It was seen that the works of founders of States, law-givers, tyrant-destroyers, and heroes cover
but narrow spaces and endure but for a time; while the work of the inventor, though of less pomp,
is felt everywhere and lasts forever.          - Francis Bacon Preface to a Treatise on Interpreting Nature




The Design of Everyday Things

Every inventor should take this free online course. Learn the basics of design and start observing and applying design principles.



How to Design Breakthrough Inventions

A CBS interview of IDEO founder David Kelley


How to Build a StartUp

In this free online course, learn the key tools and steps for building a successful startup (or at least reducing the risk of failure).

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

June 2014


Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. 
     - Mike Tyson

Paul Moses (pemoses@prf.org; director of Purdue Research Parks in New Albany and Indianapolis; manager and co-founder of INnovation Angels; president & chair‑elect of Venture Connectors) told us about Purdue University’s new emphasis on getting things done.  The result is a record-breaking 24 startups (based on Purdue’s intellectual property) formed in fiscal year 2014, triple that in 2013.

Mr. Moses helps people turn an idea into a business.  One of the first things he asks a startup founder (not someone else hired by the founder) to do is to put the horse before the cart, to adapt the startup to fit the market.  This not only increases the startup’s probability of success, but also attracts investors with evidence of guaranteed customers (i.e., profit) and with evidence that the founder is a good business person—adaptable, coachable, and capable of making good decisions.

Mr. Moses asks the founder to fit the startup to the market in the same way that s/he fits an invention to its purpose—by developing a working prototype.  The founder learns by trial and error: who the startup’s customers are (people ready to buy the startup’s goods and services); what it is, exactly, that the customers want; and what the startup needs to offer to the customers to succeed.  Only the founder can do this because only s/he has the authority to change the whole nature of the startup.

Guides available to the founder include:
     Steve Blank’s:
Launchpad Central;
Alex Osterwalder’s:
Purdue University’s:
Startup Guide;
Innovation and entrepreneur Web site
Foundry; and 
Research Park.

The process looks something like this.
  1. Use the business model canvas to design a first draft of your startup prototype.  Base this prototype on your best guesses as to who your customers are, what problems they want to solve, and what solutions the startup should provide to be profitable. (Note: the canvas is not a business plan.  It is a container that holds guesses about the startup, which the founder tests.  It shows the latest version of the startup prototype, that is, the founder's current logic of how the startup creates, delivers, and captures value.)
  2. Get out of the building to see if your guesses match reality, to see if your product fits the market.  Talk to potential customers.  Are they really middle age men or are they teenage girls?  Do they really want an expensive, durable product or do they want an inexpensive, single-use product?
  3. Go back into the building and use these new facts to revise your canvas.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until almost all of your newly identified customers demand your newly identified products and services.  When you guess wrong, figure out why you guessed wrong so you can understand the logic of the product-market fit.
  5. Pretend you know what your business model is, prepare to sell your products and services on a small scale, get out of the building, and try to sell to people you think are your customers.  Ask them which features persuaded them to buy. 
  6. Go back into the building; figure out what you didn’t understand about your customers, what they need, or how to relate to them; and modify your prototype accordingly.  Once again, when you guess wrong, figure out why you guessed wrong so you can understand the logic of the product-market fit.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you have a repeatable, scalable business model.
Thank you, Mr. Moses, for sharing your valuable insights with us!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

May 2014

Report by Dave Zedonis

Sarah Woodruff, business development manager at Catalyst PDG, Inc. (Indianapolis, IN), told us how a product development company such as Catalyst can quickly and effectively help an inventor embody an idea and bring it to market.

Develop your idea as best you can before hiring professional developers, because their services are expensive (up to $20,000 for a prototype). Find out who your potential customers are and what they want, so you can give developers a very good idea of what product you want from them.

Professional developers offer a variety of services, such as:
  • market research, including focus groups and customer surveys, to help you design a product that your potential customers want;
  • prototyping, to make sure your invention works, with the aid of 3-D designing and printing, modeling, problem solving, selecting materials, tooling, and machining; 
  • small scale production of thermoplastic products with injection molding machines; 
  • packaging; 
  • light assembly; 
  • delivery of up to 500,000 parts; and
  • connections to other developers who provide complementary services.
Help protect your inventive idea by having your professional developers sign a nondisclosure agreement.

Thank you for your helpful advice, Ms. Woodruff!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

December 2013

Report by Dave Zedonis

Steve Woodruff and his wife Jenny, two of our local “Indiana Inventors and Entrepreneurs”, shared the story of their successful Toyota Prius business, AutoBeYours.com.  They rebuild generation II Prius cars manufactured from 2004 to 2009 that have been damaged by collision and convert them to all-electric

With Steve’s experience in repairing electronics and in collaboration with others who share their interest, Steve and Jenny have developed and refined reliable kits for converting the hybrid Prius into an all-electric vehicle.  The result is a car that gets the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon of gasoline.

