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Recon Rail Updates

Hey folks, hope you are enjoying another week and getting your float on when and where able!

So there are about 10 Recon Rail sets out there being tested to date.  For all folks using my products, pre-production, I am going to keep you updated on parts as they are refined at no cost to you.  I’ve begun to receive tons of great feedback, and yes some negative, but that’s the point here!  The Onewheel industry is currently pretty small, but you and I know it’s going to get a lot bigger.  As I roll out new products, I want to keep it lean and community-feedback driven.  Having worked in product development for about 10 years, I have a real knack for getting designs updated, prototyped, and to production fairly quickly.  I want to continue incorporating community feedback into my design process, so here’s what I’ve received and acted on to date:

  • All black…
  • Better instructions for installation.
  • Clean up molded parts.

All Black.

As you can see below on the left, the first revision included black aluminum alloy picatinny mounts fixed to naturally finished 6061 Aluminum plates.  The combination of the two increased the product’s overall resistance to bending stress, even though that’s alleviated by mounting flat to the rail.  For consistency, I’ve built jigs for the tapping and assembly of the parts.  I anticipate someone will clip a curb with the front of one of these so I want to ensure it won’t grab and bend.  So far so good there.  I’ve had two requests in the same thread for all black.  While, of course, I’ll eventually be as smart as FM and release multiple colors; I’m going to switch to the all black murdered look until then.

Better Instructions for Installation.

Given that the install is VERY simple, I relied heavily on a simple render to show the steps.  While that does show it, feedback suggests that folks will need some more deets!  All good there, I’ve updated the installation instructions (see below) and created an overview video.

Cleaned up molded parts.

My intent is to field feedback on the functionality of the system and ease of installation.  Also, any durability issues or just general product feedback.  I have pushed a few mounting brackets and FF Adapters out that have aesthetic flaws.  I’m molding the parts using a Cast Urethane process and want to cover all changes necessary for a full launch.  I have a fantastic molder I’m on-boarding to start shooting these in a hard tool after they’re all tested out.  I expect prices will drop with the drop in COGS as I switch to Injection Molding.  Parts below show the before and after shots of parts that I’ve sent and changes made to the aesthetic since.  The ugly one was a prototype mount, the prettier ones on the right or bottom are what is currently shipping.  Also have feedback to increase the offset of the “mating” faces for a more secure hold (Thanks Cory).

 

What’s next for the Recon Rail?

I have a vendor producing custom 18″ picatinny rails for me.  I’ll transition to that once I off-ramp the assembly to the manufacturer so we aren’t using two different sizes per side.  This should reduce COGS and consequently cost.

My molder for the mounting brackets will also be doing the handle.  Fillets will be added for better comfort.  Currently, the handle is flat stock TPU cut with a water jet to eliminate Non-Recurring Expenses (NRE) in production until I feel it’s time to inject it.

Once the supply chain is ironed out with my manufacturer, I’ll start adding multiple color options.

What’s next for Elite Onewheel?

Well, hopefully no one cares that I have Onewheel in the name.  I’m sure I’ll hear if they do.

The Flight Fender Adapters (formerly Flight Fin Adapter) will be off-ramped to the molder for better parts pretty soon.  They will be molded in glass-filled Nylon for durability and resistance to the elements.

I have 3 types of pads going to production.  Not happy with the last sample, so no pics until they’re right.  One is a standard set of coarse grips, one is standard EVA for comfort cruising (would rather buy from an existing 3rd party vendor), and the “Shred Grip.”  The Shred Grip is unique in a couple of ways.  The front grip creates a concave footing and the rear grip has a hump in the arch of the foot.  This mimics parabolic stringers on a surfboard and doubles down on your cutting power.

I have a prototype for a set (front and rear) of pads.  It’s early in development, but currently functional.  These pads allow the changing of grips without tools or adhesive backing.  The base will be comprised of glass-filled nylon and an industrial TPU and will be lighter than the stock pads.

A Caddy system for Joon Kim, lol.  Actually, it’s a “Caddy” that will attached to the Recon Rail using the holes for the built-in rubber handle.  It is a frame-style device that will not interfere with fenders, Flight Fins, etc. and will be used for grabs, handle points, speaker mounts, long-range mod mounts, lights, and more.

Keep an eye on our social for daily use of our equipment and updates.

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Bioelectronics – The Next Revolution in Medicine

I was recently invited to attend a very special meeting at Case Western Reserve University. The topic was entitled “Bioelectronic Approaches to Personalized Medicine.” Roughly 100 Neuroscientists, Biomedical Engineers, and Clinicians gathered to share their progress in the new field known as “Bioelectronics,” or as some researchers like to call it – “Map and Zap.

bio-electronics
Sourced from GSK http://www.gsk.com/en-gb/research/what-we-are-working-on/bioelectronics-research/

Bioelectronic medicine has the potential to be superior to drugs in terms of efficacy, cost and safety because it directly modulates the natural language of the body’s nervous systems — electrical impulses and action potentials. To appreciate the full potential for bioelectronic medicine, consider that virtually all the cells in the body are directly or indirectly controlled by neural input and that peripheral neural circuits play a pivotal role in maintaining homeostasis.1

In the next ten years, miniature electronic devices no larger than a grain of rice will be implanted at selected nerve fibers (axons) to stimulate or block neural activity to treat conditions such as asthma, Type II Diabetes, and digestive disorders, thus reducing or eliminating the need for traditional “molecular” medicines (e.g. pills or injections).

It is interesting to consider that by converging neurophysiology with data analysis and disease biology, it will be feasible to develop bioelectronic devices that can record and analyze neural and physiological data in real time and modulate the neural electric input to the target organs.1

I recently met with some scientists that are beginning to use machine learning and big data to analyze huge amounts of acquired data to identify biomarkers that indicate the onset of certain conditions. For example, connected biosensors will soon be able to detect the onset of an asthmatic episode and immediately stimulate the appropriate nerves to open the airways, thus preventing an asthma attack before it happens. Similar progress is being made with cardiac disease and epilepsy.

