If I can change the big companies, then I can change the world through them. Companies historically that have only developed new products inside the company are somewhat limited to opening up to many more possibilities that are across American and around the world. P&G learned that today — — 50% of their new products come from outside the company. As an expert in open innovation, I facilitate the grassroots innovation that is going on and give it a home in large companies to then take those products to market using their resources and brands. It’s a win-win for both the inventor and the company.
As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Warren Tuttle, author of “Inventor Confidential: The Honest Guide to Profitable Inventing” (HarperCollins, March 2021). Warren Tuttle takes his years and years of overseeing the Open Innovation product programs for leading companies in the housewares, table top, power tool, hardware and direct response television/As Seen on TV categories and sharing that knowledge of successful consumer product inventions with the public. Warren served as president of the non-profit United Inventors Association of America for 12 years.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started my career as an entrepreneur. It was when I had one of my businesses when I met my first inventor of a consumer housewares product. I helped him launch his product which changed my life. Everything I have done since that time has been dedicated to helping inventors get their product to market which led me to setting up open innovation programs with several large consumer product/consumer goods companies.
Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
My first launch of an inventor product — — which is still one of my favorites — — was MISTO, the olive oil sprayer. The inventor came into my retail store 25 years ago and showed me the product which was quite novel. It was an alternative to using Pam, the supermarket oil sprayer. MISTO was environmentally save and heart-healthy. It was a pleasure to help him take the product out to retailers and customers across American and, eventually, around the world. It went on to sell many, many millions.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
At the top of the list of principles is ethics. Running your business to reflect your own ethical principles is very important. It is all about striving for higher ethical standards. That involves always being up front with people even when the news is bad and being consistent and of your word. It’s particularly important when dealing with thousands of people. There is no time to not do the right thing. Integrity and my relationships with other human beings is what is most important in my life.
Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
My open innovation platform is quite unique. I serve as the bridge between two cultures: between large corporations and individual inventors. Believe me, they are totally two different cultures.
I have to introduce the cultures to one another, translate between them, vet things and I have to be very credible in both worlds to make licensing agreements happen. I am very good at it and have solidified many relationships. It has changed the world. While I’m not big enough by myself to change the world, if I can influence companies and individuals, then I have done my part to change the world through larger companies. Open innovation and the world of inventors is a game-changer.
How do you think this will change the world?
If I can change the big companies, then I can change the world through them.
Companies historically that have only developed new products inside the company are somewhat limited to opening up to many more possibilities that are across American and around the world. P&G learned that today — — 50% of their new products come from outside the company. As an expert in open innovation, I facilitate the grassroots innovation that is going on and give it a home in large companies to then take those products to market using their resources and brands. It’s a win-win for both the inventor and the company.
We live in challenging times for inventors because they have to find the right path to market. What I do through open innovation, the “unintended consequences” could be if the inventor selects the wrong firm to work with and find out later that the relationship wasn’t all they had hoped it would be.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
I had brought many different products to market on my own — — partnering directly with inventors — — when I met with the team at Lifetime Brands. They proposed that I come and work with them to help them build relationships with the inventors and inventor community. Starting with Lifetime Brands as their Open Innovation Director resulted in many licensing deals as well as my working with other companies securing over 100 licensing deals and working with many thousands of inventors. These products have generated well over one billion dollars in retail sales over the years.
It is that “tipping point,” that resulted in years and years of open innovation and working directly with inventors and as the backbone for writing “Inventor Confidential: The Honest Guide to Profitable Inventing.”
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption? CAN WE CHANGE THIS QUESTION TO:
How do we grow the inventor community?
We need to educate inventors the right way to develop their products which includes building prototypes, filing for patents and give them a realistic path to approaching large companies for potential licensing agreements. The non-profit United Inventors Association is one step. Insights from “Inventor Confidential” is certainly another.
What are your “4 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- How long the odds are for an inventor to have a successful product to be taken to market. Only a small percentage of inventors are successful which is why I am a big advocate in teaching them the right way. Inventors have to understand that the odds are long.
- Be careful how you spend your money. As an inventor, you have many choices on how to spend your money and you have to be wise and prudent about where and when you spend your money.
- I wish I knew more about the national innovation ecosystem and all of the different shareholders which include big tech, pharma, university inventors — because we all have our own self-interest. It is different for each group.
- How hard writing a book is. Writing a book takes twice as long and is twice as hard as you ever dreamt possible. I certainly learned that when writing “Inventor Confidential.”
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
In the inventor world, it is being thorough and methodical. It is doing your due-diligence when you have an idea and doing a deep vetting of the marketplace. Building a prototype that proves function will lead to filing the proper patent claims.
Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
There is not enough collaboration between independent innovators and large companies in America. That is primarily because both parties fear each other. I have proven that the two sides can work together. I am always available to help any inventor or company bridge that gap.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.