Inventors Club? What’s the point?

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!

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Yes it would be nice to see a government taking a more joined-up approach to businesses. Or anything really. Sadly knee-jerk reations seem to be the norm.

    How does signing that NDA relate to your earlier post on NDAs?

  2. My personal feeling is that many inventors are so paranoid about their idea being stolen that they will not talk to anyone to get the advice that they need in order to move their invention forward. In this world of fear, the only way to talk freely was with an NDA. So the NDA helped them move forward with their plans. Perhaps by the time the inventors I met reach the time they need investment, they will understand that Business Angels are extremely unlikely to steal their invention.

  3. Lets hope so, though it’s not just inventors. As a result of my blog I get a lot of people asking me how to prevent someone stealing their idea.

    Few of them seem to understand that the value is created by executing the idea, not just by having it.

  4. Dear Graham,

    I’m pleased to hear that you have a great idea. No, I don’t have a list of angels email addresses that you could email. I think you’ll find that most people would want to review the idea before they forwarded on to people that they know.


  5. Dear Brian,

    I have a great idea that not yet penciled out on paper. I want to get exposure to as many business angels as possible to brainstrom it to them. 1st, do you have a list of angels ,email addresses, phone #’s etc. I can communicate with? I live in San Diego, CA. I am a complete newbie as you might surmise.Thank you sir.

    Best Regards,
    Graham Kidde

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