Dear YOUNG MONEY,
I have about 100 ideas for inventions but I don’t know if any of them have market potential, and I have no idea where I can get them looked at. Where could I find out if someone would like more information on all my inventions, and if they would like to invest in any of them and become my partner in getting it out on the market?
I think the most important thing for a young would-be inventor or entrepreneur is to start doing, get out there and meet people, build prototypes, and get your feet wet. By doing so, you will learn what works and what doesn’t.
Today, many universities offer entrepreneurship classes, work with organizations like The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (www.nciia.org), and sponsor business plan competitions that present cash prizes to the winners. For example, the University of Illinois Technology Entrepreneurship Center hosts the annual V. Dale Cozad business plan competition and offers a $35,000 prize to the winner.
In addition to competitions, The Ewing Kauffman Foundation website is a great resource to get a budding entrepreneur started. The site offers all kinds of resources like articles, online courses, and links to publications and organizations that support entrepreneurship.
There are many local organizations that support entrepreneurship. For example, in Chicago, the Midwest Entrepreneurship Forum offers the opportunity to present your business plan, meet other like-minded individuals and investors, and potentially hook up with mentors or advisors that can help you avoid some of the bumps in the road.
Most large cities also have private groups of investors called Angel Investors. These investors typically work with early stage companies. Business plan submissions are usually accepted only for seed and very early stage angel-rounds of financing looking for less than $3 million of capital.
Groups like the Prairie Angels, run by Barry Moltz, usually only invest in well-thought-out business plans. However, starting a dialog with a member of one of these organizations can be extremely valuable to offer you guidance. Individuals that participate in these organizations are often retired entrepreneurs and might go to lunch with you because they enjoy meeting other like-minded entrepreneurs.
There are also invention tradeshows like Inpex. This annual show offers an opportunity for inventors and entrepreneurs young and old to exhibit their inventions share their ideas and try to make contacts with companies interested in new products. Shows like this can be useful because the attendees have set aside this time to seek out new technologies. Often, during a regular business day, they might be too busy to talk with you.
When you are an entrepreneur, you are the boss. You are required to use your own independent judgment because there is nobody to tell you how to do the work. There are a lot of tough decisions you have to figure out for yourself. One of the best books I’ve read that lays out some fundamental principles on business is "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand.
President & COO
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