Step by step instructions are included with each question, via the "Guide" button in each category.
Click here to open the complete guide in a separate window.
ICQ Score: ~[ grandTotal | json 4 ]~
Default values have ** after them. You can also reset the app to all defaults by refreshing the page.
1. Development Status
Category Total: ~[ developmentStatusTotal | json 4 ]~
Here are questions related to the development and protection of your invention idea.
Prototype - Do you have a prototype? How developed is it? Choose from simple sketch to manufactured product. Choose “Solidworks model” for any solid CAD model.
Prior Art Search - Did you search prior art? Choosing “no search” carries a heavy penalty that can be easily avoided by doing a simple keyword search on Google. “Prior art” means publicly available information that relates to your invention, including publicly available information in patent records and academic articles as well as products that are on store shelves.
Search Results - Here you indicate what you found in your prior art search. “Critical structure/process” means something that is important to the essence of your invention idea, like wheels to a car or sugar to a cookie.
- 1c. This question relates to whether or not your invention is different from prior art - ALL prior art. Being different from competitive products does not count. For example, a Pet Rock is completely different from a real puppy, but if you are inventicating a Pet Rock the answer for this question is, "many similar structures" because it is a rock and rocks are well known in prior art. As a rule, if you have not engineered your invention for production and have not done a professional patent search you should probably choose the default answer.
Patent - The previous two questions related to what might be patentable. This one is about the steps you’ve taken toward getting a patent, in particular, a US Patent. Seven possible answers are offered. A design patent carries the same weight whether it’s pending or issued.
Trademark - If you have a name for your new product idea and believe it’s unique but have not filed anything, you should answer “using name with ™ on sales sheet or website” (even if you don’t have a sales sheet or website). Otherwise answer with regard to the status of your filing.
2. Sales Channel
Category Total: ~[ salesChannelTotal | json 4 ]~
This category of questions covers the level of competition, consumer awareness and difficulty of entry into the market.
Competition - Some product categories see little innovation and years may go by without the introduction of a new product. Others, like consumer electronics and automobiles, see aggressive introduction of new products each year. Seven possible answers are offered.
Category Hype - How loud is the buzz about products in your invention’s category? Consider social media and news along with traditional advertising on network and cable TV. Seven possible answers are offered.
Market Entry - A manufacturer can sell directly to the customer with an online store, or sell to retailer that sells to the customer (1 step), or to a distributor that sells to a retailer that sells to a customer (2-step). Some products are so different that an entirely new sales channel must be created - the Segway Scooter is an example. Independent retailers commonly sell specialty products. Some consumer products are so common and competitive, like soft drinks and paint, that retailers often charge “slotting fees” to put them on shelves
3. Compare to Alternatives
Category Total: ~[ compareToAlternativesTotal | json 4 ]~
Thinking about this category may require you to be creative, especially if your invention idea is truly different. For example, thinking broadly, the possible alternatives to a Segway Scooter would include shoes, skateboards, bicycles, mopeds and cars. Likewise, the first snowboard would have found an alternative product in skis.
Time Savings - Does the invention save time? Time savings can be either direct or indirect. For example, closet organizers save time spent searching rather than using. If saving time is not a benefit of your invention, select neutral. This question assumes that saving time is a benefit. With some products taking longer and going slower might be preferred. If that’s the case, then read and answer the question such that 3X slower would be preferred over 1.5X slower.
Money Savings - Does the invention save money? Money savings can be either direct or indirect. A high efficiency light bulb may cost more but save many times its cost by using less electricity.
Other Benefits and Drawbacks - Other possible benefits and drawbacks are considered here. Check all that apply. In some cases a product may have the same positive and negative attribute. For example, the Gator-Grip socket enables a user to be less accurate when choosing a socket to fit a nut - a positive - but it also fits less precisely than a socket designed for that particular nut - a negative - it thus is scored both “positive” and “negative” for accuracy.
Influentials - Influentials are trusted people who influence the buying decisions of others. They can be experts, friends and acquaintances. When researching your invention idea it’s as important to get feedback from influentials as it is from target customers in general. Influentials are often professionals and their needs can differ from those of consumers. While it’s preferred for them to love your idea and use their influence for good rather than evil, It’s not uncommon for them to initially dislike (even hate) a new product idea. They are an important factor but not the end all be all that some would have you believe.
4. Concept Strength
Category Total: ~[ conceptStrengthTotal | json 4 ]~
The questions in this category concern the strength of your invention concept from a commercial perspective.
