Clute appreciated the WIN program for a multitude of reasons. For one thing, he says, "I really didn't have any idea of how to evaluate an idea." That's something shared by most first- or second-time inventors. Inexperienced inventors typically underestimate the challenges inherent in introducing a new product to market, and they really should get an outside evaluation prior to spending any money (even before getting a patent). As Udell says, "We try to help inventors assess the risk of introducing their invention." Assessing that risk ahead of time gives inventors a better idea of their chances before they move ahead.
In 1992, after Clute received his evaluation results, he attended the Juvenile Products Show in Dallas. "I really didn't want to introduce my product [on my own]," he says. "I tried to give my product away to a manufacturer, but no one would take it. I finally introduced Prop-A-Bye Baby myself, because I believed it might reduce the overall number of babies who die every year from SIDS [Sudden Infant Death Syndrome]."
No one knows for sure exactly which products will prove winners. Many factors-some of which are unpredictable-determine a product's ultimate success. How hard the inventor works, how quick he or she adjusts his or her product to market needs, and how well manufacturing agreements are negotiated are just three examples. But unforeseen factors-like striking intrigue in the right buyer-make the process even more complex. Not even one of the baby manufacturers initially approached by Clute thought the product would sell. But, two years later, a buyer at Toys "R" Us did. Thanks to that one person's support, the ball started rolling for the Prop-A-Bye Baby. Some inventors work for years before finding the key contact who believes in their idea. Others never find that contact.
While inventors shouldn't view an outside evaluation or assessment as the final answer, they should consider it a good starting point. A third-party assessment of the situation helps determine which obstacles need to be overcome and how willing he or she is to commit the time and resources necessary to get a shot at success. Such evaluations can also push hesitant entrepreneurs like Clute in the right direction. A little encouragement is often all one needs to move forward and create a million-dollar company.
If you've got an idea, consider having it evaluated by an outside firm. it might stop you from spending thousands on a sure to flop-or prevent you from leaving a great idea on the back burner.