Networking Web site gathers inventors

Marketplace Staff Nov 4, 2009

Networking Web site gathers inventors

Marketplace Staff Nov 4, 2009


Bill Radke: You know, I’ll bet at some point in your life, you have said to yourself, “I have this great idea for a new product,” and then you forgot about it because, how would you ever get it to market? Well reporter Simone Orendain tells us about an invention Web site based in Charlotte, N.C.

Simone Orendain: Every good idea needs a home. Like a scratching post covered with sand paper so your cat can file its own nails.

Ad: Here kitty, kitty! Ever try to trim your cat’s claws? It’s impossible! Now your cat can trim her own claws, with Emery Cat!

“Emery Cat” is on store shelves thanks to a PBS reality show called “Everyday Edisons.” The program tracks how ordinary folks turn ideas into useful products. The show got so many great ideas from would-be inventors, they started a Web site called “Edison Nation” just to collect those pitches.

And the business community took notice. Now companies like Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond and PetSmart come to “Edison Nation” to find the next big thing.

Matt Spangard: We have a team of experts who interview the retailers.

Matt Spangard heads Edison Nation.

Spangard: They then tell us what their needs are. We put together a live product search.

So for example, Home Depot is looking for new tools that make painting faster and easier. Exactly what that means is left up to the inventor’s imagination. Spangard says retailers like the system because they’d prefer to deal directly with Edison Nation’s experts, rather than with individual inventors.

Charlotte inventor and veterinarian Mike Thomann knows what it’s like to go it alone. He spent $50,000 and five years of his life trying to sell companies on his invention, a portable pooper scooper.

Mike Thomann: I’m trying to cram this down their throats, whereas Edison Nation has idea hunts where companies are coming saying these are the products we want, we have an opening for it, so just fulfill the opening.

Now Thomann’s invention — he calls it the “Port-a-Scoop” — is a finalist in a PetSmart search.

Thomann: It’s a streamlined process and you don’t have to fight with these retailers and these big companies much to get your product on a shelf. So it’s a very efficient process.

If Thomann’s idea is accepted, Edison Nation will give him a $2,500 advance. And they’ll take care of licensing the product.

So, what’s in it for Edison Nation? It splits royalties 50-50 with the inventors.

In Charlotte, I’m Simone Orendain for Marketplace.

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