Problem Strength - From the perspective of your target user, is the problem your invention solves a big one or a small one? Do all users feel as strongly? Defining the market for your invention takes place in the next section, but for this question you should have that definition in mind. If your market definition is “everyone” then, your brilliant solution for ice fishing would be considered a minor problem that people hardly notice. But if your market is “people who live for ice fishing” then, your brilliant solution might even be considered life changing (but probably not).
Difference - When people see and/or use your invention, do they notice it’s different from competitive/alternative products? How big is the difference? Is the difference perceived as negative?
Stand Alone Product - A stand alone product is one that performs its function without needing other products. At the other end of the spectrum are inventions that are modifications of a part of an existing product - for example, a new blade shape for a computer fan. In between are product modifications and accessories that use other products to a greater or lesser extent. The greater the difference in value between the product (higher value) and the accessory (lower value), the closer the product comes to being a stand-alone.
5. Market Definition
Category Total: ~[ marketTotal | json 4 ]~
Select either Consumer OR Non-Consumer to define your target market, then make additional selections under the chosen target market.
Market describes who your customers are and how many might be potential buyers of your product.
Market Definition - Start by selecting between “Consumer” and “Non-Consumer”. Leave the selection of “Everyone” and make additional selections for each targeting definition that fits all of the target market. Do not make a selection if it fits only part of the target market. Each selection should totally overlap the market you’ve defined. The goal is to narrow the market definition as much as possible but no further than necessary. The Inventicator™ uses a multiplier based on Market Definition to weight your selection of Market Size in the next section. The effect is that as you target your market more tightly, the value of the market increases.
Consumer - If you select “Pet Owner” it means that everyone in the target market owns a pet. If you select “Geographic Location” it means that everyone in the target market is located in the same specific region. If you choose “Activity, Interest, Hobby” it means that everyone in the target market engages in the same activity. The inventor of a type of freeze resistant salmon dog food intended for dog sledding would check all of those selections - “Food Preferences” could be added too. Note that the selections have different weights in terms of targeting. “Activity, Interest, Hobby” and “Other” are weighted more heavily than “Age” or “Gender”.
Non-Consumer - This sub-category includes manufacturing, healthcare, energy, agriculture, food processing, mining, fishing, construction, telecommunications and more. General and specialty professions and trades exist in all kinds of work environments from ranching and oil fields, to research labs and restaurant kitchens.
b. Market Size - Market size is the number of people (or potential $$$ sales volume) who are potential buyers of your product each year. Total Addressable Market is the number of people or businesses who are likely to be reached by your marketing and sales efforts and might actually buy your product. Finding numbers for Market Size and Total Addressable Market can be hard. Some reference numbers are offered with the Inventicator™ to give you a feel for certain product categories. You can do research at the US Census Bureau, ask people at trade shows, look at annual reports, consider the shelf space allocated for the product category at retail stores and search online for “how big is the market for…?” After doing some research you’ll make an educated guess. Consider the Market Size, consider who the customers will actually be and reduce the number to the Total Addressable Market. Take comfort in knowing that educated guessing is what everyone does, even the biggest and richest companies in the world. If you’re benchmarking your product against something in the same category, all that matters here and in the previous section is that your choices are the same - the Market Definition and Market Size will match, cancel each other out and not factor into the comparison. Finally, if you feel uncertain, just go with the Default choice of $200 million. That’s a plenty big market (unless you’re a VC in Silicon Valley).
- We have yet to see an inventor UNDERestimate market size. Consider the market that might actually be reached within 5 years. Reference statistics in the Inventicator™ Guide provide a feel for how big certain markets are.
c. User Survey - How Many Want to Buy? During the course of developing your invention you should be getting feedback from potential customers. Ideally you will actively survey real target customers by showing them your invention and its closest competitor at the same time. During that survey, the question you should ask is, “do you want to buy this now?” You will want to modify how you ask the question depending on what you’re showing. If it’s a rough prototype you might need to say, “pretend this is great looking manufactured product - would you want to buy it for $____?” How you go about surveying may depend on whether or not you’ve filed for a patent and the level of disclosure you’re comfortable with. Surveys of trusted friends and family are better than nothing. Surveys with a competitive product can also be used as a means for guesstimating survey results with your actual invention. The purpose of this question is to distinguish between enthusiasm for your idea and actual interest in buying a product. Here is a Survey Form for face to face surveys. You can also do surveys online with sites like SurveyMonkey. Be sure that your surveys are with people who you’ve defined as part of your target VERY IMPORTANT - Answers to the “will you buy” question should NOT be used to estimate potential revenue directly. It is tempting to do a simple calculation as follows: 50% “yes” X Total Accessible Market of $200 million = $100 million. Reality doesn’t work that way. If you’re getting over 50% “yes” in a $200 million market, it’s reasonable to think that your invention idea might achieve $10-$20 million in sales within 3-5 years. This User Survey question is a relative indicator, not an absolute one.
- This question should be answered literally. It assumes you have shown users a prototype of your invention AND the closest alternative/competitive product and then asked, "which would you prefer to buy?"
Buying Decision - Who makes the buying decision? For some products, the user of the product is not the same as the person or entity that buys the product. Children’s toys and industrial equipment are examples. In some organizations the buying process is especially complicated - this can be the case with both government entities and large private companies.
Seasonal or Year Round - Are sales of your product related to a specific season or holiday? If it’s both, like sunscreen, select “Year Round”. If it’s clearly seasonal, like Halloween costumes or snow shovels, choose seasonal.
6. Profit / Investment
Category Total: ~[ profitInvestmentTotal | json 4 ]~
Gross Profit is determined by the difference between how much a product costs to make and its selling price (Revenue - Cost of Goods Sold). In this question Retail is the same thing as Revenue and Cost is Cost of Goods Sold (the total cost of your product packaged and ready to ship to a retailer or consumer).
Retail/Cost - Divide the retail price of your product by its cost and select the answer that comes closest. If the retail is $20 and the cost is $5, you should select 4X. If you don’t know either the cost or retail price of your product you should use the Default choice of 4X. Once developed, software and apps are essentially free, but there are still costs for hosting, marketing and customer service. For this reason the Inventicator™ has an upper limit of 5X cost for profitability.
Knowing the true cost of your product is difficult unless you’ve had it fully engineered and sourced. A common rule of thumb is that for a physical product to be profitable the retail price should be at 4X cost or more. That formula is typical for many consumer tools, appliances, accessories and clothing sold in bricks and mortar retail stores. Here’s an article with more info. A product sold directly by manufacturer to consumer can be profitably sold at lower multiples to cost. Consumable products like food are purchased by users multiple times a year and manufacturers can profit with smaller profit margins. Shrinking margins down to zero means that cost and retail price are the same (1X) and there is no profit.
Cost for Minimally Viable Product (MVP) - The MVP is the amount of money that needs to be spent to prove that the new invention idea has real commercial potential by offering real products for sale to end users. This can mean a stripped down version of the idea that offers just one big benefit without any other bells and whistles. It could also mean a higher cost version that targets the upper end of the target market. This doesn’t need to correspond with what you actually plan to do. Rather, it’s what you could do if minimizing upfront investment is a goal.
Example 1 - A product with a retail price of $50 can either be manufactured using 3D printing at a cost of $12.50/unit with a set-up charge of $500; or manufactured at a cost of $2/unit with a tooling charge of $100,000 and a minimum first order of 10,000 pieces ($120,000 total). For this question you would choose the 3D printing option and select “$25,000 and less” for the MVP
Example 2 - 3D printing is not an option and the MVP will cost $120,000. Round down and select “$100K”.
Category Total: ~[ feasibilityTotal | json 4 ]~
What difficulties might be encountered in manufacturing and selling the invention?
Can It Be Made - Building molds, tools and dies to work on conventional manufacturing equipment, using existing programming languages to write apps and combining existing electronic components in new ways are examples of readily available technology and manufacturing - these are the kinds of things commonly done by contract manufacturers. If you’re manufacturing the product in your own plant it’s possible you’ll want modifications to standard equipment to accommodate special features of your invention. If your invention is at the leading edge of technology you may need to use equipment and processes that exist but, like your invention, have yet to be commercialized. It’s also possible that something totally new, using unproven technology, will need to be invented to enable the manufacturing of your invention.
Everything in the preceding paragraph exists within the realm of the physical universe as we know it. However, if you have channeled new realities from beyond the universe known to man you may have found a way to create a perpetual motion machine, a device where energy output exceeds input. We sincerely hope you have but we follow the precedent of the USPTO and do not consider such inventions. If you claim perpetual motion the Inventicator™ will give you an automatic “Nope”.
Regulations - Regulations can be imposed by governments and trade organizations. They vary from place to place and in the degree they can make manufacturing and selling harder and more expensive. Some things that can be easily sold in the United States cannot be easily made because of safety or environmental regulations. Some things that can be made in the US cannot be easily sold because of the need for expensive liability insurance. Regulations are sometimes imposed on only sellers or buyers, but sometimes both sides are imposed upon.
