What is the state of invention funding as we speed ahead into the digital age and beyond? Is there a new way for funding the great ideas that could change the course of the next 100 years? My guest today is Reid Creager, an entrepreneur, writer, and student of inventions and innovators. In our conversation, we explore how crowdfunding has impacted the inventing industry, the unique advantage of crowdfunding an invention, tips for creating a new product, the inventor’s best first step, and much more! I can’t wait for you to learn from Reid’s fascinating perspective.

What is the best first step for any aspiring inventor?

If you find yourself considering how to begin inventing a product, what would be your first step? Do you start with testing your idea with an audience? What about drawing up plans for invention funding? According to Reid Creager, before you get too far down the road, it’s important to conduct a patent search. Too often, well-intentioned inventors get started with an idea that has already been patented. Don’t waste your time and energy unnecessarily, heed the advice of invention experts and do a patent search! Reid also mentions that it is highly recommended to have a patent attorney perform a patent search on their end to cover all of your bases. Get more helpful insights into the world of inventions from Reid on this episode!

Tips for creating a new product.

What does it take to bring a new and innovative product to the marketplace? What are some of the best practices that will set your product or idea up for success right out of the gate? Reid Creager wants to help prospective innovators get all the tips they need to hit the ground running. In our conversation, Reid provides several tips innovators can use as they consider testing the waters with a new invention.  

  1. Does your invention fill a function or provide a service that people care about?
  2. Consult people whose opinions you can trust, don’t just rely on friends and family!  
  3. What are the chances that your product will get knocked off by others?
  4. Have you counted the cost? Are you prepared for the massive expense of inventing?

Reid brings up some very helpful angles for prospective investors to consider before they venture too far down the road. Listen to this episode as Reid expands on these tips and much more!

The unique advantage of crowdfunding an invention.

There are so many great options available in the marketplace for invention funding, but which one is the best one for inventors to consider? Reid Creager says that it really depends on the individual and their priorities. While going the route of licensing a product, partnering with angel investors, or connecting with venture capitalists are all good options, Reid is a huge fan of exploring the crowdfunding route for invention funding. The two primary benefits to crowdfunding that Reid sees are the ability to monetize the invention without a lot of money up front and the ability to get an early indication to how the public will respond to the invention. Discover more unique advantages to crowdfunding an invention on this engaging episode featuring Reid!

Inventing is not for wimps!

What is the biggest lesson you can learn from years of interacting with amazing innovators and inventors? Reid Creager says that his biggest takeaway from interviewing inventors over the years is that inventing is not for wimps! He says that he was surprised early on as he was getting acquainted with the history of inventors that Mark Twain owned several patents. In fact, Twain went bankrupt because he was so obsessed with inventing that it consumed all of his time and resources. Beyond securing invention funding and dealing with the jealousy and criticism of others, the biggest lesson is that inventing is demanding. You have to count the cost both resource-wise and the personal toll. Learn more from Reid’s unique perspective on inventing by listening to this episode!

Key Takeaways

  • [1:10] Reid Creager’s background and how he got involved with inventing.
  • [3:20] What sparked Reid’s interest in inventing and innovation?
  • [4:30] Why a patent search is the inventor’s best first step.
  • [5:30] Tips for creating a new product.
  • [7:00] The unique advantage of crowdfunding an invention.
  • [9:30] Reid’s favorite crowdfunding story.
  • [11:00] Has the rise of crowdfunding changed the inventing industry?
  • [12:30] Inventing is not for wimps!
  • [14:30] What inspired Reid to be an entrepreneur?
  • [17:00] Reid favorite invention.
  • [18:30] What does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Links

Connect With Reid Creager

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Transcript

View this episode's transcript

Roy Morejon:
Welcome to Art of the Kickstart. Your source for crowdfunding campaign success. I’m your host, Roy Morejon, president of Enventys Partners, the top full-service turn-key product development and crowdfunding marketing agency in the world. We have helped startups raise over 100 million dollars for our clients since 2010.

Each week I’ll interview a crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur, or a business expert in order to help you take your startup to the next level with crowdfunding. Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by BackerKit and The Gadget Flow.

