I Have the Next Big Thing


By Mike Hirtle

Formerly Head of Product Acquisition at Hasbro

President, Paladin LLC

The problem is that I can’t get anyone to see it. My new job involves looking for inventor concepts for three client companies. A big concern that everyone had in the beginning was “Who gets to see the next big idea first?” Nowadays, with video presentations, everyone is looking at everything at the same time, so the real question is who will recognize the next big idea first. The next big idea will be one that a company likes and wants to try. Then through good design and development, good marketing and great luck it will turn into the next big thing and everyone will say they knew it all along. Let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine a world where none of the following items ever existed and you have just invented all of them. Now you are lucky enough to get an appointment with a big company. Here’s how it would go. 1. Monopoly. Too complicated. Not visually interesting. Too long to play. Pass.

2. Uno. Can’t promote a card game cause it is too inexpensive. It’s just crazy eights that anyone can play with ordinary cards. Plus it is a dumb name. Pass.

3. Blokus. Abstract Strateegy doesn’t sell. Only works well with four players. Pass.

4. Rubik’s Cube. Cool and compelling but Puzzlers is a small market. Too hard to do and way too expensive. Tooling bill way too big. Pass.

5. Cabbage Patch Doll. You have to be kidding. Girls don’t want to play with such an ugly doll. Pass.

6. Pokemon. Way too Japanese. What? A hundred characters with complicated foreign names. Dumb as a rock. Pass.

7. GI Joe - big size. Boys won’t play with dolls. Pass

8. Gi Joe - small size. You just articulated the Bucket O Soldiers so it really isn’t an invention. Plus, too expensive and boys won’t play with dolls. Pass

9. Air Hog Planes. Flying toys can’t be made reliable enough. Too seasonal. Too expensive. Too dangerous. Too risky all around. Pass.

10. Hula Hoop. Are you serious? Won’t fit on Wal*Mart shelf. Too inexpensive to promote. Most people can’t do it well. Dumb. Pass. I only have time for one more. Don’t you have anything good? 11. Transformers. OK. Now you’re talking. This is the coolest thing I have ever seen. Vehicles that transform into robots. Great. Send this in!

Five months later you get a call. We really love your Transformers but we just signed a deal with an entertainment company for another big boy’s property so we are going on pass. Show it to us again in a year. It’s not easy being an inventor.

(November 2014)

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