Monday, January 26, 2015

The Inventor

Big organisations tend to attract large numbers of pitches from people who claim to have invented a new wonder product.

In previous marketing roles within large multi-national corporations I was frequently called upon to help company directors evaluate these inventions. Today the TV show Dragon's Den provides some outlet for the enthusiasm of the inventor and would be entrepreneur plus the opportunity to win investment capital and just as important expert advice. Typically the approach was made to the most senior people in our organization based on the fear that they didn't in years to come want to be known as the person who failed to recognise something which would emerge as a winner. In my experience, most ideas were neither novel or good and the inventors deluded and whacky.

The pitches were highly unprofessional and the inventors  hated being questioned and seemed amazed we didn't bite their hands off to buy the product. One example was someone who had taken a tungsten halogen flood light that we sold by the tens of thousands for under £10, attached a length of electrical conduit as a stand and a car wheel complete with tyre as a base. This was sitting in the chairman's office to which I  had been summoned to give an opinion. The inventor in this case was chairman of a major company!

A more bizarre example was an Australian who had a small package the size of a box of matches which allegedly contained a high frequency electronic ballast. A large audience had been assembled to witness the demonstration, which apparently showed a fluorescent tube being dimmed. We were all kept at least 10 yards away so we couldn't really see what he was up to. It was not a new technology at the time but was kind of complicated with patents  so we were evaluating different ideas. However, our inventor refused to discuss the technology or let us peek at the electronics without paying a million pound first. Not surprisingly neither he or his invention were ever seen again!

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