Wearable devices that monitor physiological activity (blood pressure, ecg, and eeg, for example) along with the increasing computing power of smartphones, will provide a truly personalized approach to healthcare. Imagine the following scenario:

Your electronic personal health assistant (using artificial intelligence similar to IBM’s Watson) has been monitoring your ECG, blood pressure, body weight, activity, and caloric intake using wearable and implanted devices that monitor your heartbeat, blood pressure, weight and activity.  It notices that you have recently gained weight and your blood pressure is beginning to increase.  Based upon this sensor information, your assistant realizes that this could lead to heart disease or hypertension, so it reminds you to get some exercise (while monitoring your activity, of course), and suggests a meal plan to shed those extra pounds.  In addition to creating a menu, the assistant triggers an implant connected to nerves that control your appetite to help you feel full more quickly.  

logo-ibm-watson
Image sourced from http://www.healthterm.com/standardization-of-all-clinical-data-for-ibm-watson-health-globally/

While this sounds like science fiction, the technology is within reach. Breakthroughs in nanotechnology, neurophysiology, and information technology are occurring at a rapid pace; and collaboration between these researchers is increasing.  Just last month, GlaxoSmithKline and Alphabet (Google’s Parent Company) created a new company called “Galvani Bioelectronics”, and provided over $700 million in funding over the next 5 years.  The National Institutes of Health has initiated the “Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions” (or “SPARC”) is also funding research to treat cancer and other diseases. The SPARC initiative is designed to minimize the amount of “red tape” normally required to obtain funding for this type of research.

As an expert in making instruments to measure pulmonary and electrophysiological signals, I am excited to bring a small part of this initiative to the Cape Fear region.

1 – Chavan, 2014

Mike Bower, the man, the myth, the legend.  Electrical Engineer – Elite Innovations.

Prior to 2007, I worked for Vishay Micro-Measurements in the Triangle area as a software engineering manager.  Most of my focus was in experimental mechanics, and the measurement systems I developed were used on projects as diverse as the International Space Station to the Freedom Tower in New York City.

 Despite the fact that I had a rewarding and challenging career for over 20 years, the sea was calling. So my family and I decided to pack up and move to Wilmington from the Triangle area in 2007.  I joined a small company called Buxco Research Systems. It was then when I became involved with biomedical technology, and I developed software and hardware for preclinical pulmonary research.

 In January of 2014, Buxco was sold and moved out of the Wilmington area. I was given the opportunity to move to Minnesota, but by then my ties to Wilmington were too strong, so I joined a company based in Paris, France. Over the next several months, I built a small but very effective Research and Development lab over my garage, which included reflow ovens, microscopes, and 3D printing capability.  During that time, I developed implantable telemetry devices used to measure biopotentials (ECG, EEG), core body temperature, and blood pressure in preclinical research. These devices are used by researchers to measure the responses (pulmonary, cardiovascular, neurological) caused by various interventions, including conventional (molecular) and bioelectronics.

In 2015, the decision was to consolidate the R&D efforts to Paris, and Montreal. I was given the opportunity to move to Paris or Montreal, but once again, I chose to remain in Wilmington. Fortunately, I was asked to represent the company as a Biomedical Engineer and am currently involved in providing technical support to the researchers.

 These days, I travel throughout North America and work with a wide variety of researchers involved in the development of new therapies. A large part of my time is involved in training biomedical researchers in the use of  sophisticated software and hardware used to measure complex signals such as ECG, EEG, and pulmonary function.

Wile I am currently a “one man show”, as my involvement (and reputation) in the Bioelectronics field grows, I hope to eventually bring more of this technology to the Wilmington area.

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Collaboration: Strength in a Diverse Workplace

“Collaboration is the best way to work. It’s [the] only way to work really. Everyone’s there because they have a set of skills to offer across the board.” – Antony Starr, actor

There is an importance of interaction and collaboration that cannot be ignored in the workplace, especially when working in a small, start-up environment. Collaboration within inter-disciplinary teams are becoming more and more important in companies today that are both expected to offer more variety in their services and to include creative elements in presenting their business for customers and potential clients. The impact of collaboration has been proven to increase productivity and improve our human chemistry. It is a fact that we are better working together than we are working on our own.

The impact of collaboration lies with the skills and experiences that each individual brings to the table. It is imperative to our success that individuals hold a wide variety of interests and approaches to help the team arrive at a well-rounded conclusion. Each individual’s experiences manifest themselves in decisions and creations that are unique and original. These viewpoints are commonly derived from the most critical of our unique personality traits; some of us are creative, some approach things with an analytical mind, we are introverted or extroverted, we lean toward being optimistic or pessimistic, we are always on time or tend to be late, we are organized or thrive in controlled chaos. The differences in our personalities and experiences as humans manifest themselves in the most productive way when we are collaborating with one another. Our individual strengths shine when we work with others who compliment our strengths or our shortcomings. Sometimes our differences create what Jerry Hirsch, executive designer at Nissan, calls creative abrasion. He encourages people to use the energy that comes from working with people who are different from each other into something positive? He suggests to leverage the differences and work to identify what can be complementary about them. Read more about creative abrasion and the other reasons collaboration is important in today’s business environment. 

The strength of separate individuals is far outweighed by the strength of a team in which each individual possess a variety of skills and experiences that compliment each other’s diverse capabilities.

 

collaborate

A physical example of individual skills complimenting each other is in the sport of football.  The collaboration of an offense and defense one a single team is imperative for the joint goal of all of the team’s players. While both the defense and the offense have separate goals during their time on the field, the collaboration and common goal of both must compliment each other for the ultimate objective of stopping the other team from scoring, putting points on the board, and winning the game. Each player on a football field possesses skills that make them technical and physical specialists in their position. When the team isn’t working well together it is reflected in the score and in the success of each play.

