The Backyard Inventor’s Maze: Navigating Idea to Market

Product ideas, inventions and inventors have been making headlines in the media lately. Just this week the Ottawa Citizen covered an Industry Canada Inventor Report that showed 13 per cent of Canadians consider themselves inventors – are you one of them? If so, you may be interested in knowing what it takes to move your idea from the “ah-ha” moment to distributors and store shelves.

Last month, Profit Magazine took a stab at unraveling this daunting process with a well written piece called the “Inventor’s Playbook”.  In the article they used the case study of a local Ottawa inventor Scott Clark and how he brought his concussion alert sensing invention to life – “ShockBox” for sports helmets. The article does a good job of a “how to” look at the invention and commercialization process from a high-level and the path that one inventor took to navigate through the maze of hardware product development and commercializing.


Hardware product development is similar to any creative endeavor in that the path through the maze is rarely clear cut and experienced mentors help a great deal to guide the way, from design to business and sales.  Depending on the complexity of your idea there will be easily a 100 to a 1000 decisions that have to be made through the course of bringing your idea from design through to manufacturing.   There are another 1000 decisions on the business and sales side and I will leave this to another article.


The team at Design 1st wake up every day and create products.  We help Corporations, Inventors and Start Ups turn ideas into products.  In 2012 alone we received several hundred calls from inventors across North America and have gone on to develop product for over 20 of them.  This year we are seeing another increase in call volume as people decide to take an adventure with their favourite product idea.


Our first role is to help the inventor evaluate the potential opportunity before diving head first into the emotionally enjoyable task of designing what is in their head.


The most asked questions by Inventors are:

(1) How much will it cost to get to market?  Engineering Design?  Market Exposure?  Operations?

(2) How long will it take to get a prototype to show people?

(3) How do I know that people will like and buy my product?

(3) Where and how does a design and engineering firm help me as I go through the process?


The exact answers depend on the type of product and the market the Inventor is going into.  The best answer to these questions is that you step carefully, find mentors and spend strategically.  At each step you check to see if the opportunity is still worth chasing.


It is best to start with these Four Items first:


Item 1 – How big is the potential market, establishing a product cost and price, how much money can I generate from the idea each year and what distribution stream looks like the best first customer?

  • We have launched a new service for $800 to create, analyze and provide an inclusive report with the first draft of this information.  Call us and we can show you an example.

Item 2 – do I have something that is unique and innovative so that I can patent it?

  • We have launched a new service for $800 to provide a web based Patentability report specific to your idea, examining global existing products and a North American patent database summary.

Item 3 – do I want to create a business organization or do I want to invent, patent and sell the idea?

  • This question the inventor has to ask themself -are you ready to devote several years to also get a business going or devote a 6 months to creating a product and strike out to find a buyer.   The opportunity and rewards differ; just call our team to ask questions and hear stories of people that have gone before you. 613 235 1004 x228.

Item 4 – how much does it cost to get a representative prototype ready so I can get a patent started and begin sharing my idea with others?

  • The design costs are typically in the $10,000 to $30,000 range depending on the product, electronics and its overall complexity.  It is best to call us and we can estimate a budget for your product specifics at no charge.  The budget estimate is based on the number of parts in the product idea and how many custom parts are required to make it work.

To the thirteen percent of Canadians who are inventors – the timing is perfect in the world right now so go chase those dreams.  You now have access to low cost experienced business mentors and incubators locally (call Invest Ottawa  and Exploriem) and engineering design firms Design 1st.

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