I Can?t Find Funding. Is My Idea Dead? No, Consider a Campaign to License!

Written by admin on April 22nd, 2011

Most inexperienced entrepreneurs are unaware of the many options and alternative strategies available to push a new idea or invention to market. The most common approach they seek to implement is a classic funding round. When this avenue fails, and with overwhelming frequency it does, the idea often is dropped. 

Driven inventors attend invention trade fairs, venture capital conferences, small business incubators, and network at every possible opportunity in search of funding and working capital for their invention. It is commendable and a tribute to the pursuit of the American dream that such efforts are expended in this daunting effort. However, virtually all will come to a disappointing end with no funding and disappointment.

In 2005 over 500,000 new business incorporations were organized in the United States. This does not include the hundreds of thousands of sole proprietorships, partnerships, joint ventures and strategic alliances formed. From this sea on creative, new opportunities only about 1000 were funded by traditional venture capital sources. The odds are so long against a successful funding round: the wonder is that so many entrepreneurs, with so much creativity to offer, are chasing so few sources of funds. 

There are other opportunities and strategies available for successfully getting a great idea to market. The bar for acquiring venture capital funding is so high, so difficult and so competitive, that it is unfortunate how many inventors quit the pursuit of their goal after receiving no traditional funding commitment. One of several alternatives to venture funding is a license campaign. 

Licensing is the assignment of intellectual property or product rights to a licensee for consideration. The consideration may consist of a rights fee, royalty, options, personal service fees, minimum annual sales turnover and more. The licensee agrees to make good faith efforts to commercialize the product or intellectual property and the agreement is memorialized in a License Agreement.

There are many more companies interested in licensing a product or technology than there are conventional funding sources for startups. Having said this, there is really no difference in the requirements for success in either venue. You will just get more swings at the ball when seeking a license for your project. 

Entrepreneurs read about Blackrock Capital, Harvard Capital Management  or Kohlberb Kravis Roberts funding a new opportunity for 0 million dollars or more. This is exciting, motivating and for most, unrealistic. A fully fundable opportunity is a rare amalgam of huge upside, mitigated risk, unique, potentially disruptive product and REALLY strong, experienced management. Very few entrepreneurs can present such a comprehensive package.

In the world of licensing the product, upside, risk mitigation and disruption features are crucial. Management is irrelevant as the licensee presumably has the management in hand to drive the project to success. The same elements that excite venture capitalists also excite the licensee. They are keen on a strong Unique Selling Proposition detailing the niche the product will claim.

A powerful, well-structured sales model will quantify and support the sales universe available to the product or technology. 

There are many successful approach strategies available when seeking to license an exciting new product. The following are some broad elements we have utilized in our consulting firm with success. Remember there is no linear, set in steel index to follow. Innovate, adapt and keep pushing and try everything necessary to get that appointment with the decision-maker. 

Create a Working, Production Quality Prototype 

Whether you have a new product, a service or a technology, you MUST be able to demonstrate the unique features and benefits of your offering. Some inventors have a facility to create, design and construct the necessary demonstration unit. The great majority of people do not. This is a simple hurdle to overcome.

In every city in America there are job shops, product design and development firms, engineers and software writers capable of providing professional guidance resulting in production of the prototype required. 

A key by-product of this process will be the creation of 3-D, Computer Assisted Design art. This art is essential in the assembly of the product for production, in obtaining crucial and totally accurate cost of goods and filing patents. 

Patent Filing – Intellectual Property Protection 

Very few licensees are interested in investing significant monies in marketing a new product without the guarantee of some patent, copyright and/or trademark protection. See a Patent Attorney. Patent law is exceedingly specific and for this reason it is a legal specialty. A competent patent attorney will conduct a search and, using the results, advise the possibility of successfully receiving a utility patent (highly preferred), design patent (patent on art, easily overcome) or not being artful enough to receive any cover. 

If an item has dicey patent prospects we like an alternative strategy. I have been a proponent for several of my clients of a strategy we call “patent pending forever”. Our goal is to keep a product in patent pending status for as long as possible by timing addendum to the application and art and filing these in order to keep having the filing reviewed again. 

During patent pending a filing is essentially in limbo. The advantage for the inventor is that there is no publication of the details of the art, features and unique benefits of their product. Secrecy is an asset. Once a patent number is received two undesirable things happen: details of the patented product become public knowledge, and the clock starts ticking against the 20-year life of the patent. 

For most entrepreneurs seeking a license, we do not push for international patent filing. International filing is very expensive and we let the licensee assume this expense. 

Source of Production, Manufacturing 

Depending on the product, service or technology offered for license, you MUST source production. The reason is simple: this will set you apart from the dreamer. It reflects your commitment to the opportunity. It reassures that the product can be built (we see a number of projects that are unrealistic from an assembly and economic standpoint).

Now, let’s discuss a touchy subject in the current economic climate. I love my country. America is the land of opportunity. However, I am a capitalist and the rules of capitalism are much bigger than any one individual: including you, the entrepreneur. If at all possible I prefer to assemble components, source, and manufacture here in the United States. However, it is becoming more and more difficult to be competitive here in America.

I have clients that are adamant they do not want their project assembled offshore. Do not be a Luddite. You really have two options: you can go with the flow, or you can be drowned by the overflow. In the past decade, we have not found a single project that could be produced in the United States as inexpensively as we could produce offshore, including the cost of freight, customs and duty. Not even close! 

We search out four or five factories, or offshore resources, for submission of the 3-D CAD art and a Release Packet. The Release Packet contains all of the hard samples of components that will be parts of the finished product. After this is forwarded, we typically receive quotes in four to six weeks.

This quote should include all line item costs contained in the Bill of Materials for the product, plus outer packaging, costs of display (if any), shipping carton, inserts (directions for assembly, etc.), plus freight to United States port of arrival, customs, duty and inland freight to your warehousing/fulfillment point. This is a dead net cost of goods. 

Use of Cost of Goods  (COG)

Knowing the cost of goods is crucial! This number proves the viability of the products pricing model, confirms margin assumptions and the ability to construct an exciting sales model. If COG is too high, and there is no capacity to squeeze costs, the future license prospects for the product are not exciting. This number sets the parameters for the potential of your project and indicates to the potential licensee that they are dealing with a thoughtful, serious and skilled licensor. 


The licensee with an exciting opportunity on offer will want to know (not guess) everything possible about the market they are about to enter. This will include; customer demographics, size of market, growth of the category, competition, and potential licensors. Cite sources of research and assemble as a portion of the Opportunity to License document you will offer. This is the knowledge that will set you apart from run of the mill tire kickers hoping to make a deal.

Professional Endorsements

Nothing resonates with buyers more than professional endorsements. I am not necessarily talking about celebrity endorsement. They are great for certain products. A pediatrician endorsing a juvenile product, or a professional association giving a positive quote on a service, or an educator endorsing a toy, are simple examples of taking a product and brandishing it with the glow of an expert. This is invaluable and a technique we utilize regularly for our projects. Include these quotes in all collateral materials. 

Test Market / Focus Group 

If you only have one prototype it can be difficult to assemble a focus group or test market. What we recommend is to show the product to strangers sequentially in the field where the product would typically be used. Recently, with a single prototype of a baby stroller

Pages: 1 2

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply