2013-12-20 / Columnists


By Rick Horan

Last night I attended my fourth meeting of the Inventor’s Association of Manhattan (IAM). As always, it did not disappoint. Held on the second Monday of every month in the Chrysler Building, the IAM is a support group, sort of like AA, but for inventors and entrepreneurs. It is where creative types and professionals share ideas, advice and war stories. The common goal is turning ideas into successful products and/or profitable businesses.

For the past six years, the IAM has been providing an open and welcoming forum to exchange information and get objective feedback on people’s ideas. The organizers and attendees encourage and want to help each other succeed. You almost get a sense that we are all in this together. Shared challenges shared pain and shared joy when a success story is shared.

Bruce Zutler, a professional who helps inventors to monetize their ideas, is IAM’s current president. He likes to open up every meeting by saying that the IAM is like Shark Tank but without the drama, big egos or money.

Every month there is a featured speaker and every presentation has been relevant to me and my current project of raising money to launch a new oarlock (for competitive rowing).

The first was a PR expert who explained how to use guerilla marketing and social networking to get the word out about your new product on a small budget.

The next month an entrepreneur explained how she launched an online psychotherapy business aimed at women. Then she shared a surprising, behind-the-scenes look at her experience as a contestant on the popular television show, Shark Tank (Friday, 9 PM, ABC).

In November, a representative from Indigogo explained how crowd funding worked and how that site differed from competitors such as Kickstarter and Rockethub.

Last night, Louis DelJuidice, a partner at Troutman Sanders, the law firm who hosts the IAM meetings, talked about “Writing a great patent – finding the inventive concept of your idea.” As someone with a couple of patents and several more pending, it was very interesting indeed.

In addition to great presentations, inventors have an opportunity to register for the “Pitching Panel.” This is where you have 5 – 10 minutes to pitch your idea to a panel of experts as well as the general audience who then provide feedback and advice to help you achieve your stated goals. Note: IAM meetings cost $20 to attend. Pitching Panel participants pay $50.

Most meetings don’t end when we leave the conference room. Instead, the creative chit chat continues at The Wheeltapper, a beautiful Irish Pub, about a block away and right next door to Grand Central. Here the lively discussion continues over beer pub food. (FYI: A wheel tapper is a railway worker employed to check the integrity of train wheels by tapping on them with a long hammer.)

This place is just chock-full of old Irish railroad artifacts, like old signal switches, pressure gauges, heavy metal pipes and clocks that can keep mechanical types like me fascinated for hours. It’s sort of half bar, half museum. A dining car, complete with a curved roof coupled with several fireplaces make for a particularly warm experience, especially on a cold winter’s night. About the only downside is Manhattan prices, ex. Guinness: $8.00 a pint. Ouch!

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. Exiting the pub I was first slapped in the face with the cold wind, then by the harsh realities of returning to Rockaway on a late night A train. Even though I parked in Broad Channel, saving myself the final indignity of the Shuttle, it still took nearly two hours to get home.

Got an idea? Don’t keep it to yourself! RickHoran@ideasimprov.com

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