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Inventing is hard. Community matters.  

One of the most rewarding things about being an inventor is the community you join. By taking that leap of faith in manifesting an idea you immediately become part of a global family of like-minded creatives, who are all moving through the ups and downs of bringing a concept to market. And like most families, this one is full of characters. Makers, founders, inventors and entrepreneurs are often a special breed of people, filled with passion, perseverance, and emotion. While this family is full of people from different backgrounds headed in different directions, the overwhelming bunch of them have one thing in common: they’re willingness to help each other.

I’m constantly inspired and uplifted by our Quirky community members who don’t only support each other on the platform, providing renders, features, and other valuable contributions to Quirky submissions (which they do for a share of royalties), but off the platform as well (where they do it for FREE). They recommend freelancers, suggest educational resources, and share invaluable lessons learned to help new inventors avoid making similar mistakes they’ve made. It is truly a beautiful thing to witness.

If you’re a new inventor, welcome to the family! If you’ve been inventing for a while, welcome back. Here are some ways to get connected with invention communities:

  • Join the Quirky Community Forum! Our Quirky forum can be found at community.quirky.com. Note, you’ll need to create a separate username than what you use on Quirky.com
  • Join the Reddit conversation. Check out the invention subreddits such as r/LightBulb and r/Inventions
  • Join fellow inventors IRL (in real life)! Most major cities (and a lot of smaller ones) have Inventor Groups or Clubs. Check out a list of groups here on the United Inventor Association’s website, and make sure to join the UIA while you’re there – it’s totally free and chock-full of great resources. The Inventors Groups of America also has a great list here!

IGA

 

 

 

 

We know it can be intimidating at first, but once you get started, you’ll be hooked. Here are a few simple tips from our seasoned community members:

  • Don’t be shy, say hi and introduce yourself. A simple “Hi, I’m new here, just checking things out!” goes a long way, and you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at how many welcome messages you receive.
  • Don’t feel pressured to contribute. As in the wild, there is a natural balance to every community. The 80/20 rule will probably prevail, and 20% of the members will make up 80% of the content, so don’t feel like you need to “pull your weight.” Speak up if/when you’re ready.
  • Be honest. Inventor communities that are moderated well should be safe spaces for honest communication and idea feedback. Be ready for people to shred your idea, and in fact, be open and excited for it! Hearing why people believe your idea WON’T work can be some of the most valuable input into your product journey you’ll ever receive. Just make sure when giving or receiving feedback you remember to be respectful.

Inventing is more fun when you do it together. Let the welcoming arms of an inventor community be another nudge that helps you take the leap into pursuing your idea. We’re waiting for you!

Should You Fake It Until You Make It?

It’s a saying entrepreneurs and inventors hear all the time. It means to present yourself and your business or idea as if it’s legitimate, and maybe even showing signs of early success, when in reality you’re not quite there (yet). So should you fake it til you make it?

Image result for fake it till you make it

Fake it ’til you make it

My two cents: No.

But before I dive into my rationale, let’s look at what it means to fake it until you make it.

Most faking it takes place in the pitch deck, where having a sleek and professional design can imply you’re the real deal. Unlike the actual product, the pitch deck is an even playing ground where for a few hundred dollars a freelance designer can make anyone’s idea, no matter how nascent, look on par with that of an AirBnB or Casper (in fact, sometimes you can hire the same freelance designers the bigger companies used).

The other place you’ll find people faking it is in their in-person presentation of themselves and their business. Confidence is infectious. Through an individual’s voice and body language they can make another individual, or even an entire room, believe they’ve achieved something great. A handshake sets the tone, and direct eye contact, smiling, and leaning in through proactive introductions expels an energy that says “I’ve clearly got something to be confident about.”

These two channels, the tangible and the intangible, can be built on a foundation of air, and many a seed round has been funded on not much more. But if you really have nothing more than an idea, is this a viable strategy for growth and long term success? Should you fake it, get the funding you need (in the form of investment, a Purchase Order, or your first client), and then figure it out from there? I would advise against it.

