.)
As an undergraduate at MIT, Massie invented a haptic computer interface in 1993— enabling users to “feel” virtual objects. His thesis advisor encouraged him to reach out to the technology transfer office on campus. With the university’s help, he obtained patent protection. Without it, he is certain he wouldn’t have been able to raise the funds he needed to commercialize the initial prototype.
It took three to four years and $9 million dollars to create a version for consumers.
Thirty patents stem from his initial invention and improvements. Now owned by 3D Systems, his technology is still in use today.
On June 28th of this year, he introduced the Restoring American Leadership in Innovation Act of 2018 into the House of Representatives (H.R. 6264). It is co-sponsored by Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). Its goal is to roll back some of the “worst parts” of the AIA, Massie said.
Others have been sounding the alarm about the adverse effects of the AIA for some time now. They include the Innovation Alliance — a group of research and development-based technology companies from a range of industries, including Qualcomm; patent experts writing on IPWatchdog.com and for the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property; innovation policy advocates at Inventor’s Project; and activists from US Inventor, a not-for-profit.
To Massie, the relationship between strong patent rights and the incentive to innovate could not be clearer.
“Ideas never get developed if no one can recoup investment from them,” he explained. If ideas were made free and anyone could develop them, he thinks there would be less development of ideas — not more.
Notably, H.R. 6264 abolishes the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), the body established by the AIA to review new kinds of patent challenges.
One very successful inventor I know has been tied up in the PTAB system ever since an infringer challenged his utility patent. It’s been years now. Before the AIA, he earned sizable royalties from a licensing agreement for 10 years uneventfully. Originally issued 13 claims, after battling seemingly endless rounds of appeals, he’s down to one. Meanwhile, while his patent remains under re-examination, infringers have flooded the market and sales of his invention have been cut in half.
Massie’s bill explicitly restores patents as a property right, which would reverse a recent Supreme Court decision. As he put it, “Who is going to build a building on a piece of property when someone could say two years later, ‘We reviewed your deed, and you don’t own this property.’”
In its attempt to police malevolent actors and rid the system of overly broad patents, did Congress tip the scales too far against independent inventors and small business owners? Maybe.
“It’s an economic decision, whether to steal or license. Which is cheaper?” Massie explained. There’s even a phrase for it: Efficient infringement. In 2015, Joe Nocera described it as follows in his New York Times op-ed “The Patent Troll Smokescreen.”
That’s the relatively new practice of using a technology that infringes on someone’s patent, while ignoring the patent holder entirely. And when the patent holder discovers the infringement and seeks recompense, the infringer responds by challenging the patent’s validity.
Not everyone agrees, of course. For some, the patent troll issue reigns supreme. There really are far too many bad patents, that perspective contends — which is why processes like inter partes review (IPR) are necessary and good. Filing an IPR is cheaper than going to court.
Andrea Evans, an IP attorney who spent five years examining patents and trademarks at the USPTO, sees that as a potential benefit. She recently celebrated her firm’s 11th anniversary.
“I do think the Patent Trial and Appeal Board is necessary, because I like the idea of having a resource for people who cannot afford to go to federal court. It’s a faster process and less expensive,” Evans noted, adding that it must be policed properly.
Evans hosted the first day of a conference of inventor group leaders from across the country put on by Inventors Groups of America, an organization I co-founded last summer. It took place at the United States Patent and Trademark Office with the help of the United Inventors Association. We were all cheered when Andrei Iancu, the new director of the USPTO, stopped by unannounced to deliver a supportive message.
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by Dan Dowling Contributor Entrepreneur Magazine
I was horsing around with my dog the other day — I promise this is an article on entrepreneurship — when something extraordinary happened.
We’d been playing tug-of-war with her red doggie blanket when, after 10 minutes of tugging, I finally managed to wrench the festering rag from her clenched, bulldog jowls. I flashed the blanket about like a torero, bowed, then I flipped it behind me and hid it on the small of my back.
Sugar searched frantically for a minute while I sniggered and snarked. Finally, my inner villain satisfied, I dropped her prize in plain view at my feet. Here’s where it gets weird.
“Here’s your blanket, Shoog!” She looked at me vaguely, and again went searching for the missing blanket that was no longer technically missing.
“Sugar, come!” She bounded on the couch and traipsed behind me, actually walking over her blanket at that point, and continued ransacking the living room. That’s when it hit me:
This dog fully believes the blanket has disappeared and that she’ll never see it again. So even though she technically sees the red blanket, the visual (and even tactile) information does her no good. The blanket does not exist.
Bewildered, I picked up the dog rag and gave it a casual flick — “Looking for this?” Sugar’s ears popped up, her pupils dilated, then she dashed at me, mouth a’foaming, for the prize that she had literally stepped on 20 seconds earlier. Because it existed again.
If you are convinced that something is unattainable, you will be unable to reach it no matter how hard you work. This thing could be waved about you, you could stumble over it, you could wake up next to it without ever realizing it is there because you will still be blind to it. Just like poor Sugar.
So, to all you entrepreneurs out there hustling and grinding every day, it’s time to up your mental game.
Tony Robbins says that taking more action without belief isn’t going to change anything. You need to actually believe the time you spend working is moving you toward your inevitable success, otherwise you’ll find yourself an entrepreneurial Sisyphus, perpetually pushing your boulder up the hill with no results. Because that’s your belief, your negative results will continue reinforcing the negative belief until you change the (freakin’) belief.
You have complete control over this self-fulfilling prophecy. So dedicate yourself to a visualization routine. And it’s gotta be daily.