 

While our conference rooms may not be as public as an NFL or Big Ten College Football game, the importance of bringing unique skills to the table for the common goal of success plays out much in the same way. While collaborations include moments of pulling out your hair, slamming a clipboard to the ground, or looking at a teammate in disbelief after a “play,” the importance and results of collaborating most often end in positive, creative results for the company and for their clients. While there is no denying the challenges that face us when working with those who think and operate differently than ourselves, the creative abrasion and gained assets of a variety of viewpoints culminating in the completion of a successful project offsets any denial that working together is better than working alone.

 

In today’s business culture, companies are trying to be more things for their customers and those customers are seeking out companies that cut out the middle- man. These demands include but are not limited to a business being a marketing firm, experts in social media, a go-to for legal advice, and a personal confidant along with having the business acumen expected from industry leaders. The results of these customer demands are more inter-company collaboration and interdisciplinary teams within the workplace. And as companies utilize the advancement in internet and technology, they are able to expand our not only within different disciplines but also to different places. Technology has lifted several barriers that we may have faced just a short time ago, and now global collaboration is more achievable and allows us to accomplish more every day. These positives should be embraced and celebrated in creating a better, more efficient way for the whole world to work together and illustrates the importance of individuals coming to together to create, accomplish and thrive.

collaborate2

This is more apparent than ever in a business like Elite Innovations, where we never quite know who or what idea will walk through the door. Being a product development firm, we discovered early that the clients we would serve and the teams we would need to build within the company would be diverse and ever changing. Working together in our interdisciplinary teams, we have found strength in each other’s differences and in unique skill sets that each of us possesses and exemplify in our everyday operations. Did I ever believe as an entertainment professional that I would work with programmers, engineers and industrial designers? Probably not; but in seeing that our differences compliment each other at every turn, and that creative abrasion results in even more creative alternatives and solutions, I now know the true value in collaboration. It takes straightforward thinkers and creative thinkers to gain insight from each other and for extroverts to express and present what introverts cannot naturally express. We are all wonderfully diverse and different in our concentrations.

Approaching business as an opportunity for collaboration strengthens companies and individual productivity, resulting in more shared value for the whole eco-system.

 

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Intellectual Property and Patent Protection

If you are like many of our clients, after the Client Inquiry Meeting, you have identified your new idea as a potential business opportunity and determined it is worth pursuing further. If you have not read my previous blog “Small business ideas, big business opportunities,” please do so. This will help you understand the difference between a common idea and a rare business opportunity. The post provides tips on how to perform an opportunity feasibility analysis to determine if your new idea is worth the commitment of time and money to take it further. It is a crucial step in turning ideas into business realities that I cannot emphasize enough.

With any new idea, or intellectual property, comes some added fears of theft. You are worried to talk about your ideas because you fear someone may try to steal them. You might fear competitors may get wind and quickly adjust their product to provide the value your invention creates for their customers. These are legitimate concerns. Keeping your ideas to yourself in light of these fears seems like the right idea, and in some cases it is. However, keeping your idea to yourself can significantly slow down any development progress. Many times, by sharing your idea, a person you are speaking with may have just the right contact, resource, or expertise you need to help bring your idea to life. But, if they don’t know what you’re doing then this discovery cannot be made. This is where non-disclosure agreements and patents can come in handy. This blog post primarily focuses on patent protection. It is essential to go through the initial patent steps to help ensure that you are not infringing on an existing patent or product before spending tons of money and time on something you could never legally bring to market.

How to protect your intellectual property

Protecting your ideasTo start, a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA, is a contract signed by the owner of the idea with any party they are sharing the idea with. It basically states that all related discussions to the idea are confidential to the signed parties and cannot be discussed with other parties that are not part of the agreement unless authorized by the owner, otherwise legal action can be taken to compensate for the breach of contract and any resulting damages. This agreement allows you, the idea holder, to speak candidly with someone since they are now held accountable and will be more hesitant to disclose any of your ideas. Another method to protect your idea, which is also the most known is Intellectual Property protection or IP for short. IP comes in four forms: Copyrights, Patents, Trademarks, and Trade Secrets. This post will be outline patents since at Elite Innovations, we specialize in product development where patents are most commonly used.

How to patent an idea

For something to qualify for a utility patent, the idea must be novel, non-obvious, and useful. As part of our services, we help our clients gain IP protection on their ideas. There is typically a two-step patent process recommended to startups for two reasons; one is to file a provisional patent to give the inventors 12 months to be able to disclose their idea, work the kinks out, and raise money, and the second is to file for their full patent, normally a utility patent with products to protect their ideas going to market and open up potential licensing opportunities. Patents become an asset to a company because they can be used to create barriers to entry for potential future competing companies, patents can be licensed to other companies and the patent holder will be compensated for allowing them to use the patent in their products, and patents can be sold outright.

The provisional patent is basically a placeholder to a full patent. This secures the date you filed your provisional patent and the date is transferred over to your full patent, once issued. The date is absolutely critical since the United States is a “first-to-file” country which means that whoever files the patent first becomes the owner of the idea if approved by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). For instance, let’s say you have the idea, and you tell a company you would like to license the idea to. That company sees you don’t have a patent-pending status and they quickly file a patent before you do with their own money. Regardless if the idea came from you, they now would be first-to-file and have ownership of the idea once approved by the patent office. You no longer have claims to the intellectual property, nor the opportunity to sell it. The provisional patent helps secure that first-to-file date at a fraction of the cost of filing the full patent. Full patents can cost $6,000 – $10,000+ depending on complexity and number of claims you are protecting.