BackerKit makes software that crowdfunding project creators use to survey backers, organize data, and manage orders for fulfillment by automating your operations and helping you ship faster.

The Gadget Flow is a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save, and buy awesome products. It is the ultimate buyers guide for luxury gadgets and creative gifts.

Now let’s get on with the show.

Roy Morejon:

Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today we are live at the Inventors Digest headquarters with editor in chief, Reid Creager.

Reid, thank you so much for joining me today.

Reid Creager:

Thanks for having me.

Roy Morejon:

So Inventors Digest fosters the spirit and practice of innovation. Inventors Digest is committed to educate and inspire independent and professional innovators. So Inventors Digest Magazine is now in its 32nd year, congratulations. Can you give me a little bit of background about yourself and how you became involved with inventing?

Reid Creager:

Well, you could say, arguably, that I’m a newbie. I am not an inventor. I have no patents, but I sure have learned a lot about patents and IP in the almost two years since I was brought on as editor and chief. I’ve actually done … It’s just been a great education under fire. We have a lot of great subject matter experts in the magazine from whom I’ve learned a lot. I’ve gone to a lot of public events where I’ve gotten a lot of information. I do a lot of research. And as an editor, I have to verify the accuracy of what’s being written, so that teaches me a lot too.

I’m just thrilled with the adventure of the whole process, although I don’t have a big inventors background. Most of my background is in news and sports writing and editing at major publications, including, sporting news, the Detroit Free Press. I was a beat writer for the 1984 World Series champion, Detroit Tigers. I’ve covered a World Series, a Super Bowl, two All-Star games, and I’ve been a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. So I’ve pretty much done everything but inventing.

And a little footnote here that I can bore our audience with a little bit. I recently found out that in 1962 my dad was part of a team that secured a patent for a sterile surgical drape [inaudible 00:03:09] method for a company he was working for out of Dayton, Ohio.

Roy Morejon:

Interesting.

So what would you say sparked your interests in inventing and innovation?

Reid Creager:

My sense of adventure. I’m one of those weird people. I’m an older person. I’m not going to give away my age, but as I get older, I get more adventuresome, I get more curious, I have more energy than I’ve ever had before. And because I knew very little about inventing and IP, I wanted to dive in and see what I could make of the whole thing. And one of the things that sparked my interest in inventing and invention is if you think about inventing, it’s really all about being first. It’s about being the one who said, “I came up with this.”

We remember as kids, “I came up with this idea. I came up with this joke. I did this before Billy did.” And whether it’s being a record holder in sports, where you’re the first to do something, or you’re the first to climb Mount Everest, we’re obsessed with being first. And that’s what inventing is all about, is, “I came up with this. This is mine. I own it.” And for some people, that even supersedes the profit motive, it’s an ego thing.

Roy Morejon:

So with those that have the curious mind and have an idea for an invention or a product, where do you recommend they begin?

Reid Creager:

Oh my gosh, that’s a tough one.

I guess, off the top of my head, the first thing I’d say would be, do a patent search. I would think that you would want to know that your idea is original and that nobody else has thought of it. We all think that we’re brilliant, or not all of us, but some of us think we’re brilliant enough that nobody could have thought of that. And a lot of times, well, 99% of the time, we end up being surprised. So everything I’ve read and all of the experts, the subject matter experts in Inventors Digest that I have read and talked with say, they encourage you to do your own patent search. But, it’s not a good idea to assume that if you find no prior art that you’re all set.

It’s highly recommended to have a patent attorney perform a patent search for your own piece of mind, and maybe to avoid some costly preventative and expenses down the line.

Roy Morejon:

In talking about the importance of protecting your intellectual property, what do crowd funders or inventors need to know? What steps should they take to start when they look to create a new product?

Reid Creager:

I think the first thing you have to do, is you have to ask yourself some really honest questions. Does my invention fill a function or provide a service that’s important to people, that they give a darn about? Don’t just ask friends and family because they’re always going to tell you what you want to hear. Consult people whose opinions and confidence you can trust. A big one, a recurring theme that I hear from people who I’ve interviewed for the magazine is knockoffs. You need to ask yourself, “What are the chances of my product being copied or knocked off by larger companies with greater resources than mine?” And if they do that, “Am I prepared to spend the money to do something about it?” Or at least to find a remedy for it.

