Pimping Firefox: The Basics (Matt Mullenweg, Garrett Camp, and More)

99 Comments


Don’t pimp real foxes. That’s just mean. (Photo: wildphotons)

38.16% of the people who visit this site are still using Internet Explorer (IE). It’s like buying a hybrid car for the gas mileage and then driving with flat tires and the doors open.

This post will serve two purposes: first, to introduce beginners to features of Firefox (FF) that make it worthwhile; second, to introduce more experienced users to the favorite add-ons of Matt Mullenweg (lead developer of WordPress) and Garrett Camp (co-founder of StumbleUpon). Perhaps you’ll like one or two of mine… Read More

99 Comments / Leave a comment or question

Size Does Matter — Bigger Monitors Save 2.5 Hours a Day

145 Comments


Bigger is better? (Photo: ikelee)

According to University of Utah researchers, using a larger monitor could save you 2.5 hours per day.

Specifically, test subjects completed everyday tasks like editing documents and massaging spreadsheets 52% faster when using a 24-inch monitor than they did with an 18-incher.

Not sure who uses 18-inch screens (17″ and 19″ are more typical), but I’d be curious to see how productivity with a 24-inch screen without Expose compares to a 17″ Mac with Expose activated.

If they are referring to docs and spreadsheets, it would seem to be a mostly scrolling-based discrepancy, n’est-ce pas? I suspect that if we use double-finger dragging on a scratch pad to scroll vs. a mouse, this gap would narrow.

Any theories to explain the difference, and how to make a smaller screen behave like a larger screen? Top picks for afforable 20-24″ monitors? I’m planning on a 22″ Acer LCD in black and hope to quantify the difference over a 4-week period.

[Thanks to Scott Allen via Wall Street Journal for the tip.]

145 Comments / Leave a comment or question

10 Random Gifts That Please Almost Everyone

42 Comments


The Slingshot Monkey is guaranteed to make anyone a 6-year old. What could be better?

I love Christmas.

Bright colored lights, snow, butter cookies, multicolored socks, scarves, pine trees, garland, the warmth of flames in the fireplace and uplifting cheerful music that gets everyone tapping and smiling… ah, X-mas!

But… sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to ask Santa for or what to tell Santa to get for other people… Read More

42 Comments / Leave a comment or question

A Beginner's Guide: How to Rent Your Ideas to Fortune 500 Companies (Plus: Video)

425 Comments

stephen-key-photo.jpg

I first met Stephen Key in 2001. Two months later, I used a few recommendations of his — shared over the customary gin tonic — to help a friend double overseas sales in less than two weeks in New Zealand and Australia.

How? Licensing. It can be a beautifully elegant model.

Stephen is somewhat famous in inventing circles for two reasons. First, he consistently earns millions of dollars licensing his ideas to companies like Disney, Nestle, and Coca-Cola. Second, he is fast. It seldom takes him more than three weeks to go from idea to a signed deal.

He is not high-tech. There are no multi-year product development cycles. He specializes is creating simple products or improving upon existing products, often using nothing more than a single-sided drawing or photograph. Coupled with refined cold-calling skills, Stephen meets with some of the most influential marketing executives in the world. In this interview, we’ll explore how this advisor to American Inventor rents his ideas to Fortune 500 companies.

1- What exactly is licensing, and why is it a good option for people with ideas but little time or patience?

I think licensing is a bit of mystery to many people. It really doesn’t have to be.

Licensing is renting your idea to a manufacturer. The manufacturer handles the marketing, manufacturing, distribution and basically everything else required to bring the product to market.

Usually quarterly (four times a year), the manufacturer pays you a royalty on every unit they sell. This royalty—generally a percentage of the total wholesale price—is your payment for bringing them a new product idea that they can sell to their customers.

It’s an attractive low-risk alternative to manufacturing products and taking them to market yourself.

Using licensing, I can spend my time coming up with new product ideas instead of worrying about balance sheets, cash flow, employees and all the other hassles of running a company. I might pitch three ideas one month and no ideas for the next two months. You can have total flexibility with your work schedule.

Here’s one tip on how to make sure you get paid a certain amount four times a year.