Provisional Patent vs Utility Patent

The provisional patent is broader and does not necessarily have all the claims that would be present in your full patent but establishes the general idea of the novelty, non-obvious, and usefulness of the idea you wish to protect. It then allows the inventor 12 months to choose to file for the full patent, in many cases a Utility Patent, and raise the necessary funds to do so. Note, if you do not file for your full patent within the 12 month provisional window, then you lose the opportunity to file the patent. There are some other things you can do if this situation arises that are advisable by a patent attorney.

During the provisional twelve month period, the inventor can make adjustments to the design, test and validate with customers, sell the product or pitch to investors to raise money, and publicly disclose the idea. Public disclosure is an important concept to keep in mind. If an idea is publicly disclosed prior to any patent-pending status, or let’s say sold for a couple years prior to filing for a patent, then the idea can no longer be patented as the idea is already public knowledge now and anyone can produce it. From U.S. patent laws, a person is not entitled to a patent if the invention was “known or used by others in this country, or was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country.” So before telling the world about your idea be sure to consult a product design company like us, at Elite Innovations, or a patent attorney, or you can choose to file independently.

How to file a patent

Thomas Edison Light Bulb PatentPatents can be filed by yourself through the USPTO online. The patent office is currently back-logged and it may be 1-2 years before you find out if your patent was accepted. However, your filing date is still secured. So if your first attempt is rejected, which is common, they will tell you what needs to be fixed and you can readjust to meet their needs. This is good and bad in that it helps you identify key features or claims that are able to be patented, and it shows you what areas you may need to work around and adjust. My patent attorney and good friend of mine Doug, a fortune 50 patent attorney, always told me to swing for the fences on a patent, try and get as much of the claims as you can. This way if you get a large, broad patent GREAT, but if not, you can always refine. The broader the claim, the more licensing opportunities and protection you can get. Utility patents last 20 years if filed after June 8, 1995.

I stated earlier you can file yourself. This is convenient but not always the best way to go with intellectual property. Patent attorneys like my friend Doug are great resources to do this. This is because they have years of experience identifying what makes an idea patentable. They can also perform IP searches, where a patent attorney or firm searches through the existing patents to see if your idea does not infringe on any of those patents. A provisional patent and IP search could cost a few thousand dollars. However, this is crucial before moving forward with pursuing an idea. Imagine if you filed your own provisional after doing some Google searches for products and searched briefly through the existing patents with limited knowledge on what to look for, and then spent $25,000 or more and hundreds of hours developing a product to take to market just to find out that you can’t sell it because it infringes on existing patents. I can’t stress enough how important it is to do your due diligence first.

How to do a patent search

As I stated, you can file yourself, but it is not recommended. However, doing your own research ahead of time is great and can help save you some money with the IP attorneys. Save any relevant information you find for your patent attorney. There are a few ways to conduct your own research:

I know all of this can seem like a lot. Keep in mind I am not a patent attorney and none of the information in this blog is legal advice. I am speaking as an inventor, entrepreneur, and product developer that has worked with many patent attorneys over the years. I am merely providing a quick, go-to guide for some considerations to keep in mind to protect your intellectual property. All of these topics and concepts should be discussed with a licensed patent attorney. I highly recommend not using a general attorney firm. Find attorneys or firms that specialize in intellectual property.  Just like any other professional service, you want an experienced professional in that field. Remember to ask an IP attorney about their background. All patent attorneys have some sort of engineering background, and typically it is good to find one that fits the application. So, if you are patenting an electronics product, then it would be very beneficial to find an IP attorney that has a background in electrical engineering, and not chemistry.

I hope this helps with the development of your idea. Remember, if you have not read my previous blog on ideas vs opportunities, please do so before pursuing intellectual property protection. This will help save you in the long run to assess if it is worth the money and time to go forward with IP protection. As always, feel free to contact us or respond in the comments with any questions or if there are things you want us to touch upon in future blog posts. Thanks for reading.

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Inquiries about Inquiring

The first question anyone ever asks us is, “So what exactly do you do?” and after a long drawn out explanation of artist meet engineer, and prototypes and makerspace, they move on to their next question.  That very next question people ALWAYS ask is, “How do I tell you my idea?  What is that process like?”  Well, for all you inquirers out there, here is the beginning of the bright future of your idea…This idea is your baby, your creation, the fruition of many brainstorming sessions.  You may have been keeping it to yourself for years upon years.  We’ve had clients come in saying they’ve had their idea for over 30 years!  So what do you do with your idea? You don’t peel out of the lot after buying a brand new $60,000 vehicle.  No, you stop fully, double check both directions, use your blinker, and slowly proceed.  My point is you are not only cautious, but overly cautious.  Why would you let someone else take the wheel on your new shiny idea?

Sharing your idea with someone isn’t an easy thing to do sometimes, but we try to make you feel as comfortable as possible.  The first step we take to protecting you and your idea is a NDA (non-disclosure agreement).  If you are unfamiliar with NDAs, here’s the wrap:  It is a formal document in which after you sign, and Elite Innovations, LLC signs, then you can legally and openly discuss your idea with us.  This means that after the inquiry meeting is adjourned, we cannot say, “That’s a great idea, we are going to work on it and take credit for it.”  Your idea is YOUR property and a NDA helps protect that property.

The next thing we do to make you feel comfortable is be as transparent to you as possible.  When you sit down at the Client Inquiry Meeting, you will be sharing your idea with the CEO of Elite Innovations, Andrew Williams, and the Lead Designer, Jonathan Dineen.  You have direct access to two people who can help develop your idea into a tangible prototype and prepare it for production or sales.  In this meeting we encourage you to tell us the problem you are trying to solve, how you came up with the idea, what the idea is, and why you think it will work! This initial meeting is completely free, we do not ask for any money up front for these meetings. We encourage everyone with a well thought out idea to meet with us!

