The Backyard Inventor's Maze:

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Navigating your BIG Idea to Market

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Product ideas, inventions and inventors have been making headlines in the media lately.  Just this week the Ottawa Citizen highlighted an Industry Canada Inventor Report that showed 13% of Canadians consider themselves to be inventors. Are you one of them? If you are, you may be interested in knowing what it takes to move your BIG idea from the “ah-ha” moment to buyers and distributors as well as retail store shelves.


Last month, Profit Magazine took a stab at unraveling this daunting process with a well written piece called the “Inventor’s Playbook”.  In the article, a case study was used that introduced local Ottawa inventor, Scott Clark and how he brought his concussion alert sensing invention to life – a product for sports helmets called “ShockBox”. The article does a good job of showing a “how to” look at the invention and a review of the commercialization process at a high level as well as the path that one inventor took to navigate through the maze of hardware product development and commercializing.


Hardware product development is similar to any creative endeavor in that, the path through the maze is rarely clear cut and having experienced mentors helps a great deal to guide the way through design to business and sales.  Depending on the complexity of your idea there will be easily a 100 to a 1000 decisions that have to be made through the course of bringing your idea from design through to manufacturing.  There are another 1000 decisions on the business and sales side but I will leave this discussion to another opportunity.


The Design 1st team wakes up every day and create products.  We help Corporations, Inventors and Start Ups turn ideas into products.  Just last year we received several hundred calls from inventors across North America and we went on to develop products for over 20 of them.  This year we are seeing another increase in call volume as people decide to take their favourite product idea and make it a reality.  


Our first role is to help the inventor evaluate the potential opportunity of their idea before diving head first into the emotionally and enjoyable task of designing what is in their head.  


The most asked questions by Inventors are:

(1) How much will it cost to get to market?  Engineering Design?  Market Exposure?  Operations?   

(2) How long will it take to get a prototype to show people?

(3) How do I know that people will like and buy my product?

(3) Where and how does a design and engineering firm help me as I go through the process?   


The exact answers depend on the type of product and the market the Inventor is entering.  The best answer to these questions is that you step carefully, find mentors and spend strategically.  And, at each step you check to see if the opportunity is still worth chasing.


It is best to start considering these Four key items:


#1 – How large is the potential market? You need to establish a product cost and price; figure out how much money can be generated from the idea each year and what the distribution stream looks like to the first and best customer.

We have launched a new service to create, analyze and provide a comprehensive report on the potentially available market for your idea which presents an initial draft of this information. It’s critical to know if there is, in fact, a market for your idea. Cost is $800. Call us and we can show you an example.

#2 – Do I have something that is unique and innovative so that I can patent and protect it?

We have launched a new service to provide a web-based Patentability report specific to your idea, examining existing global products and a North American patent database summary. Cost is $800. Call us and we will walk you through the benefits of this.

#3 – Do I want to create a business organization or do I want to invent, patent and sell the idea?

This critical question the inventor must ask themselves at the start. Are you ready to devote several years to also get a business going or devote a smaller timeline such as 6 months to creating a product and seek out a buyer for the idea?  The opportunity and rewards differ.

Talk to our team and hear stories of the different paths that inventors have gone before you. Call us at 613 235 1004 x228.

#4 – how much does it cost to get a representative prototype ready so I can get a patent started and begin sharing my idea with others?   

The design costs are typically in the $10,000 to $30,000 range depending on the product, the required electronics and the overall complexity.  Call us and we can estimate a budget for your product specifics at no charge. FREE. The budget estimate is based on the number of parts in the product idea and how many custom parts are required to make it work. This is very helpful information to know at the start!

To the 13 % of Canadians who are inventors out there – the timing is perfect in the world right now so go chase your dreams.  You now have access to local experienced business mentors and incubators (check out Invest Ottawa and Exploriem) and engineering design firms like us, Design 1st.

To find out more about placing an Expert Blog, contact our sales department at


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Recent comments

  • rick roe
    July 26, 2015 - 19:22

    Hello, I have an idea that I think would work And that's all I have. The issues I have is I don't want to be involved with it from idea to production. I just would like to get paid for the idea and any royalty if the product makes to market. How do I tell some one with the means to take an idea to production without losing my idea to someone else? Thank you Rick Roe