Develop the idea

Contrary to the belief of inventors, people cannot read their minds. Before you can talk to anybody about commercialising your idea you do need to bring it to a level where you can present an understandable message. So before you talk to others please develop the idea somewhat first. It could be a prototype or beta copy or rough make-up but even simply putting down the idea on paper, with a coherent structure, will allow others ‘get it’ quickly. There are a number of basic questions that people will have regarding a new idea which can be summarised as:

What is it? What does it actually do in 30 words?

What does it do for a customer? This is an important difference from ‘what does it do?’ Customers will buy a ‘benefit’, so develop a concise answer to explain what a customer gets from this new concept.

How much will it cost to make/provide? You should have some rough calculations on what it would cost to make or deliver at cost.

What is involved in making/delivering it? Can you do it yourself, does it require mass production, can it be web based? How many other people need to be in the chain of distribution from manufacture to customer?

How much will customers be willing to pay? If you do not have a clue of this, then ask people who have a good handle on the market.

Is this viable? This is your assessment from the initial answers to the questions above.

These are basic questions you will be asked at concept stage. Now, many innovators are afraid to ask for help as they are afraid that the idea will be ‘ripped off’. You can of course protect yourself in a number of ways such as:

• Ask people to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). This is a legal document which outlines a number of clauses which means that the other person agrees not to disclose any knowledge of the idea to any other party, or use it themselves, without prior agreement. Boilerplate NDA can be downloaded from the net and tweaked or you can get a solicitor to write up a template NDA for your specific purposes for minimal cost
• Ensure that business advisors and consultants have professional indemnity insurance (PII) and are members of reputable institutes. The importance of the reputable institutes, having certified management consultant (CMC) qualifications or similar, is that they have signed up to the Code of Conduct and ethical guidelines of those institutes.
• Get personal referrals; people do not refer on people they do not trust
• Check people out before you talk to them

The final point to remember here is that few people have the time and interest to develop ‘your’ idea. Following this road to commercialisation tends to be a labour of love and the uncommitted tend to have other ways to allocate their time.

That being said you should protect yourself and your idea. The NDA is a commonly used commercial tool that professionals will not be offended to be asked to sign and would use themselves in your place; so use them.