Many of our inquiries come from friends of friends, or someone we have met through local and national events, but we want to sit down and talk with everyone. We don’t want you to wait for the next big event to come up to us and tell us your idea. Call us! We want to sit down and see this shiny new idea you have! Inquiry meetings are completely free of charge, so what’s stopping you!?  Some of our competitors will require you to pay money to submit your idea via email to them, and then go through a vetting process.  We don’t do that. You can email or call our Operations Director and have a free Client Inquiry Meeting set up anytime! Contact Elizabeth at Elizabeth@eliteinnovationsllc.com

 

What Happens at the Client Inquiry Meeting?

What goes on at a Client Inquiry Meeting? Let’s get into the process.  We schedule the inquiry meetings between 10am to 12pm every Tuesday through Thursday.  We always allot about an hour per meeting when we put you on our schedule.  We treat this meeting similar to a pitch (but don’t worry, you don’t have to have a 5 year plan or financial documents).  We will sit down in our office, and listen to your idea for about a half hour: what it is, what you have, what you need, who it’s for, what it’s solving, etc.. We then try and pick your brain about other things you may be thinking and not know it.  Then we’ll tell you how we feel about it, things we know you’ll need, obstacles which will need to be overcome, and how we can help.   We tell you as much as we can before a written contract is signed.  We cannot stay in business if we hand out our ideas for free.  After all the talking is done, you (as all of our other clients have done) will let out a huge sigh of relief and then proceed to tell us how nervous you were to just talk about this great idea and how you were worried someone would steal it or worse, you would see it on the market.  Then we tell you we will scope the project out, shake hands, and parts ways, hopefully only temporarily.

At the end of every Thursday, we scope out all the inquired projects from that week.  Scoping is our process of estimating how many hours is needed in each phase of the design process to make the product a successful one.  We break down each phase, add hours to areas which are vital and negate any areas that are not.   We then send this scope to you with the total number of hours we feel the project will take and where we are allocating those hours (transparency).  This will give you an estimate on the cost of your project.  We do not quote for the prototype initially until we are further into the project and have a firm idea of what we are producing, what materials will be needed and how it will be produced, all of which is done through your approvals of work done at each phase of development from our team. Upon approval of this scope, we generate a formal proposal and contract to be signed so work can begin.

 

Get on Our Calendar!

We love hearing potential ideas and we are as excited as you are to make these ideas into reality. We pride ourselves on being as transparent as possible during every process of the ideating, design and production phase. We have heard from so many clients that they wished they hadn’t put this off, they wished they had come to us sooner. So if you need it, here is your open invitation. Our door is open. We’d love to sit down, meet you and hear your new, shiny idea!

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The Entrepreneur Mindset

“Living a pipe dream with tunnel vision”

I’m standing on the bow of my mega yacht, a salty breeze blowing my hair back into a form only the ocean air can. I glance to my right and I see the adoring smile of the girl I knew before the spoils of riches took us in circles around the globe. It’s the same smile I saw in a small apartment when we sat up late at night talking about all the things we wanted to see in this world, pondering “What else is out there?.” I raise my glass of scotch that’s as old as I am and we toast to never-ending adventure. I think of my parents. They’re living in a house that’s paid off, driving cars that are too. They’re finally retired. My Dad is playing his newly local golf course today, his swing is ten years younger without the weight of a mortgage on his shoulders. My Mom is on the back porch reading a book that’s been collecting dust on the shelf for years, patiently waiting for her to thumb through its pages. She flies through the story, imagination soaring with the words on the page, and she doesn’t have to stop once from cover to cover with worries of what she needs to prepare for Monday morning. I take a sip of my scotch and it burns against the salty air. The burn warms my chest and I swell with pride. The kind of pride a man can only feel who has dared to reach for his wildest dreams, and can finally touch them.

Screen shot business plan startCracked Computer Screen

I can feel my eyes blinking and my vision corrects itself. I’m sitting in my 10×10 bedroom/office in sweatpants staring at my busted computer screen. A freshly cracked Bud Light sits next to my computer. The screen reads “Business Plan” centered atop the page, and two lines below, that incessant cursor blinks it’s condescending blink. I laugh, nearly to the point of hysteria. I’ve read stories of great entrepreneurs; moments like these are the ones they remember. Hopeless moments saved only by faith in oneself. The sight of my computer screen is pretty pathetic, and I haven’t made any progress yet…but somehow I have a smile on my face, and I know that I will.

While trying to decide what I wanted to write about for this blog post, I kept coming back to the term “thought leader.” If you’ve ever heard a marketing expert speak about the key to blog writing, then it’s a near guarantee that you’ve heard the term. So naturally, I googled it.

Thought leader

NOUN
one whose views on a subject are taken to be authoritative and influential.
(Oxford Dictionaries)

Then I thought that a successful entrepreneur gets the distinct opportunity to see both sides of that definition. An entrepreneur is told that they’re crazy, that is until they’ve made it big. And then all of the sudden, they are Marshall Law on whatever subject they speak upon in the business world.

Entrepreneur

NOUN
a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.
(Dictionary.com)

And then by chance, I saw the following clip of Jim Carrey giving his famous Commencement speech at Maharishi University with the closing quote that will give any human not made of stone the goosebumps. “I learned many great lessons from my father. Not the least of which, was that you can fail at doing what you don’t want. So you might as well take a chance at doing what you love.”
And with that quote, I found my revelation – the reason I kept coming back to the term thought leader. It is because an entrepreneur is a thought leader before, during, and after his/her successes. Literally. An entrepreneur thinks of a way to solve a pain point for thousands, maybe even millions of people. They then spend years of their lives afterwards, obsessed with this thought, and the implementation of how to properly alleviate every single person associated with this pain point. It’s almost certain that someone else has previously had this same idea, but they didn’t have the discipline to follow through with it. They weren’t a thought leader. Look at our buddy, Geoff Fox, CEO of Flippze. He is making serious waves, being mentioned by Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Inc.. His company is “the Craigslist for colleges.” He provides a safer platform for transactions that originate on his site by getting local businesses to host the transactions in the safety of their facilities. There’s no way you can tell me that Geoff was the first person to ever have this idea. But he is a thought leader by nature, and that drove him to put himself in front of any local business who would listen. He’s now in 32 college towns with Flippze, and that number is only going to grow. Which leads me to the point of my entry today.

