Entrepreneur or Inventor?
In the previous delivery I looked at prototyping as a method through which entrepreneurs can rapidly develop a viable product. I made mention of the “inventor entrepreneur” type and I received a number of comments and enquiries regarding the difference between an inventor and an entrepreneur. I wanted to discuss business models in this delivery, but the inventor/entrepreneur issue seems like a topic of interest, so I will move business models out to the next delivery and address the inventor vs. entrepreneur matter first.
Entrepreneur vs. Inventor
We live in a time where more and more ideas are converted into successful outcomes that create value for the world. We need people who come up with ideas and new inventions (inventors), but also the people who are able to convert these ideas into successful products, services and businesses (entrepreneurs). Generally both inventors and entrepreneurs are able to come up with new ideas, and share some common characteristics, however, the key difference is that inventors are usually focused on the tangible invention, while entrepreneurs are more focused on the business opportunity.
Off course some inventors are also entrepreneurs and vice versa. Inventors are interested in developing a novel product but not necessarily bringing it to market (i.e. commercialising it). Entrepreneurs procure, organise and manage resources (human, capital and other) through a new venture to bring a product to market, without necessarily having invented the product.
Another way of looking at this is that entrepreneurship involves the conversion of ideas into money, because an entrepreneur makes money from his/her ideas by capitalising them. On the other hand, invention is the conversion of money into ideas, because an inventor spends money to create his/her inventions and may be unable to monetise them.
In terms of is it better being the one or the other. There is no wrong or right answer for this question and I am of opinion that the entrepreneurial ecosystem depends on the contributions of both, and each are needed to successfully push the boundaries of possibility, explore new ways to solve our problems and effectively deliver solutions that improve the quality of our lives.
This column is dedicated to entrepreneurs and there will be many more articles focused on entrepreneurship, so I will dedicate this one delivery to inventors. Concerning invention, I follow Stephen Key devotedly and I have read a number of his books on the topic of invention. He has some good advice for being a successful inventor, I share a few critical tips: 1. Don’t fall in love with your ideas. Successful inventors understand the importance of detaching themselves from their ideas. Inventing is a numbers game. Some of your ideas will be profitable, but others won’t. You need to be able to tell the difference between the two. 2. Test your ideas. Will your idea make money? How can you be sure? Successful inventors seek out proof of demand early on. 3. Understand how to use intellectual property to protect your ideas. To become a successful inventor, you must teach yourself how copyrights, trademarks and patents work.
It’s not enough to hire a lawyer and assume he or she will take care of your needs. 4. Stick to one industry. Successful inventors don’t jump around much. Instead, they focus on becoming experts and forging mutually beneficial relationships within an industry. 5. Attend trade shows and seminars. 6.
Have a sense of urgency. Product development is a long process. You need to get started as soon as possible. 7. Be persistent. Every successful inventor has been rejected countless times. Rather than getting discouraged and giving up, ask questions to try to understand what went wrong and try again. 8. Do not be afraid to fail.