Inventors Die Broke... Copycats get rich

41 replies
The title has a LOT more wisdom in it than most people think:

Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers...

While all were inventors and all were world famous, NONE of them made and kept very much money. In fact, the guy who invented the very first personal computer died broke in 2003.

So - who makes all the money? People who understand how to build a business and systemize it. Business people NEVER try to invent new stuff - they take something that is already selling and give it a new twist, delivery method, or angle. They sell to a market that is already there and demanding the product.

In other words - the copycats make all the money.

In the IM business, it is almost never profitable to create something brand new that people do not understand. (If you have to explain why someone needs it - you've lost them already)

It is always easier and much more profitable to offer something that people are already wanting and buying.

That's one reason why PLR does so well in IM.

So - note to newbies and even some more experienced folks... Find a product or idea that is already selling well, create your own version of it, and then get on Page 1 of the big G with it.

You'll be amazed how fast your bank account will fill up
#broke #copycats #die #invesntors #rich
  • Profile picture of the author kchui1028
    i couldn't agree more. Ideas don't make money, it's the execution. Always. Copycats usually have great execution unlike the pathfinders.
    Think Friendster, then Myspace, then Facebook.
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  • Profile picture of the author Lou Diamond
    Hello,
    I once read an article in a business magazine about a person that kept making improvements on existing products on paper and he was getting patents and royalties like mad.
    He was not an inventor at all he just took a product to the next level that the inventor did not even think about.
    There is big money out there folks just stop trying to invent the wheel just make it go better.
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    • Profile picture of the author bgmacaw
      Originally Posted by Lou Diamond View Post

      he was getting patents and royalties like mad.
      If you're an inventor, you have to get as many patents as you can. A tech guy I used to do some work for a few years ago patented everything. He even had a patent for a method for dialing a phone! When he sold his company, he got $10M for the business and $70M for his personal patents.
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      • Profile picture of the author GuerrillaIM
        Originally Posted by bgmacaw View Post

        If you're an inventor, you have to get as many patents as you can. A tech guy I used to do some work for a few years ago patented everything. He even had a patent for a method for dialing a phone! When he sold his company, he got $10M for the business and $70M for his personal patents.
        Patents are not cheap. A lot of people go broke before the patent is even granted.
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        • Profile picture of the author Nightengale
          Very good point!

          In fact, there was an article in a recent issue of the Harvard Business Review on innovation vs. imitation. They talked about how much innovation is valued in business and imitators are frowned upon. The person they were interviewing (I don't remember who) said actually, INTELLIGENT imitation was actually a lot smarter and more valuable than innovation (constantly reinventing the wheel).

          He explained that intelligent imitation wasn't blind copycatting but modeling what already works and then tweaking it in some way to exponentially improve the original idea. He explained that intelligent imitation was a much better use of time and resources and actually generated much better results.

          It's what I've heard my business mentors say for YEARS: model successful business people, processes, etc.

          I loved it!

          Michelle
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    • Profile picture of the author tj0575
      Originally Posted by Lou Diamond View Post

      Hello,
      I once read an article in a business magazine about a person that kept making improvements on existing products on paper and he was getting patents and royalties like mad.
      He was not an inventor at all he just took a product to the next level that the inventor did not even think about.
      There is big money out there folks just stop trying to invent the wheel just make it go better.
      That is exactly what most of us need to hear. When I first started in this business I spent months trying to invent a new system, or something never seen before. It took me a looonnnggg time to realize that I did not need to do that, just take an existing product and make it better.
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  • Profile picture of the author GuerrillaIM
    "An idea only has to be 10% new to make money" - Brian Tracy
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    • Profile picture of the author cheyingtan
      Originally Posted by GuerrillaIM View Post

      "An idea only has to be 10% new to make money" - Brian Tracy
      LOL, very true.

      You see most of WSO is just the rehast version of the "previous" ebook...
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      • Profile picture of the author winebuddy
        Originally Posted by cheyingtan View Post

        LOL, very true.

        You see most of WSO is just the rehast version of the "previous" ebook...
        SHHHHH!!! Don't tell the newbies or we'll all go broke!
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  • Profile picture of the author Dexx
    So very true! Don't have to reinvent the wheel...just find a different way to spin it!

    ~Dexx
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  • Profile picture of the author OfferJunkie
    That's exactly right! Focus on what's working and try to improve it the best you can....even if it's minutely.
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  • Profile picture of the author ryanbiddulph
    I guess it depends what you mean by "rich." My models are billionaires. They invented worlds which were unknown and became the wealthiest people in history. Imitation might bring wealth but innovation brings worldly fortunes which few people can even comprehend. Most are secretly afraid of the world "billionaire"; it's like another world to them.

    Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Steve Jobs are visionaries. They adopt certain ideas from mentors but what they've provided is unique and they've been compensated better than anybody else on earth.

    Again it depends what you're aiming for or what you mean by "getting rich" but in my book when you work on a purely creative and innovative plane you become one of the wealthiest people on earth.
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  • Profile picture of the author sjukun
    I think if an inventor is also a businessman then his chance of getting rich will much greater. Maybe it is why in some college, they teach entrepreneurship to engineering students.
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  • Profile picture of the author winebuddy
    Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Steve Jobs are visionaries.
    Bill Gates and Steve Jobs took someone elses idea and improved upon it and became billionaires.

    The first personal computer:

    The first portable computer or laptop is considered to be the Osborne I, a portable computer developed by Adam Osborne that weighed 24 pounds, a 5-inch display, 64 KB of memory, two 5 1/4" floppy drives, and a modem.
    Osborn died Broke in 2003 after years of legal battles with all of the giants - including Lotus, IBM, Dell, and... Microsoft.

    Richard Branson got his start in mail order music with a twist (1970) and expanded from there into hip record stores (1972)... no radical new invention or "higher plane" I can see.

    All Gates and Jobs did was make the operating system so easy to use that a child could do it. Osborn thought his "new machine" was perfect how it was.
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  • Profile picture of the author winebuddy
    Originally Posted by JsamsonNJ View Post

    Fred Smith who invented Federal Express became pretty rich.

    At the time we did not need Federal Express however he taught us to need it
    FEDEX is nothing but a hyped up version of UPS and the USPS - nothing new... just a better way to do the same thing.

    Inventors invent NEW things - like the lightbulb which didn't require gas to illuminate a home or the street. Like flying machines that actually worked. Like personal computers that could be carried with you and didn't require an entire floor of an office building. Like a gadget that would allow you to talk to someone on the other side of the state or country or world.

    People were already having packages delivered a long time before FEDEX came along.

    AND...

    People were picking keywords before Market Samurai came along - they just made it easier.

    People were already Launching products before PLF came along - Jeff Walker just boiled it down into a step by step system.

    People were already writing and selling books a long time ago... then the internet made it possible to sell them in a digital format.

    Nothing NEW or earthshattering.... just different delivery systems or tools that made the processes simpler.
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  • Profile picture of the author Christian York
    Originally Posted by winebuddy View Post

    The title has a LOT more wisdom in it than most people think:

    Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers...

    While all were inventors and all were world famous, NONE of them made and kept very much money. In fact, the guy who invented the very first personal computer died broke in 2003.

    So - who makes all the money? People who understand how to build a business and systemize it. Business people NEVER try to invent new stuff - they take something that is already selling and give it a new twist, delivery method, or angle. They sell to a market that is already there and demanding the product.

    In other words - the copycats make all the money.

    In the IM business, it is almost never profitable to create something brand new that people do not understand. (If you have to explain why someone needs it - you've lost them already)

    It is always easier and much more profitable to offer something that people are already wanting and buying.

    That's one reason why PLR does so well in IM.

    So - note to newbies and even some more experienced folks... Find a product or idea that is already selling well, create your own version of it, and then get on Page 1 of the big G with it.

    You'll be amazed how fast your bank account will fill up
    Great article. This is so true.

    If I want to get into a new market, I look strongly at what is already out there and selling well. Then I look at how I can make improvements or sell it in a different format. E.g. taking something that is selling well offline, online.

    I like how you also mention "get on Page 1 of the big G with it."

    Creating a new twist is one thing, but you must also get people to see it!
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  • Profile picture of the author Mohammad Afaq
    I don't think this is true all the times.

    EDIT: I don't have any examples BTW
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  • Profile picture of the author MichaelHiles
    WT Holy F are you talking about Thomas Edison died broke?

    Have you never heard of General Electric? GE Thomas Edison: History, Electricity, Light Bulb, Research, Founder

    Thomas Edison was one of the wealthiest men from the Industrial Revolution era. And his fortune still remains today in many places.

    While what you say can be true about some scientists who are altruistic in their pursuit of solving a particular problem... and not earning a profit as their motivation, there are many, many inventors who were/are extremely wealthy. Paul Allen anyone? Anyone? Dean Kamen? Hello. J.C. Hormel, Frank Woodward, Clarence Birdseye, Edwin H. Land, Charles Goodyear, all were inventors who earned and retained tremendous fortunes. There's a ridiculous list of wealthy inventors.

