Louis Foreman, founder of Edison Nation and Enventys Partners, recently spoke to INCA, our local D.C. inventors club. He projected a photo of Betsy Kaufman, the inventor of Eggies, and explained how her invention, a hard boiling egg container, had sold over 33,000,000 units. I assume he knew the type of emotional response this would elicit from a room full of inventors. A sense of excitement rippled through the room, not unlike college football players at the NFL draft or Kentucky Derby wagerers as the horses reach the final stretch. Everyone in attendance believed they had an idea just as groundbreaking; they were ready to improve the lives of millions.
Inventing is a balance between belief in the invention and worry that others won’t like it. Inventors believe that their product solves a meaningful problem. They also worry about how to get others to view their invention as something they need to make their lives easier or better. Inventors believe that people will appreciate the beauty of the innovation, yet worry that they won’t be able to convey this effectively to the consumer. Inventing is an art that through which the inventor’s inner thoughts and persona are exposed. In the end, belief in one’s product is the driving force for any inventor. It is what keeps us going.
Team D.a.D. experienced these feelings as we worked our way through the 48 hour challenge. The belief/worry juxtaposition that inventors must navigate was magnified during the short and intense competition. Emotions swung wildly as the big clock ticked down and the pressure to create a real product increased.
Our greatest worry almost turned to despair as we struggled with Wedgy’s hinges. We knew we wanted them to rotate 360 degrees so Wedgy could have the functionality we envisioned. However, this type of hinge didn’t seem to exist and our work bolting together steel plates wasn’t successful. A brief glimpse of our dysfunctional prototype can be seen in episode three as we present to the focus group panel. Comically, we lifted the steel frame to the group’s table with only one hinge bolted together, making our Wedgy sections flail hopelessly. This prompted my interview comment, “We are going for most improved.” I knew we hadn’t done well presenting and needed to step up our game and figure out these hinges if we wanted to do well in the competition.
The clarity we were looking for came after Erik insisted I go back to the hotel take a short break. On my way back I had an idea. What if we got rid of the metal hinges and instead used fabric to attach the three solid frame pieces? The sections would rotate 360 degrees and Wedgy could easily be positioned in its three configurations (upright, reclining, and flat). As we discussed the new design with the team we became convinced we had something unique and functional. Our belief was back along with excitement that we could do this.
The emotional ride we endured paid off when Curt called out “Team D.a.D.- Dads and Daughters” as the winner of Season 2. The relief we felt was not so much because we had what the judges felt was the best product. Instead ,it was the validation that someone else appreciated the creative ideas and hard work that were the basis of our invention. While not privy to the judges’ comments, we think a real turning point occurred during the pre-judging when Anna Mowbray, of Zuru Toys, asked to sit in Wedgy. A fresh wave of worry hit us as she tested our prototype. After the final presentations we were told that she had found Wedgy very comfortable. We assume that she shared her experience during judging, something that certainly gave our product credibility.
The final presentation was not the end, though, and we are still enjoying the experience. We are fortunate to see Wedgy come to life. Ever since finding out we won the competition last October we have been on a high only inventors can understand. But the development process is painfully slow. It has been a year and we are waiting on news of the second prototype. As the first professional prototype created by Mako Designs brought Wedgy to life our belief in our product was solidified. However, until Wedgy is on store shelves the worry we feel about consumer reaction is equally present.
Tim Bush interviewed our team for his podcast On The Shelf and asked each of us what our main take-away was from our Make48 experience. Considering all of the emotions and ups and downs that go with inventing my comment was this: enjoy the ride. Many inventions don’t make any money and, in fact, cost the inventor a sizeable amount. So, win or lose, profitable product or not, we are enjoying the process. We will do our best to handle the emotions in a positive way and remain grateful for the opportunity we were given.