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This Invention: A Family Content Network

A journal, information and resources for establishing a Family Content Network, as I am doing - essentially a framework for managing all your Family's online assets and inventions for maximum exposure and revenue. This blog began as an inventor's journal, and retains the overall parent inventor's context and mindset.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

(37) It's Alive!

My designer and I met and reviewed the first fully-assembled prototype - complete with mismatched screws, a nail and sawed-off rivet acting as a pin, and several of the parts slightly off, not long or short enough, and overall looking very much like a prototype. But it works, the fundamental design and load/stress-accommodating characteristics are right, things "snap and lock" when they should, and the whole assembly looks pretty cool. It'll look really cool once it gets the right metal connectors, and is all nicely polished up, colored (SLA prototypes are this off-white color), with logo. And, after a year and a half, there's still nothing remotely like it on the market, though the groups and forums I monitor obviously still need it. Patent-pending: 6 months and counting.

One of those Yahoo groups is really active; I posted a helpful "lure" (a post with some nice, helpful information, directing those who want more info back to my site; this is called "fishing for natural links", where you establish links to your site over time from relevant, willing online associates or contacts - search engines really like this). This posting, in 2 days time, generated nearly 50 unique visits to my site! Too bad I'm not ready to sell anything, or have affiliate referrals set up yet for me to earn income from. What's most important, though, is to establish genuine credibility and a good reputation within the online communities you hope to generate business from - first, before trying to sell, second.

Protype re-runs next week, then we'll be seriously testing - I think we'll have to do one more prototype run, with the work being colored and polished, to get an idea of the final product look and feel, and how stickers, labels and/or logos would be attached. I think the initial packaging will have to be pretty plain; I simply don't have enough working capital left to do much in this area right now.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

(36) Live Animal Testing

Now that I'm on the brink of actually prototype testing, it's time to start considering product liability. As my invention has to do with children and strollers, any testing I do needs to be sure and consider all dangers to children and their parents - so I'll do live animal testing.

It's a pretty strange coincidence of the marketplace, actually, where I'm on the verge of producing a product with very broad appeal to the human stroller set, and here comes a product from the folks at "Kittywalk", strollers for pets. No, my invention isn't dangerous or anything, but I'd certainly looking forward more to doing the first bunch of extreme obstacle course testing with "Puffy", than with "Meghan". Cats don't need juice boxes, nosewipes or timeouts. Also, little chance of product liability concerns from the Focus Group, or the eventual customers. Very funny advertising, to be sure, is in store.

It's all a bit tongue-in-cheek, of course, but I actually have a whole new market (albeit not necessarily as large) for the product, with few liability concerns...after I hook up with a product liability lawyer (which is coming soon, because I really do need to test and sell the product for kids), I'll have more information with which to gauge how soon I target the kiddie parents vs. the kittie parents.

Note to animal-lovers: relax, no animals have been or will be harmed or mistreated in the filming of this episode - unless Meghan drops her lolly on them, and somebody gets a haircut.

I will have the first completely assembled, working prototype this weekend! However, a couple of tweaks are still necessary to satisfy the final testing platform - so it'll take another week for the prototype manufacturer to run a new set of the prototypes, with the CAD changes. Then me, Meghan AND Puffy will be stylin' with our pimped-out strollers (see her un-stylin' stroller at www.slingwheels.com). You'll be able to watch the action, live, down in Corolla in a couple of weeks (our annual beach trip); perfect testing environment for the product. Photos and complete product description/benefits will still not be generally available (outside the focus group), until I'm satisfied I have a product that will sell, and am ready to sell an initial limited run - perhaps by the end of the Summer.

Look for my report from the JPMA exposition in a couple of weeks; I'm not showing, just scoping the "pimp my stroller" competition (and possible partners/distributors)!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

(35) Modern Marvels results

Ok, the results are in for the Modern Marvels InventNow! contest. The top 25 are very certainly really good ideas, with scientific merit and lots of expense in developing for the most part. The 100 "honorable mentions", at Honorable Mentions are pretty good, too, but I'd like to know more about the judging criteria. In this blog, way back in entry (17) and before, I was working through the decision of whether to enter or not. I still feel it was good not to enter, even now, as I'm not yet ready to finance a production run or get totally caught up in publicity and attention - it's just too soon. I do feel, however, that this invention would certainly have made an honorable mention, after reviewing those - it's certainly on par with most from a uniqueness and global need perspective. Perhaps next year, as I think I'll have started to really market and sell a few, and will know whether they're truly useful or not.

This invention would certainly have kicked the stuffing out of most of the American Inventor junk!