    Like a lot of PLR, your post is laden with fallacy. Buyer beware.
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  • Profile picture of the author winebuddy
    WT Holy F are you talking about Thomas Edison died broke?
    I never said he died broke. In fact, by the standards of the times, he was very comfortable.

    However, if you do a little research, you'll find he spent the last 20 years of his life defending his patents in court costing him millions. He was defending against the copycats who were coming out with similar gadgets by the thousands.

    In 1874 he began to work on a multiplex telegraphic system for Western Union, ultimately developing a quadruplex telegraph, which could send two messages simultaneously in both directions. When Edison sold his patent rights to the quadruplex to the rival Atlantic & Pacific Telegraph Co., a series of court battles followed in which Western Union won.
    DC current could not travel over as long a system as AC, but the AC generators were not as efficient as the ones for DC. By 1889, the invention of a device that combined an AC induction motor with a DC dynamo offered the best performance of all, and AC current became dominant. The Edison General Electric Co. merged with Thomson-Houston in 1892 to become General Electric Co., effectively removing Edison further from the electrical field of business.
    Edison also became involved in promoting the use of cement and formed the Edison Portland Cement Co. in 1899. He tried to promote widespread use of cement for the construction of low-cost homes and envisioned alternative uses for concrete in the manufacture of phonographs, furniture, refrigerators, and pianos. Unfortunately, Edison was ahead of his time with these ideas, as widespread use of concrete proved economically unfeasible at that time.
    Competition from other motion picture companies soon created heated legal battles between them and Edison over patents. Edison sued many companies for infringement. In 1909, the formation of the Motion Picture Patents Co. brought a degree of cooperation to the various companies who were given licenses in 1909, but in 1915, the courts found the company to be an unfair monopoly.
    Almost everything Edison invented, he later lost the rights to.

    In fact, when his laboratory in New Jersey burned in 1914, Edison spent most of his money rebuilding it.

    And his friend, Henry Ford, spent his own money to rebuild Edison's Michigan lab...
    Henry Ford, an admirer and friend of Edison's, reconstructed Edison's invention factory as a museum at Greenfield Village, Michigan, which opened during the 50th anniversary of Edison's electric light in 1929.
    I have always been a big fan of Edison and agree that his contributions to our lifestyle were tremendous. But a successful businessman he was not.

    As far as the others you listed... I'll have to do some checking.

    Dean Kamen? Hello. J.C. Hormel, Frank Woodward, Clarence Birdseye, Edwin H. Land, Charles Goodyear, all were inventors who earned and retained tremendous fortunes
    not quite...

    Clarence Birdseye didn't "invent" freezing food - he just decided to freeze food faster that resulted in a better taste. People had been freezing food for hundreds of years. In fact, when he came up with the idea and tried to market it - he went broke.

    In 1922 Birdseye conducted fish-freezing experiments at the Clothel Refrigerating Company, then established his own company, Birdseye Seafoods Inc., to freeze fish fillets via chilled air at -45°F (-43°C). In 1924 his company went bankrupt due to lack of consumer interest in the product.
    Dean Kamen made his fortune not with Segway, but the "autosyringe", which was origianlly invented 17 years earlier in 1963. Kamen took that design and made it very small so it was wearable - but the technology is the same as in the 1963 design.

    Charles Goodyear...another interesting inventor story... he did not found the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company:

    In the year 1852 Goodyear went to Europe, a trip that he had long planned, and saw Thomas Hancock, then in the employ of Charles Macintosh & Company. Hancock claimed to have invented vulcanization independently, and received a British patent, initiated in 1843, but finalized in 1844. In 1855, in the last of three patent disputes with fellow British rubber pioneer, Stephen Moulton, Hancock's patent was challenged with the claim that Hancock had copied Goodyear. Goodyear attended the trial. If Hancock lost, Goodyear stood to have his own British patent application granted, allowing him to claim royalties from both Hancock and Moulton. Both had examined Goodyear's vulcanized rubber in 1842, but several chemists testified that it would not have been possible to determine how it was made by studying it. Hancock prevailed.
    =
    In 1898, almost four decades after his death, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company was founded and named after Goodyear by Frank Seiberling.
    40 years after Goodyears death, a company was founded using his name. It wasn't even until 1976 that he was inducted into the "Inventors Hall of Fame".

    The Hormels were meat packers - where's the invention? It was actually the invention of the refridgerated train car that allowed them to expand their business nationwide. JC took over the company from his brother George in 1931. The company was founded by George in 1891.

