How can an amateur inventor be successful? What does it take? When paying the patent attorney is a real struggle and may mean working extra hours at Tescos; what can an inventor do? Apply to Dragon’s Den (BBC) or Risking It All (Channel 4)? Attend an Angel Network meeting? But how to prepare? Is it really worth the effort? What other questions should you be asking but haven’t occurred to you? Is it time to step into the world of an Inventors’ Club?
A few weeks ago I got in the car and drove down long, dark roads trusting my TomTom SatNav. Fortunately the postcode was correct and I arrived at the Yeovil Sports and Social Club to watch people play tennis by flood light. At 8pm I was ready to listen to the assembled inventors at the South West Inventors Club held in the private function room. Seventeen people sat around a large table (some sporting pints, piles of paper and objects) ready for discussion.
Bill kicked off the session and started the process of going around the table inviting each inventor to speak for a maximum of five minutes about their ideas, progress, sticking points, and next steps. It was a delight to see other inventors help the current speaker with contacts, good website referrals and ideas on how to move forward. A clear benefit of the group is that by working together individuals are able to offer each other enough advice to prevent others “going down blind allies” and ensure that they make maximum benefit of funds available. Limited funds for prototypes, protection, legal agreements, marketing, etc. is a real problem for early stage inventions.
Sadly I can’t talk about any of the inventions here since a non-disclosure agreement must be signed by all participants of the meeting. Further I can’t introduce anyone to inventors either since it could breach the NDA. Oh dear!
One very positive thing to see was a number of new potential members who’ve come along with ideas and are trying to work out what to do next. Here’s where the benefit of the NDA came into its own. The new inventors were very worried that someone would steal their idea. They didn’t want to talk about their plans in case someone else ran off with it. These inventors felt able to open up in front of people in a similar position. After some persuading, you could feel a trace of relief as they opened up to like-minded people in a secure environment. These new inventors were able to benefit from the substantial pool of knowledge available in a comfortable, non-confrontational environment.
Towards the end of the meeting, Bill reported that he had secured a meeting with the Minister of State for Innovation and Science – Lord Drayson – to discuss official help for amateur inventors. To my mind the government should be about reducing complexity for business in general rather than helping individual segments of the business world… but that’s another story!