Friday, April 14, 2006

(34) We need a new American Inventor

Last night's American Inventor show was abysmal - 2 hours of disgusting slobbering and teary confessionals (from both the contestants and the judges) about bad financial decisions. To boot, the inventions that made it through aren't much to speak of, plus they didn't really show half of them. A doll that speaks 3 languages? How is that an "invention"? Ugh. At their core, these people appear to be truly committed people with interesting ideas and inventive merit; too bad the show focuses so much on them, vs. their work.

I've officially posted a redacted front page of the website for my invention, at www.slingwheels.com - it gives some little hints as to what the invention is, but continues to avoid actually spelling it out. Checking the statcounter statistics about its traffic and visits to this site is pretty interesting; I get random hits from some very random places, as people do MSN or Google searches and this blog (or my other sites) pop up, with links to it. Here are some of the keywords people've used, that led them here:

- invention contest April
- children's safety
- invention making
- what invention can a kid make on his own with construction paper
- my 4th grade science project invention
- i want cash for my invention or idea
- modern marvels honorable mentions
- invention of the boomerang
- invent now honorable mentions
- invention already created sites
- children's online computer games
- lawfirm letterhead designs

Friday, April 07, 2006

(33) Focus Groups

One of the most important parts of winning the invention-to-market race, is market research. I've spent a whole lot of time research online, in bike stores, in baby/toy stores, out in the community, etc., trying to understand if this invention makes sense, people might buy it, and what kind of cost thresholds and design considerations I need to consider. Now comes the hardest, and potentially most vulnerable part of the market research - actually telling real people about it (beyond my own family and friends!), and getting candid opinions. I've delayed doing this, of course, to keep the invention "under wraps" as long as possible (so the knock-off agents don't get a head start!), but it's time to unveil it in a limited public forum. The prototype is about as complete as it can get without external review, and it's really time to get moving and market/sell this thing!

I plan to execute a series of focus group activities as follows:

1 - assemble a group, representing the target market with relevant background, probably no more than 20-30 persons.
2 - execute an NDA (not that this will stop the spread of information, but it might stall it a bit)
3 - do an online disclosure and survey to the focus group (through the site, www.slingwheels.com)
4 - after gauging the interest and feedback, do an in-person demo and hands-on tryout of the prototypes with a portion of the focus group.
5 - analyze and report the results.

The in-person focus group needs to be local; the online group can be fairly widespread, but I'm going to prefer to keep it somewhat local. What's important is I get a good cross-section of the target market, including those who might use the product in different ways.

From a focus group participant perspective, the benefits might include; fun, being part of a local "movement", potential local publicity or business exchange, discounts on future stuff, other potential giveaways.

I've put out the word on two local portals, am seeing a pretty quick turnaround in "click-throughs" to check it out.

On another topic, I saw the fourth installment of "American Inventor" yesterday; this show really isn't very good right now, as they weed through all the sob stories and junk that aren't inventions at all. They do show glimpses of some neat things that made it through; hopefully they'll spend more time analyzing the good stuff in weeks to come. I'd be interested in assembling a list of persons in my community who are in some stage of inventing; there's a lot of inventing going on around DC (my area), but far more never makes it past the "I've got an idea" stage.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

(32) Track Blog Visitors

As I've kept this "journal", and pointed it out in other discussion groups or blogs, it became apparent that I should know how many people are in fact looking at/reading this - in order to better tailor the content or discussion. So I poked around, and found that "Statcounter.com" is a great, easy, free and ad-free (you don't see their ad on my site!) service to get statistics on your blog visitors. This is especially helpful, as my network of blogs and sites evolves, to understand whether references and links or doing the trick. Ultimately, this network of blogs and sites will be the marketing and selling machine for this invention, so it's good to get an early view into what kind of online exposure works, and what doesn't.

Met with the designer yesterday, to review the first prototype together - agreed on a list of 5 or 6 things to modify, and then get a full prototype run done (12 pieces). It's very helpful that this designer really knows and has good relations with the local manufacturer doing the prototypes; between them, they're able to make tweaks, corrections and suggestions for an overall better product, that's easier to manufacture, than I could ever do. Make sure your designer has good contacts with the manufacturing industry.

Speaking of the manufacturing industry, a fellow I work with appears to have a good contact network in India for "offshoring" the high-volume manufacturing (should it ever get to that). I will begin exploring this, if only to truly learn the ins and outs, as well as the costs and investments I'd need to make to see this happen. Didn't actually know there was a lot of offshore manufacturing going on in India; all the press seems to point to China right now...