Any conversation about American inventors typically congers images of the likes of Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford. This country was founded on great inventors and our tradition for encouraging innovation still makes us great. However, the process is tough and the odds of getting an invention to market are slim.
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To learn more about the challenges modern inventors face I spoke with Akos Jankura, inventor, entrepreneur, and host of My Cool Inventions Radio. Jankura got his start as a chemist developing stain removers and laundry sheets. He eventually developed and patented his own specialized brand of laundry sheets that went on to sell millions. His passion for solving problems through invention led him to want to help other aspiring inventors. Jankura firmly believes “the best asset this country has is inventors.” However, the challenge these inventors and aspiring entrepreneurs face is a minefield of unregulated rip-off artists and scammers looking to take advantage of them. Jankura has seen far too many scammers prey on those budding inventors who have just given birth to their invention and are blinded by the prospect of getting their invention out into the world.
To help new inventors navigate the murky waters of bringing a new invention to market he launched My Cool Inventions Radio. The show is somewhat of a cross between Shark Tank and American Idol where inventors come on free of any charge and present their products to a national audience where listeners will vote on the viability of the product and provide real feedback to the inventor. When it comes to avoiding common pitfalls, Jankura advises new inventors to consider the following:
Stop and Learn: Just as in any business endeavor, you must educate yourself. “I wouldn’t tell someone to jump into a pool if they didn’t know how to swim,” says Jankura. The reality is lack of knowledge can put a new inventor at a tremendous disadvantage because it makes them vulnerable to scammers. Due diligence is important. Be sure to check out trade associations, industry publications, and online resources before making the plunge.
According to Jankura organizations such as the Electronic Retailing Association, RESPONSE Expo, and USPTO seminars are great places to get information about the process of getting an invention to market.
Connect with the Right People: Jankura likens the inventing process to mountain climbing. “If you are going to climb Mount Everest you will need a guide” says Jankura. You will need an advisor with experience, someone who will help you avoid the traps of scammers. However, you must be deliberate in who you connect with. There are scammers out there who will claim they can get you access to key players or will claim their own affiliations and status will open doors. Jankura advises against paying for this type of access. Take your time and get to know the players before making any commitments.
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Don’t Pay to Play: The vast majority of inventions will never make it to market, yet every inventor wants to believe they will be the one to hit the jackpot. As a result, scamming aspiring inventors has become quite a business. Jankura encourages inventors to really focus on the true viability of their product before opening their wallets. It’s not always easy to take that hard look in the mirror, but you must. Be wary of those who are either too easily impressed or too eager to get you signed-up and going.
Jankura notes there will eventually be costs associated with bringing an invention to market. You just have to be cognizant of who you are paying and why you are paying them.