The Second Question All Inventors Should Ask

In the inventing and new product development business, the second question you must ask of a company before pursuing your idea with them is this: Do you make real prototypes or do you make appearance models?

If you don’t know what an appearance model is, don’t feel embarrassed, I once wondered, too. Appearance models are nothing more than an artist’s drawing made into a 3D hunk of plastic. There is nothing working inside.

In the world I live in, reality plays a vital role in everything we create. I can tell you that it is also of great importance when you meet with retail store buyers and major corporations – you are dealing in the real world; they will not do your work for you.

For the record, these invention promotion companies that make appearance models do not employ mechanical, software and electrical engineers to truly design your prototypes for you. Their mission is to cause confusion and then perform a “bait and switch.” In other words, their website will say, “Need a prototype?” Then later, in small print, it will be switched to “appearance model.”

At best, they will have an artist work on it who knows nothing about mass production, raw material selection or molds. You end up with a piece of plastic in your hand that is far away from a real working prototype.

I remember when I was younger in the business and a successful CEO said to me, “George, I’ll make this simple for you — The more you do, the more you get.”

So, it should be your objective to get as close to reality, as in a real working prototype, as you can for the corporations you’re going to try to do business with. And be aware of invention promotion companies that are stuck in the Stone Age – if you know what I mean.