The three traits that I believe every entrepreneur must have to become the thought leader of a new and successful business, which in turn becomes the thought leader in the industry.

  1. Faith
  2. Tenacity
  3. Humility
  1. Entrepreneurship for DummiesFaith: I do not mean in the sense of religion. I simply mean faith. An entrepreneur must have faith in themselves and in their company. Though the portrayal of an entrepreneur is sexy and laid back, the reality is not quite the same. It is a life of long nights and personal sacrifice that can only be justified by undying faith. An entrepreneur will have to learn more in a short period of time than they ever expected. Accounting, financial projections, website design, you name it. All the stuff you thought you’d get to hire somebody for, being the boss, you’ll end up doing yourself in a dimly lit room by yourself. Our CEO, Andrew Williams, has a tower of those little yellow “For Dummies” books. He tells us he would spend days on end sitting in Barnes and Noble with nothing but a notebook, a pen, and the next “For Dummies” book in line. Put simply, Andrew says
    “I had to. So I did.”
  2. Tenacity: In the words of a friend and mentor, Chuck Whitlock, “people buy my passion.” If you’ve ever met Chuck, or heard him speak, then you’ll understand. His genuine excitement for the topics he speaks upon are absolutely infectious. When he speaks to you about his business he looks you directly in the eye, squints a little bit, and always has a sly grin on his face. You can feel the passion behind what he says. In sales you hear the term, “people buy the person, not the product.” And that’s just to get somebody to decide between something mundane like DirectTV or cable. To convince an investor that you’ll work relentlessly for as long as it takes, and the world that your invention is worthy of their money, you had better be excited when you tell them about it. You had better be sharp. You had better be tenacious.
  3. Humility: The first two traits seem somewhat obvious. But the third you don’t hear about much. When you tell someone you’re an entrepreneur, they’re instantly intrigued. You can even hear the ooh’s and ah’s from time to time. That’s great, and it will make you feel good, but here’s the problem: If you talk to enough people who pat you on the back without any real feedback, it’s easy to let a hint of apathy slip into your voice when you describe your business because you feel that you’re just going through the motions. This is dangerous, because as an entrepreneur you have to be on the ready and express all three of these qualities at all times. As an old boss of mine used to tell me, “You never know who’s sitting across the table from you.” So stay humble, and keep at it. Because the second you think the world owes you something just for working hard, you’ll miss the opportunity of a lifetime.

What success really looks likeThe path of the entrepreneur is never straight and never easy. The strength of each of the above three qualities will be constantly tested. There will be times where you feel absolutely hopeless, and just don’t understand why you haven’t yet hit a breakthrough. In those moments, remember that nothing is owed to you and you signed up for this. Hold strong to your faith, even if you can’t find a good reason to at the moment. And finally, take the advice of a marathon runner whose name I cannot recall, and have never been able to find online. I remember it vividly when he was interviewed. He said, “I couldn’t breathe. My body was going numb. And then I had a thought that I’ll never forget. ‘I can either quit, or I can run harder.’ Every stride I took after that thought was longer, faster, stronger. That was the first time I ever experienced runner’s high. I was laughing as I crossed the finish line.” This man believed in the power of the idea. Certainly, he was not the first runner to have this thought. He won’t be the last. But he was a thought leader, and because of it, he had a profound realization about his craft. He found a way to finish his race faster than he had previously thought possible, and felt proud afterwards because he had earned his way to the finish line.

At Elite Innovations, we understand the struggles of entrepreneurship, because we’re entrepreneurs ourselves. This is our veteran CEO’s third business that he’s started. He has sold one, and the other is the cash cow fueling Elite Innovations. Three of our employees also have businesses blooming under the Elite Innovations umbrella. When you bring product ideas to us, you’re not just getting hourly employees plugging away from 9-5, you’re getting Elite certified faith, tenacity, and humility going into every aspect of the product development process. So the next time you take a moment to drift off and dream of the life you want to see for yourself and your family, know that we’re right there with you. Know that we want it just as badly as you do. Know that we won’t stop until we get it.

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Small business Ideas, big business opportunities

Creating value by problem solving
Zap! Lightning has struck and you have just had your next big idea! An epiphany of sorts, or as Smee would say in the movie ‘Hook,’ “an apostrophe.” Congratulations! You have just identified a problem and found a possible solution. Better yet, you may have found a solution other people are willing to pay for. This idea may have come about when you were frustrated with something, or witnessed someone having trouble and thought of a way to relieve them of their struggle (also known as a PAIN POINT). Immediately, thoughts start running through your brain of different ways to build it and how much money you could make if the world bought your idea. You start thinking of friends and relatives that may be able to help you. As these thoughts continue to progress and sketches begin to emerge, you realize, this could get expensive. How much will it cost? Do I have the money to pay for it? Could I borrow money? Maybe I’ll take out a second mortgage? Should I get a loan? WOAHHHHH! Slow down.

 

There are some major considerations before thoughts of financing or production should ever be a concern. So take a deep breath and enjoy the new idea before you stress yourself into an early grave. Just keep reading and I will show you ways to analyze your idea to see if it may in fact be a business opportunity. Knowing the difference will save you time, money, and hair before investing into an idea that could lead to a financial dead end. I will show you some key elements that help determine whether you should pursue your idea as a business or let it go. We call this an Opportunity Feasibility Analysis. Now, let’s dive deeper into the difference between IDEAS and OPPORTUNITIES. Before considering financing your life away under the allure of potential riches, let’s ask a few level-headed questions first:

  • Do other people have this problem?
  • Is this a common problem?
  • Do people know they have this problem?
  • Do you have to educate people of the problem?
  • Is your solution the best solution for the problem?
  • Is the problem (PAIN) big enough for someone to pay money for a solution?