Why? Because you don’t have to. There are too many options for you to create a business case and prove concept for you to completely fake it. At Quirky I see a hundred new product ideas a day, some of which are nothing more than sketches on napkins. Everyone is ready to convince me their idea is a winner, but it’s those that offer a real proof of concept that really stand out. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Size of Prize. Know the maximum target audience for your product or business, and an estimated share you’re going after. It’s as easy as using the FREE Fact Finder from the US Census Bureau to get population numbers. You may have the world’s best stroller for triplets, but with only 1,374 triplet births a year the juice is not worth the squeeze.
Image result for census fact finder

US Census Fact Finder

  1. Competitive Matrix. Make one. Use Owler to profile your competition and Wikinvest to see how they’re performing. Google “competitive matrix” and fill out any one of the 100+ templates that pop up in image search. If you’re alone in the top right quadrant that’s a good thing, if it’s packed up there, time to re-think your positioning.
Google search for competitive matrix

Google search for competitive matrix

  1. Purchase Intent. Use a landing page site like Unbounce and create a real page selling your product or service, and show that it’s currently out of stock (or for a service show there is a waiting list to become a customer). Include an email capture to “alert me when this product goes on sale.” Now go spend $500 or $1,000 on performance based (cost per click) Facebook ads using creative messaging that promotes buying the actual product or service. Scared someone is going to steal your idea? Read my article on that here.

Don’t have a real product yet to take pictures of for your landing page and ads? Head on over to Upwork or Fiverr and hire a designer to make you a couple killer renders of your product in lifestyle images. You don’t need detailed industrial designs or mechanical renders, simply shots of people using your product in real life scenarios (which is much easier AND CHEAPER to design than detailing exactly how something needs to be made for production).

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Fiverr Marketplace

You can do all of this in a week or two, and now you’ve got a story to tell, and you’re not faking the fact there is tangible market interest in the product you’re planning on selling. Armed with this data your confidence should naturally increase and your pitch with strengthen. Sure, it still might be worth it to spring on the extra smooth Moo cards, but at least they’ll be backed up with numbers you can count on.

The Key To Your Brilliant Idea

Written by Gina Waldhorn

We’re all the world’s poorest billionaires, just letting our game-changing ideas rot away in our Notes app because for a multitude of reasons we can’t get past “I’ve got this great idea…”

We’ve got jobs. We’ve got kids. I’ve got a dog who lets himself out of my apartment.

The idea is the easy part (isn’t there a saying about ideas being like a**holes, everyone’s got one?), the execution is the true test. So having worked with hundreds of startup founders and successful inventors I’m going to give you a tip that can truly set you on your path towards buying that Palm Beach vacation home with the waterfall pool you’ve always wanted:

Find yourself a partner.

What’s that? You don’t want to give up 50% of your bajillion dollar idea? Well guess what, 50% of nothing is nothing, and that’s what you’re earning now, so get over yourself and get networking. Here’s why finding a partner is going to change the game for you:

  1. Humans because of necessity evolved into social beings. You’ll enjoy the journey when you’re not doing it along.
  2. You need to be held accountable. We can easily let ourselves down, but when we miss a deadline that sets someone else back we feel pretty terrible, which is strong motivation to progress.
  3. You need an unbiased opinion of your idea. Your mom won’t tell you clothes for hermit crabs isn’t a good idea, your future partner will.
  4. I’m 99.9% sure you don’t know it all. Whether you’re launching a SaaS solution, hardware product, or new smoothie mixture you’re going to need to employ a diverse set of skills across business and financial planning, development, manufacturing, sales, marketing…the list goes on. The right partner will complement your existing skill set by filling your gaps.

And here’s the amazing thing: right now there is someone out there who wants to partner with you! How can you find them? Try these tactics:

  1. Attend local meetups for founders, makers, and inventors. Try to join groups loosely in your area, e.g. the local hardware meetup or local SaaS meetup.
  2. Check out sites and events dedicated to helping you find a co-founder like CoFounders Lab or BuildItWith.Me. You’ll also find some great conversations happening on the CoFounder subreddit.
  3. Tell all your friends and family about your idea. You don’t need to worry about someone stealing your idea (unless your friends with Marc Zuckerberg), that’s another BS excuse we make for ourselves for not pitching. Chances are your future business partner is a friend of a friend thinking of doing something similar right now and you’re only one or two degrees away.

Once you’ve made that magical connection you can decide what type of partnership makes sense. I recommend always dating before you jump into a formal partnership. Spend time simply working next to each other and meeting a few milestones. Maybe you’ll end up the next Sergey and Larry, or maybe they simply provide enough of a reason to show up. Either way you’ve got 5 months left in 2018 to find that special someone and get that idea out of your Notes app and release it into the world. Palm Beach is calling…

Written originally for Linkedin.