Another key is the expense. I think that’s one of the reasons that I have never seriously entertained the notion of doing my own invention is it’s expensive. Attorney fees range anywhere from 5 to 15K. There are patent renewal fees. You also need to decide whether you want to incur the large expense of marketing the product by yourself or license that out to somebody else, and they’re going to want their money. One thing a lot of people don’t realize, is you don’t have to file a patent to bring a product to market. But if you do end up going with a licensing deal, that party is almost certainly going to want to protect it with a patent.

Roy Morejon:

Certainly.

So we know that there are many ways to monetize an invention. I know you’ve talked about this earlier, but how should inventors decide between licensing a product, selling it themselves, partnering with angels or VCs, or launching it through a crowdfunding campaign?

Reid Creager:

It kind of depends on the person and what their priorities are. I don’t want to sound like I’m carrying the crowdfunding banner, but if you look at the options that you have with crowdfunding … And by the way, crowdfunding is not 100% successful. It’s just like everything else, it doesn’t succeed every single time. But not only does it help you monetize the invention without a lot of money up front, it provides an early indication of how the public is responding to your idea. You’re getting instant feedback in real time. And if the crowdfunding campaign doesn’t reach your goal, it can help the investor decide very early whether to continue. And you can save yourself a lot of money by getting an early indication from that kind of public feedback, where you’re going with this.

In the magazine, in Inventors Digest, we’ve done a lot of stories on angel investors. It’s often a good option, but I kind of smirk when I hear the term “angel investor” because it’s not just about somebody tapping you on the shoulder and saying, “I want to give you money.” They want something out of this too. They want a stake in what you’re doing, so you’re not getting free money. So a big part of that, is both sides need to be clear about what each side receives in the deal, and what happens if the startup … Let’s say it proves unsustainable or has a problem. I guess you could say that even with the angel investor, especially with an angel investor, that the devil is in the details.

Roy Morejon:

So let’s talk a little bit more about crowdfunding. What kind of opportunities do you see inventors to use platforms, like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to launch their product?

Reid Creager:

I think they’re limitless. I think history has already proven this. Obviously, as far as I understand it, the best, the most common platform is for promoting and raising money for products in the hopes of bringing it to market down the line. But you can crowdfund just about anything. Just because the term “crowdfunding” only has been around since, I think, about 2006, doesn’t mean we haven’t been doing crowdfunding for a long time. Hundreds and hundreds of years ago, books were being crowdfunded. The foundation for the Statue of Liberty in the 1850s was crowdfunded. So there’s all kinds of ways you can do it for.

My favorite crowdfunding endeavor ever really had nothing to do with the project. You actually told me about it. It was five, six years ago this poor woman, who was a bus monitor-

Roy Morejon:

[Karen 00:09:57].

Reid Creager:

Karen was … These middle school brats were just teasing the heck out of her, and in a really mean way. This was serious stuff. A woman on a fixed income just trying to get by and get to her retirement, and they made life hell for her. So this guy finds out about it, and he starts a crowdfunding campaign, and it picks up steam on social media. His goal, I think, was it for $5,000?

Roy Morejon:

Yep.

Reid Creager:

$5,000 to give this poor woman a vacation from these brats. So it goes up and long story short, $700,000 later, not only does she get her vacation, but she can retire. This is just one snippet of what crowdfunding can do, and it’s an example of why there are 10s of billions of dollars in this every year. Crowdfunding used to be something that was kind of looked down on by major corporations, and now it’s a mainstream part of our economy, and it’s not going away.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely.

So how have you seen the rise of crowdfunding change the inventing industry, if at all?

Reid Creager:

This is kind of an abstract notion on this, it’s kind of a pie in the sky. But I believe that crowdfunding’s most important function has been opening our eyes to possibilities. If you sit down with any inventor, most of them … I hate to use the cliché word “dreamers,” but a lot of them, they’re dreamers. They’re not necessarily business savvy. They’re not necessarily entrepreneurs. Now, if you have that great meshing of entrepreneur and inventor, that’s great, but it doesn’t happen all the time.