Minimum Guarantees - So here’s why I use the term “renting” when describing licensing your idea to a manufacturer. It’s very important to make sure the manufacturer performs. You need a performance clause in the licensing contract. Without a performance clause, the manufacturer could just sit on the idea and do nothing with it. I’ve seen it happen.

Ensure you have a “Minimum Guarantee” clause in the contract. A minimum guarantee clause basically says the manufacturer needs to perform and sell a specified number of units every quarter or every year. Otherwise, you get your idea back and you can license your idea to another manufacturer.

It isn’t usually necessary to call in [enforce] the minimum guarantee clause. Most of the time you want to give the manufacturer a chance to perform. After all, you are partnering with them and they’ve spent big money on setting up their facilities to manufacture your new product.

Here’s another tip: Don’t front load the deal. I see many people with ideas doing this. They ask for large up front fees and make it to hard for the manufacturer to say yes to the deal. Instead ask only a small amount of money up front and scale up the minimum guarantees each quarter.

An example of minimum guarantees:
100,000 units quarter one
200,000 units quarter two
300,000 units quarter three

Let’s say the manufacturer sells 110,000 units quarter one. You would get paid a royalty on each of the 110,000 units sold.

Then let’s say the manufacturer only sells 190,000 units quarter two. The manufacturer can choose to pay you the royalty for the minimum 200,000 units they guaranteed you they would sell and they would retain the rights to manufacture your idea.

You should be OK with these “Minimum Guarantee” numbers since you set them up when you negotiated the contract. Set up numbers you think the manufacture can meet and that you’ll be OK with if the manufacture just meets the agreed upon “Minimum Guarantee”.

Of course you would prefer to earn royalties on 600,000 units every quarter, but you know you are guaranteed at least a certain “Minimum Guarantee” every quarter. This makes it nice when budgeting to buy that new sports car you’ve had your eye on.

2- I’ve heard you say that the most important thing you can do when licensing an idea is to spend as little time and money on the project before you get feedback from a manufacturer. Why?

Yes, that’s true. Unfortunately, it’s the exact opposite of what most people do. Most people go out and spend $3k to $20k or more on a patent and a few grand or more on a prototype first.

Time is the enemy in this process.

I’ve talked to inventors who have been contemplating or working on ideas for years. That’s not me. When I have an idea, it only takes me three days to three weeks to find out if the idea has legs.

On average, I recommend that my students take no longer than three weeks to three months before they make the decision to keep working on the project or dump the idea and move onto the next one.

Spend very little time or money on a project before you get feedback from manufacturers. The reason for this is simple: You’re not going to hit every idea out of the ballpark. Sometimes the benefits of the idea just aren’t intriguing enough. Maybe the idea has some manufacturing problems. Maybe the idea has been tried before and you didn’t find it with your research. There can be many reasons why manufacturers decide not to move forward with an idea.

You need to call a handful of potential manufacturers that might sell your idea. It takes very little time and next to no money to make the calls, and it’s the only way you’ll get the critical early-stage feedback.

File a provisional patent application ($100), create your sell sheet ($0-$80) and start making phone calls as soon as possible. That’s totally the opposite of what most people do. Most people dream or plan and research the idea to death.

The reality is that you will never be as knowledgeable about a particular industry as a manufacturer that been in the business for thirty years. They’ve seen everything imaginable in their product area. Their opinion is the only one that matters. Get your idea in front of them as soon as possible and get the feedback you need to pursue it or kill it.

Here’s a summary of my solution to the patent and prototype hang ups many people seem to have.

PATENTS:

PROBLEM (What most people do):

The majority of people I talk to think the first thing they need to do is go out and spend money to have an expensive patent filled by a patent attorney. Here’s why that’s wrong: Many times you’re going to get complaints from manufacturers that your idea needs to be fixed in one way or another. No problem. You’re creative and they aren’t. Go back to the drawing board and fix the problems the manufacturer presented.

The only problem is that if you’ve wasted $3k to $20k on a patent, now your going to need to file another patent covering the new features of your product. Another $3-20k? I don’t think so. There is a better way.

SOLUTION (My method for you):

Instead, spend $100 on a Provisional Patent Application (PPA). A PPA gives you one year to fish of the end of the pier to see if anyone is interested in your idea.