Seeing a pattern here? It all comes down to the problem for others and not just the inventors when turning an idea into a product for the marketplace. It can be very difficult to be objective about a subjective problem. It is important to understand the difference, and acknowledge that people are not frustrated by the same things in the same ways. Nor are people motivated in the same ways to make a purchase. So, as much as you may love your new idea, others may not agree with you. That is okay. That does not mean your idea does not have wings to fly. It very well could. That is why I am writing this blog today. It is to show you some ways to identify if your idea potentially has these wings to be a business opportunity instead of just a good idea. They are two very different things!

What’s the difference between ideas and opportunities?

To start, let’s first identify the difference between the words IDEA and OPPORTUNITY. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, an IDEA can be defined as:

  • a thought, plan, or suggestion about what to do
  • an opinion or belief
  • something that you imagine or picture in your mind

Notice that each of these definitions have very subjective language. “An opinion or belief” is obviously a biased view. “Something that you imagine or picture in your mind.” Again, this is an internal thought. Looking at these definitions and knowing what an idea is, you can see that it is a very personal, internalized concept. If businesses only sold products the way the inventors wanted, then more than likely they would not do well offering what the customer’s want or need.

Now, let’s look at the definition of an OPPORTUNITY:

  • a favorable juncture of circumstances
  • a good chance for advancement or progress

If you notice, the definition of an opportunity is very different. An opportunity considers more than itself, but considers outside factors and conditions as well. “A favorable Juncture of circumstances” considers other variables that make something opportune. “A good chance for advancement or progress” shows the consideration of odds based on a situation.Business Opportunity

Now that we have identified the differences, let’s get back to your “million dollar” idea. YOU have found a solution YOU like, to a problem YOU have. That’s YOUR IDEA. As you think more about this idea, you feel it may be possible that others have the same problem and would buy your solution. That would make the idea an OPPORTUNITY in the marketplace. However, just because you FEEL that way (subjective), does not necessarily mean others do as well. Ideas happen all the time, while opportunities are much harder to come by. Opportunities, when talking about products or services, can lead to potentially staggering revenues and possibly leaving your day job behind. Business opportunities can make a positive difference in people’s lives, they can change the world, and they can create jobs and boost economies.

How to identify an opportunity

So, how do you know if your idea is a business opportunity? Well, you would perform what we spoke of earlier – an Opportunity Feasibility Analysis. To properly distinguish whether or not an idea is truly an opportunity, there are four qualities that need to be met; Attractive, Durable, Creates Value, and Timely. Let’s look at these a little closer:

  1. Attractiveness: First and foremost, your idea needs to be attractive to your target customers who will buy your idea. You first you need to identify who your target customers are for this idea to work. The idea must also be attractive in the industry in which it is going to compete. When I say “attractive” I do not mean just aesthetics and a cool look and feel. I am also referring to the idea itself. Does it create excitement? Does it have an attractive price point? Will the quality and ease of use meet or exceed the user’s expectations? Is it unique? Does it have attractive features and benefits? Basically, what about your idea would make people want to buy it?
  2. Durable: Durability of an idea from a business standpoint means that it can last as a business. A PRODUCT and a BUSINESS are two very different things. Businesses create products, but a whole business built around one product that has little scalability is pretty much a dead end. A scalable product can penetrate multiple markets and sometimes industries with many ways to grow. A perfect example is the invention of the microfiber textile. Some may see this as just a rag for cleaning – thus just a cleaning product. But it can also be cut into the shapes for clothing, embroidered with corporate branding, and BOOM! Now that same rag is sold in the clothing departments with minimal change to the textile’s manufacturing and production processes. If you ever watch Shark Tank, the panelists are notorious for calling people out for having a cool product, but not a scalable business behind it. If the product is not scalable, thus having no way to expand into new markets with new product lines, or have multiple branding opportunities, they often recommend to the inventors to enjoy the ride while it lasts, sell as much as possible, and then get out. The Sharks rarely invest in those product ideas because they are often not business ideas that can grow and last. If they do invest, it is because they know they have the means to expand the product’s potential that the inventor did not think of. Some other traits of durability include replicability. Is it easy to replicate for the competition? Can they easily mimic your product and steal your market share tomorrow putting you out of business? Can your product be patented to protect against such a thing (that’s a whole book in itself)? Also, is the idea purchased as a commodity, sensitive to economic conditions, or is it a necessity unaffected by the state of the economy and disposable income (inelastic demand)?
  3. Creates Value: This is obviously one of the most important factors to generate sales. Your idea must create value in order for people to purchase it, thus generating revenue for your business to be sustainable. A big consideration here is the cost of the idea in relation to the value it creates for the customer. If it costs more than the value of the pain you are solving, then people will not want to buy it, aka willingness to pay. Recently, consumers have been facing this issue with high-end smart watches. They have a $700 phone in their pocket, so do they really want to spend another $200-$400 to read a text on their wrist? Is the time they save from having to pull their phone out of their pocket really worth $400? The watches do much more than that, but the mass market does not see things the same way as the innovators did. This is common in the early adoption stages, where products are looked at through a very simplified lens by the mass consumer. However, now that the prices have come down, more people are adopting this technology now that the price is beginning to match the perceived value. So, again, does your product create perceivable value that is affordable? Do some research and talk to people in your target markets. It’s amazing how much you can learn if you just ask the right people.
  4. Timely: Timely can get a little tricky as this is really an area of economics, demographics, psychographics, and various other externalities. Basically, this quality comes down to the question, “Is this the right time for my idea?” When analyzing this, it is always best to look at various trends. Major trends to consider are economic trends, social trends, technological trends, and industry trends. All trends can be looked up on google, but I will do a simple breakdown.
    1. Using trends for feasability analysisEconomic trends will be factors such as disposable income, unemployment rates, interest rates, spending, and other metrics that define how a country or region is doing financially. Obviously, it is hard to sell a premium commodity product to the mass market if the unemployment rates are high and people have little discretionary income. They will be more prone to buy the things they NEED and not the things they WANT.
    2. Social trends have to deal with things that are trending socially and culturally. This could be lifestyle trends such as a higher demand in organic products and a decrease in demand of fast food and processed foods. It could be clothing trends, exercise trends, yoga and smoothies, etc. There are TONS of trends, but often we observe them subconsciously and they become more apparent as we think about them in relation to our ideas.
    3. Technological trends are pertaining to both what technology consumers are buying, and what technological capabilities we have in society. For instance, James Cameron waited ten years to make Avatar because the technology wasn’t where it needed to be yet for the vision he had of his idea. A decade later when cinema technology was where it needed to be, Avatar was made, and became the #1 grossing movie of all time! Now that’s knowing the difference between an idea and an opportunity! 3D printers are another example of this. The technology for 3D printing has existed over 30 years now. However, it was not made affordable to the public until really the past 5 years when they were able to be less than $2000. The mass market and DIY communities did not have $10,000 – $1.5 million to spend on 3D printers. The technology improved, became more affordable and now the timing is right. Even Dremel makes a 3D printer now.
    4. Industry trends are very important to not only consider, but research heavily. To survive in an industry, you must know where the industry has been and where it is going to be. In business, people often, if not, overuse the corporate cliché Wayne Gretzky approach. For those of you unfamiliar, I’ll tell it, because it is good advice. For those who heard it 100 times I’m sorry. When Gretzky was asked in an interview how he always outperformed other hockey athletes even though there were many other players that physically tested better, Gretzky stated, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” He would be where the opportunity was. You can look at industry trends and see what other major companies in the industry are talking about and where they are going to be. You don’t want to create a product in a dying industry, nor do you want to make a product that has some of the same mistakes the industry has made in the past. If you are the first in your industry, try to find out if other companies have thought of it but cancelled the project. Find out why if you can. Sometimes you may be lucky enough to have a new product that they have not thought of yet. It’s rare, but it does happen, regardless of what some skeptics say. Research is absolutely critical.