Lie down, sit down, go outside, stay indoors — whatever’s most comfortable for you that you can repeat daily. Then, instead of jumping right into your visuals, you’ll want to prime yourself for five minutes with gratitude. This helps you hack your way into a positive mindset so that your visuals are as powerful as they can be.
Just walk yourself through the experiences that made a difference in your life: the people who never gave up on you, the miracles that got you through. Feel the joy and amazement and appreciation each of these memories brings. Once you’ve worked your way into some authentic smiles and you feel your mind lift, finish your 15-minute break with 10 minutes of visualization.
Get a crystal-clear picture in your mind of your “red blanket.” See yourself doing what you really want to do in your career, in your personal life, for your fitness, for the people you want to help. See yourself holding that prize, and feel yourself reveling in the accomplishment and satisfaction of it. See all the people you’re helping in the process — see the difference you’re making to your customers, to your friends, to your family. Feel joy in advance for these things already happening.
When you practice this daily — feeling gratitude and certainty for the things you want the most — you will stop worrying about the outcome of your work because you will be carrying the results with you in your mind and in your heart. Instead of finding excuses not to do work, you’ll always have reasons to do whatever it takes. Instead of your daily work feeling like an endless grind like Sisyphus with his boulder, you’ll approach your tasks with an easygoing attitude and a light heart.
But it has to be daily. Do whatever it takes to be consistent.
Start drawing a big X over each calendar day that you visualize, and make it a goal to X-out a whole calendar month. At the end of that month, I promise that you will have more accomplishments, more positivity and more momentum toward whatever is your red blanket.
It’s time for you to work on your mental game, too. Robbins says that mental aids like visualization are the key to getting started: “Most people have a belief in their potential no matter what anyone else tells them, and that affects how much action they take, which of course affects their results, and that result ironically reinforces their belief.”
When you change your belief — when you generate certainty and positivity through visualization methods — you motivate yourself to do what’s required of you because now you know your work isn’t for nothing. Every day that you work toward your goal, you’re taking a step closer to the goal that you know is possible.
The alternative is to keep telling yourself that your dreams are impossible, and to keep believing that nothing you do will make a difference. Your choice.
Action News Investigates has learned a lawsuit accuses a Pittsburgh-based invention promotion company of running a deceptive and fraudulent scam.
The class-action lawsuit says InventHelp and its affiliates took millions of dollars from inventors, who got virtually nothing in return. The company disputes the allegations.
Court records show InventHelp has convinced thousands of people to part with thousands of dollars to market their inventions. But the lawsuit says only a handful of inventors have made money.
After she saw an InventHelp ad featuring a caveman, Sherry Porter contacted the company about her idea.
“It was a pet collar with an LED light that went all the way around,” Porter said.
When Porter met with an InventHelp official at their office in Rochester, New York, she says the response was enthusiastic.
“She told me that it was a great idea. She said to me this invention could go as far as bigger animals, cows, horses, and she said possibly even to children,” Porter said.
Porter said she was skeptical.
But according to a class-action lawsuit filed in New York, InventHelp eventually convinced her to pay $700 and then another $9,000 to market her invention.
The lawsuit says InventHelp promised to send Porter’s invention to numerous companies. But when she followed up with those companies, she said, “they would write back and say they had already seen this product, that it had been on the market for years.”
She also got a book describing her invention.
“What Sherry received for that $10,000 was a hard-bound book very generally describing her invention that probably a third-grader could have put together,” said her attorney, Julie Plitt.
Earlier this year, the lawsuit says, an official at InventHelp’s Pittsburgh headquarters contacted Porter and said a company based in New York City called Abrams Gentile Entertainment was interested in licensing her invention.
But when investigators for Sherry’s attorney went to the office of Abrams Gentile, they found it vacant — nothing but empty boxes. The company’s name not even listed.
“As it turned out this company didn’t exist. The name of the company on the contract occupied vacant New York City space and to date that company hasn’t even answered the complaint,” Plitt said.
Porter did eventually receive a $500 check from another company affiliated with InventHelp.
“We believe that this $500 was a ruse in order to suck her into spending even more money with InventHelp,” Plitt said.
In their complaint, Porter and two other inventors accuse InventHelp and affiliated companies of running a “deceptive and fraudulent invention promotion scam that has bilked thousands of aspiring inventors and entrepreneurs into paying millions of dollars to Defendants for invention promotion services that Defendants do not and never intend to provide.”
When Action News Investigates called InventHelp’s PR office for comment, the voicemail was full. An email to the PR office bounced back as undeliverable.
Eventually, company spokesperson Lark Blasi responded, calling the lawsuit allegations “empty and frivolous” and saying, “We very much stand by our efforts on behalf of all of our clients, are pleased that a third party has shown interest in this individual’s idea, and are puzzled by the various inaccuracies in the amended complaint.”
In a letter to the court, InventHelp says it plans to file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
On its website, InventHelp says from 2015 to 2017 it signed submission agreements with 6,564 clients. But it says just 166 clients have gotten license agreements for their products, and only 49 clients — less than 1 percent — received more money than they paid InventHelp.
“In fact, all these people got was a large debt and dashed dreams,” Plitt said.
“I don’t take throwing money away lightly and that’s exactly how I feel, that I just threw that money right out the window,” Porter said.
In addition to the case filed by Porter in New York, a lawsuit making similar claims about InventHelp has been filed in Philadelphia. The company said it has not yet had a chance to review the allegations in the Philadelphia case.
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: