I recently wrote about how desperate companies are for new ideas, with open innovation changing the game. But what if you’re not creative and don’t have any ideas? You can still take advantage of this enormous opportunity even if innovation isn’t your thing. How? By becoming a product scout. Talented product designers need help connecting their ideas to the companies who might want to buy them -- and vice-versa.
If you enjoy working with people -- talking on the phone and connecting friends -- this could be the right job for you. The reality is, top design schools are churning out product developers in all disciplines, from shoes to cars to toasters. These designers are truly talented -- I know because I’ve met them and seen their ideas. Unfortunately, many of their ideas will never see the light of day.
They need help getting these ideas into the right hands. That person could be you. I know it’s cliché, but it’s true that many creative people are uncomfortable selling themselves and don’t want to deal with the business side of things. That’s where you come in.
As a product scout, you’ll connect designers with excellent ideas to the companies that can benefit from them. This is how it works. First, find top design students and establish relationships with them. Explain that you will represent them and their ideas in meetings with companies who are looking to license new products. Of course, you will need to draft a contract with an attorney, specifying how long your partnership will last and what its terms are. (A six-month deal seems appropriate.) Have them file a provisional patent application for their ideas. If you are able to cut a deal in the established timeframe, you share the royalties earned. If you aren’t able to license their idea, you, in essence, return it to them. Nothing gained, nothing lost.
Related: How to Negotiate for What You Want
It’s pretty simple. Yes, there’s some risk. You may be thinking, “What if I’m unable to license any ideas?” Over time though, it will become easier. As you familiarize yourself with an industry and befriend the right people (by attending industry events such as trade shows), you’ll be able to spot good ideas, because you’ll have a better and better idea of what companies are looking for.
Remember, you’re simply connecting people with ideas and companies that need them. My advice would be to stay in one category until you fully understand the marketplace. At that point, you may even be able to guide the designers you work with in the right direction.
This is another great example of how to make the multiplier effect work for you.
It’s important to get good legal advice. Never sign a contract without consulting an attorney.