How to Find and Market an Invention
This article originally appeared in my column at Forbes.com:
Have you ever heard of a palatometer? Neither had I. Sometimes entrepreneurs find their ideas and companies in the most unusual ways. I learned about CompleteSpeech from the recent Grow America Springboard competition in Utah (launched by Forbes contributor and consummate entrepreneur and investor Alan Hall).
CompleteSpeech was the grand prize winner of this competition in May, winning $100,000 in cash and services through a series of three rounds of judging that included a written business plan, a video, a live pitch and finally a filmed and televised event in front of regional celebrity judges (think of Shark Tank and American Idol, combined).
Entering a business competition was just one of the ways company owner David Larsen hopes to bring the invention to light. This week I interviewed David about his company, his advice to other entrepreneurs, and particular opportunities and challenges of finding and marketing an invention.
David Larsen is an inventor himself, and for nearly all of his life he’s been an entrepreneur. “From the time I was a little kid I was selling Christmas cards for the cubscouts,” he recalls. “I had a store on the beach when I was 18. At 21 I bought a grocery store. Then I bought another one.”
The state ripped up the roads in front of his primary store, David recalls. So he turned it into a shopping center and made it into a profitable sale. Then he started a piñata factory (of course!) He created the largest piñata company in world with an office staff of 60 in the U.S., 600 in Mexico and 100+ salespeople. “We still have the expandable/collapsible piñata patent,” he says.
Next came a scrapbooking store, where Dave noticed that the designs available for the die cutting machines were not very good. So he invented and patented a couple of machines and started to design dies. He sold that business to AccuCut in Nebraska in 2004.
Dave then became the Managing Partner of MainStreet Tax & Accounting Services (est. 1960 by his father) where he fortuitously met Dr. Samuel Fletcher. Dr. Fletcher had an invention and a business, but the company was steadily losing money.
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