This week just outside of Pittsburgh, I attended the INPEX (Invention and New Product Exposition). INPEX proclaims it to be “America’s largest invention show where inventors meet with companies seeking new products.” I’ve seen INPEX sponsored pavilions at other shows like the ERA show in Las Vegas. You might be familiar with INPEX’s brand INVENTHELP promoted by former heavyweight boxing champion and TV pitchman George Foreman.
I will be writing more about INPEX in a future post but am very glad that I attended this show that highlights what I am calling the ‘aura of possibility’ to would-be inventors. Having stopped and talked with more than twenty of those inventors, I came away with the sense that for too many of them INPEX represented the triumph of hope over experience.
Most of the exhibitors that were there were ‘inventors’ who were convinced enough by INPEX to ‘give it a shot’, by paying for an exhibit booth in the hope that they might meet a distributor, sourcing partner, licensor or acquirer. My guess is more than 75% of them will fail to gain anything from their exhibiting experience other than…experience.
With the popularity of TV shows like ABC-TV’s Shark Tank, being an entrepreneur is seen as highly desirable. INPEX, which has been around since the 1960’s and is a publicly traded company in Japan, is a facilitator for inventors and businesspeople that want to pursue their dreams. Their dreams such as creating a Snuggie, or Oxi-Clean or some other product that might be sold direct-to-consumer or direct-to-retail and be huge hit, (although more than one exhibitor told me they’d be happy to have their invention create a nice living for them and their partners).
What’s been bothering me is that too many of the inventors were uninformed and unsure of what to do after the show and were hoping that they might be able to connect with people that would want to help show them the way to success. My feeling is that INPEX with one of its primary interests being to get people to pay for an exhibit booth is not quite willing to truly advise the potential exhibitors before signing on to exhibit. Easily 20% of the exhibitors would have been better off waiting to exhibit at a future show, but they were convinced to…give it a shot.
I keep saying this, just because your friends and family tell you that your invention is a cool idea, does not mean it has real business potential. I am all for helping people explore their dreams of entrepreneurship, but that help has to include telling them that more work needs to be done before making an investment like an exhibit.
As a group the inventors need a resource to help them evaluate and plan their strategy and tactics. Once that happens some of them should come to the conclusion that their invention may not have mass appeal or become a successful business. Then they can decide whether or not they wish to continue on despite that advice.
If they got that advice at least they’d be better qualified and informed. INPEX and INVENTHELP should be doing this and might be. I am going to find out so check back for a future post if you are interested.