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Young Inventors

Yesterday I went to a talk by Anne Swift founder of Young Inventors. The title of the talk was "From Idea to Entrepreneur". Below are my notes.

Note the Inventing the Future Conference is being held Mar 4th at MIT.

She started off with a 10,000 foot view of important areas a young inventor or entrepreneur will need to consider:


  • Business Plans

  • Technology Markets

  • Intellectual Property

  • Venture Funding

  • Building Teams

Next she delved into specific areas. The first dealt with Finding Opportunities.
1. Where to find: Look for pain either from a business or technology standpoint. Look to university technology transfer offices. Federal grants or programs. Use online resources like Flint Box.
2. Get to know people.
3. 50K competitions such as MIT's 50K or Northeastern's Innovation Fest.
The important thing to remember is that "Ideas lie with people".

Once you have an idea you need to Analyze It and do Market Research.
You have to do market research.
You must have somebody who will buy it.
Potential market share isn't everything. Even 1% of a 500M market isn't that good if it is dominated by large companies or has long lead time.
Look at annual reports of similar companies and potential competitors.
Check out cash flow (particularly outflow) and distributors.
This is when you really want to have more than one person to help divide up the work.
Focus on SWOT and PEST. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Political, economic, social, and technology (how they will influence you).
Identity three potential customers and profile them, determine their motivations for wanting what you plan to sell, do, etc.
Look to assembly an advisory board that can help with ideas etc.

If you've come up with a great idea you need to start to worry about Intellectual Property.
Can be anything from copyright, trade secrets, trademarks, service marks, and patents.
Research your idea with the US PTO and other countries patent databases.
Maybe you can improve upon an existing patent.
May need to consult IP lawyer (expensive).
Patent and trademark agents (less expensive, may not be as full service).
One thing to keep in mind in the obfuscated language used in patents (obvious search terms may not apply).

With some revenue and further along you may need Venture Funding.
First look to your own savings.
Get funds from friends, family, fools, and faculty.
Angel investors usually in the 250K - 1m range. Look for them in Inc and NVCA.
Venture capital for 1m plus. They will look for IP, revenue stream, and the team. May want to bring in other people to help.
Some people may not sign an NDA even if you want to go in depth about your plan. You need to trust.

Develop a good Elevator Pitch.

Mentors are an invaluable resource.
Your relationship with a mentor can vary. Touch base every few months. Maybe just see them at conferences.
Don't be afraid to write a letter to someone asking if they would be your mentor.

That's all that I have. This only skims the surface, but I felt it provided a great base to start thinking about all that is involved.

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