feasability analysis

Research, Research, Research

In order to assess these qualities, much research has to be done. Don’t worry, it can be a fun process. Especially when I provide you with some great free resources to get you started. I would recommend using www.SBA.gov. More specifically you can check out the Small Business Administration’s marketing guide to help you get started with your market research. Some additional sources are:

I hope this has helped you get a grasp on how to identify if your next “million dollar” idea has the potential to be a full-fledged opportunity worthy of capitalizing upon. At Elite Innovations we help people every day on their path to turn ideas into opportunities, and those opportunities into real-life products. Helping our clients along this path at the right pace is a critical part of the process to help ensure their success (and ours for that matter). And remember, sometimes an idea on its own does not meet all the qualities of an opportunity, but with a few adjustments, the idea can have wings to fly and become a business. So go, young entrepreneur, and create your own opportunities. Entrepreneurship is not merely a replacement for your day job, but rather a way of life. It’s the difference between a pipe dream, and crossing off every last thing on your bucket list. I’m not saying it will be easy, but I can promise that it won’t be boring. And if you ever need a helping hand along the way, you know where to find us. Thanks for reading, and good luck!

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ORIGOSafe – THE Solution to Distracted Driving

How many times do you see the news and see yet another tragic accident due to the dangers of texting and driving? Unfortunately it appears a bit too often. So what is the remedy? Obviously policies and/or Mom and Dad saying “no texting while driving” don’t seem to work. The answer is that we need a technological solution that removes the “accident causing” behavior of today’s driver.

The Solution: ORIGOSafe – watch and see how it works

Why our solution works

There are three distractions a driver faces: Visual, physical, and audio. The two that cause distracted driving accidents are visual and physical, i.e. staring and your phone screen and/or interacting with it. Let’s take a step further… How do you eliminate these distractions? It’s easy, just remove the phone from the drivers hands! That’s EXACTLY what ORIGOSafe does. It’s a docking station that requires the driver to dock their phone in order to operate the vehicle. Removal of the phone activates an incredibly obnoxious alarm and then deauthorizes the phone to that vehicle. This requires the user to call their administrator, whether it’s Mom or Dad, or it’s your fleet administrator. The system can be administered manually using the keypad on the device or syncing the device via blue tooth using the ORIGOSafe Administrator app installed on an iPad.

ORIGOSafe

The makers behind the invention

This technology was invented by Clay Skelton of Roanoke, VA, but developed by Andrew Williams, a Wilmington local and owner of the Wilmington Makerspace. ORIGOSafe can be seen at DriveOrigo.com or at the Makerspace where you can demo the equipment. The ORIGOSafe was developed using a lot of resources much like those found in the Makerspace, another reason the space was created in Wilmington, to help folks along the development process for inventions much like this one. This was an exceptional project as it incorporates the full gambit of “making” including: design, injection molding, circuitry, programming, and web and app development.

The device has been well received in the commercial trucking fleet. The recent claim-to-fame comes from a trucking company who submitted their yearly report. Installing ORIGOSafe in their vehicles dropped their accidents from every six weeks to zero accidents in an entire year! If that’s not a testimony, I don’t know what is. If you are interested in learning more about ORIGOSafe, visit their website at www.driveorigo.com or you can purchase the ORIGOSafe here. The Wilmington Makerspace can be located using the details on the Contact Page.