8. Social/Economic Considerations
Category Total: ~[ socialEconomicConsiderationsTotal | json 4 ]~
Beyond the user, an invention may have a positive or negative effect on society and the economy at large. For example, lithium batteries catching fire in hoverboards pose a threat to public health and public safety and solar panels are good for the environment and could form the basis of an industry that would spur the economy with installation and maintenance jobs. Consider each possibility on the list and check it positively or negatively if it fits.
95% of inventions will have no score in this section. The personal benefits of the invention are answered in another section. This question pertains to how your invention might impact society or the economy at large and does not concern individual users or small groups of users like families and small businesses.
Total ICQ Score: ~[ grandTotal | json 4 ]~
Understanding Your ICQ Score
|BENCHMARK ICQ SCORE||LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS|
|Google Search = 291||ICQ > 200 = OUTSTANDING|
|Keurig = 152
PaperPro = 148
Smart Spin = 117
Gator-Grip = 113
Pet Rock = 109
|ICQ > 100 = GOOD|
SqueezeDriver = 96
NESurf Jeans = 70
Image Lock= 62
|ICQ > 50 = REASONABLE|
|Segway = 35||ICQ < 40 = LONG SHOT|
|Perpetual Motion = NOPE||ICQ < 0 = NOPE|
The ICQ score at the bottom of the Inventicator™ is a relative indicator that can be compared to an invention with a similar score. As a simple rule of thumb, when scored by Invention City, an ICQ score above 100 indicates good odds for commercial success.
The chart above shows the Invention City determined ICQ scores for a wide range of inventions, with Google Search flying at a lofty ICQ of 291 and the Segway scooter running as a longshot with an ICQ of 35. The SqueezeDriver® rotary screwdriver is on the cusp of good odds with a 96 ICQ.
Details about some of those inventions are provided below.
NOTE: As mentioned in the introduction, most inventors score their inventions 30-50 points higher than Invention City does. When you use the Inventicator™ yourself you can calibrate it by creating your own benchmarks. Run an inventication of a product you know, ideally one that is directly competitive with your invention and shares the same target market. Then use that score as a benchmark for comparison. If your invention scores higher than a successful alternative you will have a good reason to feel optimistic.
Google Search - ICQ 281:
A nearly perfect invention
Google Search created an inflection point in human civilization by offering an elegant solution to finding relevant search results. That sounds like hyperbole. It’s not. That’s why Google is Google (or Alphabet as the case may be). Prior to Google Search, getting relevant information was hit and miss. Users would try sites like Altavista, Lycos, Yahoo and others and still not find what they were looking for. The PageRank algorithm created by Larry Page and Sergey Brin changed everything: one search at one site provided more relevant information in 10 seconds than an hour of banging around any of the alternatives. The polite technical business term for this level of innovation is that it’s a Big Deal.
Google made knowledge in every field of human endeavor immediately accessible and has become the starting point for research for everything from how to fix a leaky faucet to learning about quantum mechanics. When it was launched people wondered how Google would make money. There seemed to be no revenue model. But, in one of the few instances where early Internet business concepts proved correct, Google got eyeballs and eyeballs could be turned into money via advertising, lots and pots and heaps and mounds and foothills and mountains and continents and oceans and planets of cash.
Unsurprisingly, Google blows the Inventicator® away. The reasons are not just the level of innovation, the size of the market, the profitability and the impact on society, but also the fact that the market, while today comprising everyone, began with a huge but well defined target. Google’s initial users were people who shared the following characteristics: college education, 20-40 years of age, desktop computer users, Internet users, interested in research, early adopters and, significantly, influential to their peers. Google Search smacked a big fat sweet spot and hit a grand slam at the World Series of the century.
You can read about the history of Internet here: http://www.wordstream.com/articles/internet-search...
And the history of Google here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Google
SqueezeDriver® Rotary Screwdriver - ICQ 96:
On the cusp of success
SqueezeDriver® was the founding product of WorkTools Inc. and the inspiration for Invention City. With an ICQ of 96 SqueezeDriver® scores at high end of "maybe" on the Inventicator™; it was and is a fantastic product, one of our favorites. But it's also a hard lesson in what a "maybe" can be and what happens when you are unable to let something go.
Rotary action screwdriver. US Patents 4524650, 4739838, D303,204
SqueezeDriver® was conceived by Joel Marks as a squeeze-ratchet combination tool while working on his 1967 MGB in the early 1980's (a car he still drives today). While employed full time at TRW as a solar array design engineer, Joel put in 40 hours a week at home developing the new tool. Over 6 years he built four prototypes and engineered the final design. For the final prototype he carved and shaped blocks of aluminum with a hack saw and file, bent his own springs, molded his own handle and hammered and bent and hardened his own levers. After 2000+ hours of work he had a beautiful Buck Rogers looking prototype that he tried to license to Stanley Tools with help from his cousin Jess Rifkind, founder of the Advanced Development Lab at Xerox*. When the effort failed he turned to his brother Mike who in turn called upon his college friend Brad Golstein. Together they raised $100,000 from family and friends to found WorkTools Inc. and launch a line of innovative hand tools, starting with the SqueezeDriver®.
