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Here’s How to Sell an Idea to a Company

Since this blog’s “birth,” I’ve been sharing plenty of traditional and crazy things that people sell online.

From craft projects that you can lovingly create by hand then sell, to cutting off inches from your hair for selling, there will always be more things to add on our list.

But have you ever considered that you can sell an idea?

If you’ve ever had a light-bulb moment about a product, service, invention, apps that you think hasn’t been done before, but you didn’t have the time or resources to turn this idea into reality, don’t you regret letting your great-idea go to waste just like that?

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Well, this post will give you real-world options on how to sell an idea to a company, if you ever experience that awe-inspiring light bulb moment again

Protecting Your Ideas: How to Prevent Your Idea from Being Stolen

How can you sell your ideas, and protect it from being stolen at the same time?

How can you sell your ideas, if you’re not telling anybody about it?

It’s a tricky tricky thing… which is why most people who have awesome ideas back out of patenting, copyrighting, and securing ownership of their ideas once they hear of the complicate process.

However, it shouldn’t be as complex as experts make selling ideas seem. Here’s what you need to know:

A Quick Lesson about Patents

A patent is a “government authority or license conferring a right or title for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention.”

For idea-makers like yourself, patents are important because they grant you exclusive rights to sell an idea or invention, essentially keeping copycats from bringing the same idea into the market.

If you believe on this idea 100% and you can afford paying for the entire patent process ($900 if you do all the legwork yourself or up to $10,000 if you’re hiring a lawyer to do it for you).

However, if you can’t shoulder patenting yet, your next best choice is to get a provisional patent.

What is a Provisional patent? Where can you get one?

A provisional patent covers the same legalities as the real patent, but it only gives you 12 months of legal protection and rights to sell your ideas.

Benefits of provisional patent:

  • Cheaper application fees. This can be submitted for as low as $65.
  • Earn money without shelling out huge upfront cost. Because you didn’t spend over $5k in patent fees, you can enjoy the earnings of your idea
  • Easy to file. You can just file a provisional patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The problem with provisional patent is that after the 12-month period, you should convert this patent to a non-provisional patent.

Non-Provisional (or “Utility”) Patent

This is a full patent, but will only protect your idea or intellectual property for as long as the patent is in effect.

It’s more expensive than provisional patent with fees ranging from $900 to over $15,000 depending on several factors, including:

  • the type of invention or intellectual property – Is it a software-related invention? app invention? complex science invention? or so on…
  • Size of business – If you’re just an individual filing a patent, you’d likely spend less than as an owner of a small business.
  • Your location – Some states/countries have more expensive patent applications than the rest.

Of course, utility patent cost will increase depending on the legal team you hire.

Another Way to Protect Your Idea is through Licensing

Licensing isn’t selling an idea – it is more like renting it out.

If you have an idea without a full patent, a company can license your idea.

With licensing, it benefits you and the company equally because you get to earn money, while the company advances its products or services thanks to your idea.

Do note that this route requires you’re a top-notch communicator, since you’ll be pitching and selling your idea to numerous boardrooms. If you can’t communicate your ideas properly, it’s impossible to impress a company into licensing your idea.

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How Can You Approach A Company and Sell Your Idea?

Now that you know your options of protecting your idea, it’s about time to pitch it to companies.

This next step is what separates those with big ideas and those who have turned these ideas into a successful businesses.

So how do you do it?

Here are several considerations to arm you before finding companies and presenting your idea to them:

One-off Payday vs. Recurring Revenue

If your idea is definitely one-of-a-kind and valuable to a specific industry, the first company you pitch to would likely offer you a massive payoff.

While this is a good thing, especially if this is your first big idea, make sure you’ve considered this beforehand.

Are you really willing to let go 100% of this idea to the first company that offered a buyout?

If not, licensing your idea is perhaps a better option. With this route, you will work with a company to bring your idea to reality, but with full knowledge that the company will brand it, manufacture it, promote it and control many functions of that product or service.

You may have some control throughout the process, but it depends largely on your licensing contract. When it comes to revenue, you will be given somewhere between 5% and 15% commission from every sale of the product.

Sign-away 100% vs. Licensing

This is directly connected to the payout of your choice.

  • One-off payday = you’re signing off 100% of your idea to a company
  • Recurring revenue = licensing your idea to a company means you’ll be receiving income for as long as the company’s product is being sold in the market and as long as they continue to uphold your licensing agreement

Negotiating your role within the company will be on a case-to-case basis.

As such, you should be prepared to sell what you can bring to the table as well.

3 Sites that Could Help You Connect with Companies

1. IdeaBuyer

This site has been around for over a decade and has helped made ideas of individuals and small companies into a real, functional business.

They do not guarantee million-dollar deals for you, but prefer a partnership with idea-makers in working hard to meet specific goals, whether this goal is a successful retail outreach or help with patents.

Simply put, “Idea Buyer does not buy ideas. Idea Buyer does, however, provide opportunities for an idea to be bought.”

2. InventRight

This site has partnered with over 1,000 companies that are actively looking for bright ideas.

Although this site is focused more on invention ideas for fields like sports, kitchen, hardware and toys, you should definitely look around and check what companies are look for.

You might be surprised that your kept-secret idea has been waiting to find its perfect company to adopt it.

3. InnoCentive.com

Maybe you don’t have just one idea to sell, but dozens and dozens of ideas.

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If this is the case, take on the challenges from government agencies, non-profit orgs or private corporations and get a chance to win up to $1 million.

The ideas needed here range from math to engineering, sciences to design, and so much more.

4. Launching your own startup

This is the long haul – and it would take a lot of hard work, business meetings, prototypes, presentations, research, and day-to-day office operations.

However, if your goal is to become a company where innovative ideas are born, this is the perfect time to do it.

With sites like Kickstarter, which promote smart, unique and interesting ideas, crowd-fund the idea, and actually bring your idea into fruition, your capital can be kept to a minimum.

The Bottom Line

If I could sell my idea for a million dollars days after my lightbulb moment, I would.

Realistically, it is best to sell your ideas through a reputable, already-existing company before launching your own company. This route gives you hands-on experience of everything from applying patents to dealing with copycats and eventually selling your ideas to the right buyer.

Once you’re armed with the knowledge, experience and capital to launch your own startup, don’t let anything stop you from sharing your ideas to the world.

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