A PPA also allows you to say “patent pending.” It’s a huge benefit to the small guy! If you come up with a new version of your invention, just file another PPA with the additional features. With my approach, you should be able to get a “go” or “no go” in three weeks to three months.

Make sure to put another one to five months aside for negotiations and you’ll still have many months left on your twelve month PPA.

Then when you license your idea to a manufacturer, you’ll put in the contract that the manufacturer is responsible for paying your attorney to upgrade your PPA to a full patent and put it in your name! This is how I get multiple patents, in my name, paid for by manufacturers.

PROTOTYPES

PROBLEM (What most people do):

People think you need to have a polished and perfect prototype in order to sell an idea. I have sold many ideas with very simple prototypes and many without prototypes at all .

What people don’t understand is that you are not selling your prototype or your patent. I’ll say that again. You’re not selling your prototype or patent. You are selling the benefits of your idea.

SOLUTION (My method for you):

Create a sell sheet. What the heck is a “sell sheet”? It’s a regular 8 ½” x 11” piece of paper. It’s like an ad for your idea. It has the big benefit of your product in one sentence at the top, maybe a few sub benefits or features in bullets below and a picture or drawing of your idea. “Oh, but I have to build a prototype,” many will say. No, you don’t.

You don’t need a prototype until you get some interest. If you don’t get any interest, you haven’t wasted time on a prototype.

Your sell sheet should be like a billboard on the freeway. People should be able to glance at it for a few seconds and understand the benefit of buying your invention. They don’t need to understand every feature or hear you make clichéd statements like, “if we only sell this to 1% of all households in the country, this new idea will make millions”.

My one line benefit statement for one of my biggest ideas was, “I have a new label innovation that ads 75% more space to your container.” That’s it. I didn’t need to explain how when I called on the phone, they just wanted to know more.

Benefits, benefits. That’s what you are selling. Not your patent or prototype.


Stephen in motion: Repurposing existing products in 5 minutes for a call sheet model or prototype…

[To be continued in Part II: negotiated royalty rates, who to call within companies, product idea criteria, what product categories to avoid, and more]

425 Comments / Leave a comment or question

Meet the Real Fast and Furious: 130 MPH, Creating Supercars, and Breaking Records

34 Comments

Forget drag races and movie stars with “nitrous.”

Instead, imagine using spotting planes, counterfeit police cars, and thermal night-vision cameras to break the record for the famed Cannonball Run from NY to LA: 32 hours and 7 minutes. How to do it? Sustain approximately 130 miles per hour on average the entire time (when you factor in refueling time). This is who I interviewed today.

Meet the real Fast and Furious: Alex Roy, captain of Team Polizei 144, travel executive, filmmaker, and philanthropist… Read More

34 Comments / Leave a comment or question

LitLiberation: How to Travel the World–and Get a Personal Assistant–for Free

63 Comments

First, a few questions from Eastern Europe for you all. Take a minute to seriously consider each:

Envision the 5 books that have most impacted your life. How would your life be different if you’d never read them?

Where might you be today if you’d never met the most influential teachers in your life, past and present?

How would your options be affected if you could never again read a book, menu, or sign?

Here is the huge competition I’ve been promising. It’s the biggest I’ve ever done, and there are some incredible world-famous people involved. You won’t be disappointed:

If you’d like to support this idea, please take a second to vote for it here. Be sure to see the “prizes” sectionhow could you get into the 10K Club if you had to?

63 Comments / Leave a comment or question

How to Travel the World with 10 Pounds or Less (Plus: How to Negotiate Convertibles and Luxury Treehouses)

339 Comments

vaio-small.jpg
The incredible Sony VAIO VGN-TXN27N laptop. This beauty is less than 2″ thick and weighs 2.8 lbs. If I add a few ounces of weight with the extended battery (on the right) and trick it out, I can get 15 hours of battery life. [Update: I now use a MacBook Air]

The name of the game in world travel is being “fashionably light.”

Practice in 30-plus countries has taught me that packing minimalism can be an art.

I returned from Costa Rica last Wednesday, and have since landed in Maui, where I’ll stay for one week. What did I pack and why? Check out the video… Read More

339 Comments / Leave a comment or question