Every day we talk to entrepreneurs who have gone it alone and hit pitfalls. Often times it comes in the form of, “I spent $40,000 on the patent”, or, “I spent $150,000 and all I have is 3 prototypes”. What’s sad, is that many times it is the entrepreneurs reaching out to us because they are at the end of their ropes.
I’ve seen it. I’ve played the video game before.
It doesn’t need to be that way! There are much better ways to get things done, and if you make less than $50k a year, hold onto your wallet. You need to be very careful about taking food off the table for new ventures which have a very high failure rate. Only risk what you can afford to lose.
While the trade off for less capital is intense work, if that doesn’t concern you, carry on.
**Note that these resources are recommended for entrepreneurs who are in a position where they need to bootstrap due to financial limitations.
So, I’ve compiled a list of free resources for entrepreneurs at various stages.
Read the entire post for context of the resources but I thought I’d put together a quick summary for easy reference.
USPTO Pro Bono Program (Free Patent Preparation for Under Resourced Entrepreneurs and Startups)
SCORE (Business Mentorship)
SBDC (Free Business Coaching, Help Business Planning)
Logo Creation Tool (Not Recommended – use a professional designer)
Free Stock Photos (Use for your marketing collateral)
Google Trends (Great tool for finding trends/search volume)
Free CRM Tool – Customer Relationship Management Tool
Free Idea Resources:
Make less than $50,000 in household income per year? Check out the USPTO Pro Bono Program before you pay a dime to a patent attorney.
Don’t qualify because you make more than that? Here’s a friendly piece of advice; patent attorneys are looking to get paid. It is sad how many people use the majority of their startup budget on patent fees and filings and receive advice from their patent attorneys along the lines of, once you have the patent, the world will beat a path to your door. It won’t happen.
You have to go out and beat on doors to get noticed and getting a patent is one step of many in getting a product or technology to market. Spend all of your startup budget on patent filings and you may as well go out right now and buy a nice expensive frame for that patent and hang it on your wall. You just created a massive liability (ongoing maintenance fees, etc), not an asset.
ADDITIONALLY, I can’t offer you legal advice (I’m not an attorney thank God), but I would personally never spend a dime on an international patent unless compared to your overall startup budget, it’s a drop in the bucket. Really, what are you going to do if someone in Kazakhstan knocks your product off? Do you have any idea how much money it would cost to even pursue legal action against them let alone how unlikely it is for you to ever be able to collect a cent?
My approach is to focus on the US/North America and execute like a mad man. If your patent attorney disagrees, ask him how many products he has successfully brought to market and the last time he successfully collected on infringement in a foreign country.
If I’m not partnered on something, I charge $1,000 an hour. Steep. It’s not because I think I’m the greatest thing. It’s because I get over 3,000 people that contact me a month and I have limited time.
Don’t pay people like me, again, unless your startup budget can afford it. Go to your local SCORE and SBDC and utilize the free resources your tax dollars already pay for! Heck, I even volunteer with SCORE occasionally. It’s a great resource, and it’s FREE.
In the prototyping process and you cannot afford a professional firm? Check out your local community and state colleges. Often times they are open to taking on class room projects. They also often have state of the art equipment.
Looking to get your product sales going? Start with your local farmer markets and local stores. Get some traction going and then save your profits to leverage them into more inventory and more traction.
Other Affordable Resources:
Patent Work – John Gugliotta of Inventors Help. The guy is great and very fair with entrepreneurs. JohnG@InventorsHelp.com