Manufacturing began in the garage of the Marks family home in Los Angeles, with parts sourced from manufacturers in the US and Taiwan. Joel and Mike Marks initially assembled SqueezeDrivers® themselves next to a 21' sailboat that served as a storage shelf for parts. Outgrowing the garage, WorkTools' operations were moved into a warehouse in the San Fernando Valley and came to incorporate a semi-automated assembly line that used machines designed and built by Joel.
In 1988 the manual SqueezeDriver® was introduced into the teeth of the Skil Twist® battery powered screwdriver tsunami. SqueezeDriver® won the Popular Science Award for Tools, received design awards in Japan and USA, was written up in the Wall Street Journal, shown as a cover on the Brookstone Catalog, sold in Brookstone stores, sold in Sears Catalog, sold private label to NAPA auto parts, sold to McMaster-Carr and Grainger, licensed to All-Trade, sold in K-Mart, tested in Home Depot, licensed to Direct to Retail, featured on QVC a dozen times, presented with Joan Rivers, tested in a 30 minute infomercial, run in 2 minute DRTV spots and also sold in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, the Middle East and Australia. SqueezeDriver® was even tested in brain surgery at Johns Hopkins and drawn by Stan Lee in a Spider Man cartoon. It was briefly knocked off by K-Tel (an amicable agreement ended that) and more aggressively knocked off by half a dozen companies in China. The last WorkTools made SqueezeDriver was assembled in 1993 and licensed sales of SqueezeDriver rev-1 ended in 1995. In 2014, Arrow Fastener Company launched an updated version of SqueezeDriver® under license from WorkTools (with a new patent). It has yet to find retail success.
It is estimated that sales of WorkTools' made and licensed SqueezeDrivers® have exceeded over 1,000,000 pieces. With regard to profits, the founders of WorkTools would have made more money flipping burgers at McDonalds. But the WorkTools' guys swallowed the hook on this one and are pondering the launch of a SqueezeDriver Rev-3 in another few years. It's not rational. It's first love.
More significantly, the SqueezeDriver® experience paved the way for WorkTools to develop a successful business designing and licensing new products. That business gave birth to Invention City.
Why didn't SqueezeDriver® succeed? Three reasons:
- Cost too high, profit margin too low - At $10 retail SqueezeDriver® would have been a great alternative to a $30 cordless tool. But SqueezeDriver® cost $7.50 to make. Retail prices started at $30 but quickly dropped to around $20 and profit margins shrank as retailers demanded lower wholesale costs. Even with $0 profit, SqueezeDriver® would have been unable to retail for $10. Cordless screwdrivers came down to $20 and SqueezeDriver lost all cost advantage. While the benefits of no charging and more control were real, most users preferred cordless tools when costs were equal.
- Influentials HATED it - The primary influentials for hand tools are carpenters. Carpenters drive a lot of screws into raw wood. They love power tools because they make work easy. SqueezeDriver was fantastic at driving machine screws - more precise than power tools and good for pre-fab furniture assembly - but it was a pain in the hand for carpenters. Without a strong base of influentials, SqueezeDriver® was unable to achieve and maintain retail distribution in critical venues like Home Depot.
- Hard to target market - The market was broad but thin, comprised of consumers and professionals that could not be grouped by interest, activity, age, region, profession (other than NOT carpenters) etc. It was hard to effectively focus marketing efforts and expenditures.
Following are some statistics from the US Census Bureau and other online sources for populations and market sizes. These numbers may be helpful in gaining a feel for how big (or small) an opportunity might be.
Approximate Market Sizes (2012-16 data)
|South America||390 million|
|Bicycle Riders||66 million|
|Bird Watchers||60 million|
|Recreational Fishing||49 million|
|Dog Owners||48 million|
|Cat Owners||38 million|
|Soccer Players||13 million|
|Motorcycles (registered)||8.5 million|
Estimated US Annual Sales of Random Products
|Athletic Apparel||$30 billion|
|Potato Chips||$4.5 billion|
|Ratchet Tools/ Sets||$1 billion|
|Desktop Staplers||$100 million|
|Ice Hockey Skates||$33 million|
~[ totals | json 4 ]~
~[ currentAnswers | json 4 ]~
~[ currentScores | json 4 ]~