2013-07-05 / Columnists


By Rick Horan

Following last week’s question of how do you start to develop an idea comes the inevitable corollary, once started, when do you stop?

We’ve all heard Thomas Edison’s famous quotes: “Success is ten percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration” and “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” It took Sir James Dyson, inventor of the bag-free, “cyclone technology” design, 15 years and 5,127 prototypes before the first model, DC01, would ultimately prove successful in 1993.

“There are countless times an inventor can give up on an idea…but each failure brought me closer to solving the problem. It wasn’t the final prototype that made the struggle worth it. The process bore the fruit. I just kept at it.”

Yeah, but not all ideas are useful or unique and few of us have unlimited time and money to develop them!

For me, I usually don’t directly address the question of when I should stop developing an idea. Instead, it sort of just fades away, replaced by new ideas and projects that have captured my imagination. Commitment is the one truly essential component to success, and once that’s gone, you might as well move on to the next project.

There are, however, projects that linger. One that I have been working on is a radically new oarlock for competitive rowing. Why the hell I started developing a product for such a niche market is beyond me. It’s a question that folks in the rowing industry often ask me. Friends and relatives have been very supportive and often ask, “So what’s up with the oarlock?” It’s like my own personal Hurricane Sandy.

Five years, 10 rounds of prototypes and countless hours and dollars later, I have invested too much to give up now. This is not a logical conclusion based on a careful analysis of the market, margins, risk, etc., but rather the recognition that I passed the point of no return long ago. I’m taking this thing all the way, not because it’s smart, but because it would be stupider to quit now.

I am now building my latest “final” prototype. If testing goes well, I will be launching a Kickstarter (crowd funding) campaign later this summer to raise funds for production tooling. Unfortunately, a licensing deal for the product didn’t work out. Hopefully, I’ll be able to report on the financing and production portion of this epic project in more detail in some future column.

Side Bars:

 Sadly the Idea Dome, aka Rockaway Dome, closed this past Sunday, June 30th. The community showed up to thank Klaus Biesenbach, MoMA Curator and Nina Sweeney, Dome Manager, for all the work they have done on our behalf. Shout out to JKS Printing for donating the printing of the Certificate of Appreciation!

 A local resident named Fritz has come up with a very clever way to build foldup surf board trailers for bicycles using recycled parts. He mentioned that he might try to patent the idea, so my lips are sealed, but apparently he is building them to order.

 Tide-Clock Update. Ideas Wanted regular, Matt Whalen continues to brainstorm new markets, designs and distribution models for his hand-built product. If you are interested in owning your own personalized (Rockaway, Breezy or Broad Channel) Tide Clock, contact Matt at: justanotherengine @gmail.com.

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