Quirky.com or InventionCity?
April 21, 2016 4:08 PM   Subscribe

I have created a prototype of what may or not be the next big thing since selfie sticks. The thing works and I know how to make it better, and now I need to know the cheapest way how to make money out of it.

I posted the design with photos and video on Quirky.com. When I tried to submit it for evaluation, it says I need to create a 3D sketch first. I thought that step was unnecessary since I already have a working prototype. I've emailed them for advice but I don't really know what happens if I do manage to submit the invention for evaluation.

While waiting I found this site called InventionCity. It looks legit, with testimonies, products on the market, and A+ BBB rating. They charge $85 (which I think is fair) for telling you if your invention is worthless, and promise assistance if it is worth developing.

Here's my question: do I go with Quirky, InventionCity, or another route to riches altogether?

Some points to consider:

1. I don't have the money to spend on a patent lawyer. I think my device is original based on Google Scholar. Given how it makes things better, I'm surprised none of what seems to be available out there works exactly the same way. But I could be wrong.

2. I don't have the energy nor resources to carry this further. I've built a prototype that demonstrates that it works, and I know how to improve the design. There's enough for an interested investor to work with if they decide to build one, but I can't do much more with my tools so any further work on research and beyond will have to be done by someone else.

3. I want lots of money, but not all of it. I'm fantasizing a scenario where an investor will say after seeing my invention "What a bright idea here's a check and some papers to sign let's not speak of this again thank you very much." I just want to receive the most money for the least amount of money from my own pocket. I can dream, can't I?

4. It shouldn't be too hard for anyone to develop and sell a knock-off, but I don't see how this product can be very expensive to begin with. It's in fact cheaper than what's out there already so it should remain competitive in price.

5. I'm in Canada if that means anything.
posted by KwaiChangCaine to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Quirky.com is in an existential crisis so be sure to take that into account and what it might mean for you, the one who wants their help, as you evaluate them.

It shouldn't be too hard for anyone to develop and sell a knock-off, but I don't see how this product can be very expensive to begin with.

If your idea would be easy to copy, despite your price point, a potential competitor can use a cheaper production method (for example: overseas manufacturing with larger production capacity than you) to edge you out of the market. Patent protection will help with this, but if it's a very large company that might be tempted to copy your idea, you probably won't be able to afford either the fees nor the time to raise a legal challenge.
posted by DrGail at 4:33 PM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Is there a reason you wouldn't do a Kickstarter for this? People could pre-order as giving level, so there's no real risk to you and yuo get funded to make your thing. You only real cost is making a video that doesn't suck.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:29 PM on April 21, 2016

IAAPA, but IANYPA. TINLA*. In my experience, people rarely pay for someone's idea. At least, not for someone's first idea. If you had several patents under your belt, or successfully-produced and -sold products, you might have a better shot. But from here, I think you either need to get a patent (which takes a number of years, at least in the US) or make and sell the product (which is a lot of work, especially if you haven't done it before).

The "we will make, market and sell your invention" people are taking on a lot of work (if they'll do it at all), so they'll either want a big share of the profits, or (more commonly) they'll want an extremely large up-front payment. None of my clients have had success that way.

Unfortunately, you're on the wrong side of Edison's "1% inspiration, 99% perspiration" genius equation, if you want to get money without much work.

*I am a patent attorney, but I am not your patent attorney. This is not legal advice.
posted by spacewrench at 6:43 PM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Thanks for pointing this out about Quirky. I guess that's the end of that.

I know very little about Kickstarter. My understanding is you get money from others to pursue an idea. My problem is I can't give up my job to learn how to create the final product, bring it to market and whatever else.

I feel so silly now about sounding so confident about this thing's viability when I don't believe in it myself enough to risk more than $85. That's precisely why I'm asking for advice how to proceed without ruining my finances if it fails. Quirky sounded like an ideal place to bring it to, but I guess it life doesn't work that way. Might post it on Instructables instead.
posted by KwaiChangCaine at 6:48 PM on April 21, 2016

If you are going to post it, make sure to brand it across multiple social media platforms so whatever it is becomes a "KwaiChangCaine __________" - you might be able to get some benefit down the road for coming up with a clever hack that people like.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:19 PM on April 21, 2016

Maybe look at doing an article for Make magazine.
posted by Sophont at 9:17 PM on April 21, 2016

Find a Shark Tank ripoff where you get to present in front of investors? I'm going to one TOMORROW in my average sized city, they're shockingly common. I've seen people get $100K in seed money for a 15 minute presentation. But they're not going to give you money unless you're 100% behind it yourself, which means committing some of your own resources.
posted by miyabo at 10:23 PM on April 21, 2016

My problem is I can't give up my job to learn how to create the final product, bring it to market and whatever else.

If my understanding of Kickstarter is accurate, I think this depends on how successful your campaign is. If it goes especially well you could, in theory, be funded well enough to quit your job, build a factory, and fill it with workers and managers to make your widget.

Or you might just get enough to scale back to part-time at your job to work on this or maybe something in between.
posted by VTX at 5:50 AM on April 22, 2016

If you can barely afford the $85, you can't afford a patent. As you describe it, the fee is to have them guide you through the process and gently discourage you if it's a terrible idea, but remember that "the process" involves (in the US anyway) several thousands of dollars filing fees (aside from legal costs) and substantial annual fees for every year you choose to keep the patent active.
posted by aimedwander at 7:23 AM on April 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have experience designing and manufacturing products. Welcome to MeMail me for advice if you'd like.
posted by OCDan at 9:13 AM on April 22, 2016

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