Inventing has been part of their business since it began in 2003 in Scottsburg, IN.  Experts in redesign of electric cars, Steve and Jenny have built a Nissan Leaf 6-door stretch limousine, 3 custom Prius limousines, and Prius convertibles and trucks.

Steve and Jenny also rebuild and sell battery packs, the essence of an electric car.  They focus on Toyota’s nickel metal hydride battery, a reliable and affordable option, and on Nissan’s lithium ion battery, a more efficient but expensive option.  Lithium ion batteries now provide up to 300 miles of driving distance per charge, and better cathodes, anodes, and electrolytes might improve that range.

Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Woodruff, for taking the time to talk to us.  We wish you continued success as you expand your operation and offerings!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Allan Robert Humbert (1920-2012)

Robert Humbert, our former vice president, died in November, 2012. He is believed to be the last surviving charter member of the Indiana Inventors Association, formed in the early 1980’s to help inventors with marketing. Bob invented, patented (US 4,281,368), made, and sold a house-key light. He expressed his creativity in other ways too – by teaching school and by publishing a book, “WWII Letters to My Girl Back Home: From Nigeria, Arabia and Turkey”, which describes his war time experiences as a weatherman. Bob was active in the Association until he was 92 years old, holding various positions (including president), recording meetings, creating meeting summaries, and compiling information for newsletters. Always in good humor, when asked how it felt to turn 90 years old, Bob replied, “Not much different than it felt to turn 89.” We enjoyed Bob’s presence, assistance, contributions, and knowledge and will miss our good friend and colleague.

Patent Drawings by Richard McVicker

Some inventions patented by our members:

Bob Brand
3,179,907 Tuning system for television receivers
3,219,933 Television tuner switching system
3,241,072 Tuning control system
3,538,466 Television tuner cast housing with integrally cast transmission lines
4,503,740 Optical cutting edge locator for a cutting apparatus
4,503,896 Dog system for veneer slicer
4,601,317 Veneer slicing system
5,511,598 Veneer-slicer with remotely controllable blade angle adjustment
5,562,137 Method and apparatus for retaining a flitch for cutting
5,590,700 Vacuum flitch table with self-cleaning vacuum valve
5,678,619 Method and apparatus for cutting veneer from a tapered flitch
5,680,887 Veneer slicer with timing belt
5,694,995 Method and apparatus for preparing a flitch for cutting
5,701,938 Method and apparatus for retaining a flitch for cutting
5,819,828 Method and apparatus for preparing a flitch for cutting
5,868,187 Method and apparatus for retaining a flitch for cutting
7,395,843 Method and apparatus for retaining a flitch for cutting
7,552,750 Method and apparatus for cutting veneer sheets from a flitch

Kenton Brett
6023685 Computer controlled event ticket auctioning system
6704713 Computer controlled event ticket auctioning system
6907405 Computer controlled priority right auctioning system
7647269 Computer-based right distribution system with reserve pricing
7698210 Computer-based right distribution system
7720746 Computer-based right distribution system with password protection
7747507 Computer controlled auction system
7769673 Computer-based right distribution system with request reallocation
7992631 System and method for seasonal energy storage
8073765 Computer-based right distribution system with password protection
8128407 Method and system for teaching math
8538856 Computer-based right distribution system
8732033 Computer-based right distribution system with temporal variation
9614733 Methods and systems for reducing burst usage of a networked computer system
9900220 Methods and systems for reducing burst usage of a networked computer system

James Dougherty
8622039 Rockerless desmodromic valve system
9488074 Rockerless desmodromic valve system
9366158 Unitary cam follower and valve preload spring for a desmodromic valve mechanism

Ron Jackson
4,886,110 HVAC zone control system
4,943,039 Adjustable clamp
4,987,409 Level sensor and alarm
5,132,669 Level sensor with alarm
5,381,989 Adjustable spring clamp
5,944,098 Zone control for HVAC system
6,145,752 Temperature monitoring and control system
6,322,443 Duct supported booster fan
D347,596 Audible security alarm
D376,747 Door security device

Jerry McQuinn
D689,343 Universal Nutcracker

Richard McVicker
3,261,937 Three position snap switch utilizing interference blade means
3,319,477 Timer Escapement
3,332,704 Manually propelled treadmill vehicle
4,625,616 Thumb pick
6,309,076 Light barrier, screen or reflector
D240,237 Sculpture or the like
D356,653 Yard light
8389839 Thumb pick

Bill Pangburn
5,943,831 Device for Hauling Objects

Matt Thie
4,940,162 Rolled coin dispenser
4,844,446 Multiple-compartment currency stacker-sorter
4,940,162 Rolled coin dispenser
7,298,280 Lighted fluid flow indication apparatus
7,617,826 Conserver
8146592 Method and apparatus for regulating fluid flow or conserving fluid flow
8230859 Method and apparatus for regulating fluid

Don Walls
D707090 Torque key lever
RE36209 Door lock apparatus

Dave Zedonis
5,637,926 Battery powered electronic assembly for wheel attachment

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