Lessons From the Inventor Expo

Monday, 20 June 2011 06:30
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Last week, I traveled to Pittsburgh to walk the INPEX Inventor Expo. It provided energizing inspiration. It also reminded me that a lot of clever, industrious, motivated (and friendly!) people are seeking their big opportunity.INPEX provides a highly visible show place for inventors.

Inventors secure booths to display and demonstrate their inventions. Beyond the attentions of tech scouts like myself, select inventors can also be invited to participate in Product Searches by potential licensees including Church and Dwight, Clorox, Sky Mall, and Tupperware. Inventor resources in intellectual property management, marketing and business planning were also on-site. I don't know how many (if any) of the dozens of inventors' dreams were realized at the Expo, but I learned (and re-learned) a number of valuable lessons. These are as relevant to corporate innovators as they are to the field of entrepreneurial invention:Product champions must be persistently enthusiastic and persuasive advocates: A good invention needs to compellingly satisfy consumer needs (or wants). Beyond this, its champion must win others' support with a combination of passion, persuasiveness and persistence. I spent time speaking predominantly with the inventors who made determined efforts to engage me, either personally or through their booth presentation. Passive participants got passed.

Have a compelling (and ideally, air-tight) elevator pitch. One passionate inventor described her device, which she claimed to have devised in association with a doctor from The Cleveland Clinic (an impressive credential, if true). She claimed that attaching it to a cellphone (for instance) will negate the harmful health effects from the electromagnetic fields that they emit. I bought into her patter's premise. Unfortunately, she didn't provide any scientific data to validate her assertions. Even if her invention is legitimate, without this evidence, it lacks credibility.

A compelling value proposition offers customers a superior array of benefits with fewer negatives than available alternatives. An elegant solution offers meaningful customer benefits without conspicuous negative characteristcs relative to available alternatives. Two inventors at the show each tapped into a common consumer aversion to germs from handling objects that others have touched. One did this with a handheld clip with which to grab handles. The clip tethers to one's beltbuckle (or purse). Another did this with a small pouch that holds a portable santizing wet wipes dispensing packet. Like the gripper, it also features a belt clip. Which idea do you like better?

Most inventors seek a corporate sponsor willing to underwrite the completion of development and commercialization of their inventions. Among the many inventions displayed, I felt that there were a number of commercially viable candidates. I wish them all the best of success.

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