My prototype will be ready in two weeks… what should I do next?

QUESTION:

My prototype will be ready in two weeks… what should I do next?  Create a website and start selling?  File for patent, and then wait a year for the patent to be granted?  Look for investors?  Look for someone who has contacts in the retail sporting goods industry and license the product?

ANSWER:

Naomi Kokubo

Naomi Kokubo

by Naomi Kokubo, Cofounder of Founders Space

A lot depends on how much money you have.   First off, filing patents is expensive, and they take much longer than a year to be granted.  Do you have $20k or more to spend on each patent?   Most early-stage startups don’t.

If you want to protect yourself and buy some time, go for a provisional patent.  You can file one for around $200 if you don’t use a lawyer and $1000 (or more) if you do use a lawyer.  It’s not as easy as filing a trademark, but many entrepreneurs file provisional patents themselves to save money.  Check out the US Patent & Trademark Office.   Keep in mind, you have one year from the date of filing a provisional patent to get the actual patent filed.

That said, I’ve seen more entrepreneurs waste their limited time & money on patents when what they should have been focusing on is building their business.   That’s not to say patents aren’t important, but they can suck up huge amounts of time and money.  You really need to seek professional advice to see if your invention is truly worth patenting.   In the end, patents are nice to have, but even with a good patent, you still don’t have a business.

Here’s how I’d prioritize things:

1)  File a provisional patent if  your legal counsel recommends it.

2)  Take your prototype and test it out on real customers.  See if they even want to buy it.  You need to know as early as possible if there’s even a market for it.

3)  Write up your marketing and business plan.  Get your strategies in place.

4)  Simultaneously, go and talk to all of your contacts in the retail sports industry and get their feedback.  This is critical.

5)  Use your prototype to secure distribution commitments.

6)  If you can get distribution commitments and your customers like the product, then go after angel investors.  Or if you’re flush with cash, go ahead and manufacture a limited number of products and see how it performs in the marketplace.

That should do it.  I hope this helps!

Comments & Advice:
  1. Budha Has says:

    First: your prototype wont be ready in 2 weeks. So go ahead and spend more time on it.

    Second: You're the clueless inventor. Obsessed with developing stuff, and have no idea about selling it. This is what I can tell from the question you asked.

    You almost always have to make a product that the market wants, so its a combination of marketing (i.e. knowing the vague answer to “what should I do next / where am I going with this”) and R&D (“what is so awesome about this thing I'm making”) that is needed.

    Start talking to some folks in the industry who can be your mentors, and give feedback on the product, market relevance, necessity, business model, road to market, etc. Once you have some idea beyond the prototype itself – execute. Getting a business soulmate helps.

  2. Cliff says:

    http://leardon.com has a lot of very specific blog posts on the process of both prototype development and full on product development. The journey is a little different for everyone, but the product development life cycle should be followed closely. Great post btw!

  3. I have a provisional patent, and I jave secured a trademark for the invention. I have a very basic 3D rendition of it’s function, I am pursuing the utility patent now. I attempted to get a better, more professional 3D and and graphic drawings through “Idea Design Studios”. They were rude and pushie, setting their agenda not considering what fit into my schedule and life. Can you advise, do I need this improved version and how do I get it to market. I’m in medicine so this is all new to me but quick to learn.
    Thanks
    Tom G

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