So what crowdfunding does, is it takes that question of how do I raise the money to bankroll this invention, which has long been a huge roadblock for inventors, and in a lot of ways it solves it. It doesn’t eliminate it completely because there’s no guarantees of success. But what it does, it provides the kind of hope that helps inventors think that they have one less hurdle to worry about. Once you do that, once they’re on to that kind of hope, I think that, that gives them the kind of momentum that makes their whole project stronger.

Roy Morejon:

I agree.

So what would be the biggest lesson that you’ve learned over the years of doing all these interviews with other inventors that you’d like to pass on to inventors listening to this podcast?

Reid Creager:

It’s not for wimps. It’s something you have to devote a lot of time to. I was surprised to learn very early on in my incarnation as editor that Mark Twain of all people, was an inventor. I think he had three patents, including one for a bra strap. He ended up going bankrupt at one point. He was 59 years old, and he was bankrupt. Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens, one of the most famous people in our country, and it was because he had the bug, and he couldn’t stop. He was obviously an extremely intelligent man, but it’s hard work. There’s going to be setbacks. There’s going to be unexpected expenses, some of them that are going to be really large. You’re going to have your critics. There’s going to be jealous friends and relatives saying, “I knew he couldn’t do it.” And if you’re good, there will be people trying to knock you off.

So the bottom line is you need a huge level of commitment. If you want to bring a successful invention to market, the chances are you’re not going to get the job done if you expect this to be a side project. It has to command a huge amount of your time, effort and thought. I run a magazine. That for me is a seven day a week job, and that’s a day at the beach compared to what kind of time I think I would need to put in if I wanted to be an inventor.

Roy Morejon:

Sure.

So what advice, if you were to give one piece of advice would you give to an inventor just getting started?

Reid Creager:

Education. Education is your friend. Do not be arrogant. Do not pass go … Do not take shortcuts when it comes to being informed. Listen to everybody, but do it objectively. That’s one of the great things that’s more conducive about, to being involved in innovation and being an inventor now, is that you don’t have to get in the car and go to the library now. You’ve got all these resources, right at your fingertips, use them.

Roy Morejon:

The center of the universe is one click away.

Reid Creager:

Yes, absolutely.

Roy Morejon:

All right, Reid, this is going to get us into our launch round, where I’m going to rapid fire a handful of questions at you. Are you good to go?

Reid Creager:

I guess, yeah.

Roy Morejon:

So what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Reid Creager:

I’m really not an entrepreneur per se. I guess in my capacity here, you could call me an entrepreneur, but I just love the process. I’m fascinated by the mindset that makes a great entrepreneur. Probably my most famous story, in the almost two years that I’ve been the editor of Inventors Digest, was a story I did about a guy who spent most of his professional life out of California named Earl “Madman” Muntz. He was mostly a marketer salesman, but he was the inventor of the American luxury car, the Muntz in the mid ’50s. TVs, he had a line of TVs. He wasn’t the first inventor of TVs. And he also invented car stereo equipment and tapes.

The interesting thing about Mr. Muntz, was he made a fortune in all three of those businesses, and he lost all three of the fortunes because he didn’t have the right people around him, and well, he was kind of flighty. This is another reason, this is the kind of guy who I’d like to sit down and have a beer with if I could. He was married seven times. He was buddies with all kinds of stars, from Sinatra, to Dick Clarke, to Phyllis Diller. When I did the story on him, in Inventors Digest, as far as I know, I was the first person to ever interview both of his grown kids. He died many years ago.

To me, he just is the epitome of the entrepreneurial spirit. Where it’s like, “Okay, I tried this, and it was a colossal flop after being a huge success.” Instead of being let down, what does he do? He starts another business. It happens again. Instead of being let down, what does he do? He does it again. When you’ve got that kind of energy in your blood, you’re just a lot more liable to succeed.

Roy Morejon:

So if you could have a beer with any inventor throughout history, who would it be?

Reid Creager:

Well, it would probably be him. Or maybe it would be … I’m drawn to crazy inventors/markets. I would like to interview the guy who invented The Clapper, or the guy who invented the device, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” or the talking bass. My interests kind of tend to range, gravitate toward the absurd. I know inventing is serious business, but I’m also very drawn to people who can have fun with it. And we all want to have fun. And for a lot of marketers, they’re smart enough to realize that having fun is a good way to get your attention.

