- First, the real value in business isn't the idea but rather the building of the company to create, market, sell and manage the idea. That's where the money is.
- Second, ideas are very hard to sell as just ideas, because companies that can implement them understand that first point. It's hard even to make the right contacts, because companies in the general area you're working in might be working on something similar, and they will avoid even talking to you because if they do, they're potentially creating legal problems for themselves in the future if they ever develop something in that same general area.
- Develop a plan. It should include good research on what businesses could be potential buyers, what their benefits will be and how much money they could make, given their existing business, if they had your tool. Make sure you explore their history with building new things vs. buying new things, and their history of reverse engineering new things to get around working well with others. Your plan has to include their costs and their benefits, which means a pretty good study of their market. And how to contact the potential buyers as well.
- If the plan looks promising, then get going with the patent. If it's an invention, you can patent it.
Expect to pay a lot of money--five figures--for the legal help to
get a patent that will really work for business, because that involves
exploring a lot of existing patents and writing it up in a way that
will actually protect you from people getting around your patent. That's hard to do.
- When your attorneys give you the go-ahead, then implement your plan in step 1.
I hope you're one of the exceptions.
Tim Berry is the chairman of Eugene, Ore.-Palo Alto Software, which produces business-planning software. He founded Bplans.com and wrote The Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan, published by Entrepreneur Press. Berry is also a co-founder of HavePresence.com, a leader in a local angel-investment group and a judge of international business-plan competitions.