Roy Morejon:

So what’s your personal favorite invention over the last 100 years?

Reid Creager:

I’m not old enough quite yet for the, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” So it would probably be the … It’s not a really original answer, but it would probably be the personal computer, because, and this is very selfish, it enables me to work from home. After 40 years in the workplace, I’m not doing the rush hour thing anymore. So if I can’t sleep and I want to get up at three o’clock in the morning, and write or edit a story, or research something, I can do it. That’s magic.

Roy Morejon:

Are there any books you’d recommend to our listeners?

Reid Creager:

I don’t really have time to do a lot of reading. I spend a lot of time researching this and this, this and that. If you watched me on my personal computer, you would be amazed at how many different sites I’m flying to and flying in and out of, and I’m sure this is not novel for a lot of people. You’re looking up one thing and then a half hour later, an hour later you’re still on that page because you find out some cool stuff that you hadn’t thought of before. But I’ve got too much energy sit still and read a book. My dad told me, he said, “When you turn 40.” Which was a long time ago. He said, “When you turn 40, just watch, you’re going to do a lot more reading and you’re going to play golf.” Well I still don’t read, and I still don’t play golf.

Roy Morejon:

Last question on the launch round. What does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Reid Creager:

I think it’s just going to be a lot more of the same, which is the extension of some of the more recent trends that have gained steam. Well first of all, we’re already seeing major corporations are being a lot less resistant to crowdfunding. I think we’re going to see more equity crowdfunding, because people are going to want their stake in it. They realize there’s some big money is this. And when this kind of thing happens, backers become investors, and then the possibilities are endless. I think by and large, as the process gains more acceptance and is further refined, I think it could cause a massive transformation in our economy, if it hasn’t already.

Roy Morejon:

Reid, this has been great. Please give our audience your pitch. Tell them what you’re all about, where they should go, and why they should check you out.

Reid Creager:

Oh, of course you’ve got to check us out, mainly just out of loyalty to the process and all of the spirit and the energy from inventors. We’ve been the resource on inventing. We started in 1985. Talk about a time when the hit movie that year was Back to the Future, Reagan was still president. We’re talking about ancient civilization, in a lot of ways. We’re largely devoted to the independent and small inventor. From our inspirational success stories, which I insist that we have every month because we need to inspire and motivate people, to the advice that we provide from seasoned industry professionals, to the latest news from the courts, because you’ve got to know what’s going on that might go down the line to effect you.

And we also want to entertain people with off-beat features. We have a back page feature every month with [inaudible 00:20:21], and a quiz, and a weird invention of the month. And we also, can’t forget this, we have a vastly improved website, InventorsDigest.com. That’s InventorsDigest.com. That’s full of fun, diverse content and important resources for the inventor.

So one of the things that I’ve tried to do since coming on is provide resources, and information, and entertainment not just for the inventor, but for the average person. I can confidently say that when you pick up our magazine or you look at the website if you have no interest in inventing, at all, there’s going to still be something in there that you’re going to want to read.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely.

Well, audience, thank you again for tuning in. Reid, thank you for being live with me at Art of the Kickstart headquarters with you. For you guys, we’ll have a full transcript, links to everything we talked about today. And we’re doing a special discount of 15% off of subscription to Inventors Digest, just visit InvetorsDigest.com and use the coupon code: AOTK. And of course, thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors: The Gadget Flow and BackerKit.

Reid, thank you so much for being on the show today.

Reid Creager:

Thanks, I had a great time.

Roy Morejon:

Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Art of the Kickstart, the show about building a business, world, and life with crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, awesome. Make sure to visit ArtoftheKickstart.com and tell us all about it. There you will find additional information about past episodes, our Kickstarter guide to crushing it.

And of course, if you loved this episode a lot, leave us a review at ArtoftheKickstart.com/iTunes. It helps more inventors, entrepreneurs, and startups find the show and helps us get better guests to help you build a better business.

If you need more hands-on crowdfunding strategy advice, please feel free to request a quote on EnventysPartners.com.

Thanks again for tuning in, and we’ll see you next week.