    And lastly, Land was on a roll for a while... then he tried one more thing:

    Despite the tremendous success of his instant cameras, Land's unsuccessful Polavision instant movie system was a financial disaster, and he resigned as Chairman of Polaroid on March 6, 1980.
    But - of the lot you mentioned - he is the only INVENTOR that actually made it.

    Woops - forgot about Frank Woodward...

    Frank Woodward, a school dropout and, who by the age of 20 had his own business, bought the rights to Jell-O for $450.
    Sorry - not an inventor but a businessman.

    Paul Allen and Bill Gates BOUGHT Q-DOS and tweaked it into what is now known as DOS. And that is what made IBM the company it is today... and Microsoft.
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    • Profile picture of the author MichaelHiles
      Originally Posted by winebuddy View Post

      I never said he died broke. In fact, by the standards of the times, he was very comfortable.

      However, if you do a little research, you'll find he spent the last 20 years of his life defending his patents in court costing him millions. He was defending against the copycats who were coming out with similar gadgets by the thousands.

      Almost everything Edison invented, he later lost the rights to.

      In fact, when his laboratory in New Jersey burned in 1914, Edison spent most of his money rebuilding it.

      And his friend, Henry Ford, spent his own money to rebuild Edison's Michigan lab...


      I have always been a big fan of Edison and agree that his contributions to our lifestyle were tremendous. But a successful businessman he was not.
      You mean copycats that were doing what you advocate?

      ALL businesspeople end up eventually being embroiled in some kind of legal entanglements. Many successful people must defend their intellectual property against "copycats" who infringe upon them in some fashion. It's a requirement of US trademark law, if one doesn't vigorously defend their property, they lose protection status.

      Edison was a massive financier of other technology and development as well.

      I don't think you can say that he wasn't a successful businessman. He made fortunes. He also made bad investments like many other businessmen.

      As far as the others you listed... I'll have to do some checking.

      not quite...

      Clarence Birdseye didn't "invent" freezing food - he just decided to freeze food faster that resulted in a better taste. People had been freezing food for hundreds of years. In fact, when he came up with the idea and tried to market it - he went broke.
      Birdseye eventually sold his patents, name and services as a consultant to General Foods for $22,000,000

      Hardly a failure.


      Dean Kamen made his fortune not with Segway, but the "autosyringe", which was origianlly invented 17 years earlier in 1963. Kamen took that design and made it very small so it was wearable - but the technology is the same as in the 1963 design.
      No "inventor" purely "invents". Almost all inventors base their innovation on prior work done by those before them. If you're wanting to now use that as a distinction to defend your original thesis, then you're changing the story.

      Dean Kamen is an engineer.

      Charles Goodyear...another interesting inventor story... he did not found the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company:


      40 years after Goodyears death, a company was founded using his name. It wasn't even until 1976 that he was inducted into the "Inventors Hall of Fame".
      Yes, Goodyear was in debt when he died... that was due to the business side of setting up new production factories that didn't net profits for him during the remainder of his life. However, he earned a significant sum of money over the course of his lifetime that allowed him to reinvest in his production, and eventually, the royalties of his work made his wife and children very wealthy before their own deaths.

      The Hormels were meat packers - where's the invention? It was actually the invention of the refridgerated train car that allowed them to expand their business nationwide. JC took over the company from his brother George in 1931. The company was founded by George in 1891.
      Canned meat. Mostly known under the brand name, "Spam" (not the email).

      He combined it with sodium nitrate to create the stable loaf that could be canned.


      And lastly, Land was on a roll for a while... then he tried one more thing:


      But - of the lot you mentioned - he is the only INVENTOR that actually made it.
      Made what?

      Made a success? Kept a success?

      All businesspeople have successes and failures. Kamen is a success. Paul Allen is a success (BILLIONAIRE).

      How about Ed Lowe, the inventor of kitty litter? He sold his company when it was doing $200 million/year in revenue.

      Robert Moog, the inventor of the music synthesizer. I personally knew him, he wasn't poor when he died.

      Mark Andreessen. Ever hear of him? He's got a few sheckels.

      I think maybe you've fallen into the classic trap of assumptive thinking that people who are of an engineering-oriented mindset aren't good businesspeople... maybe because you personally haven't been exposed to successful businesspeople that are engineering minds. I dunno.

      I agree that there exists many engineers that are abysmal at business and marketing. However, there are many who have done quite well and made fortunes. I personally know a few.

      Your point is certainly understood, but I just don't believe that it's accurate unless you make some very sweeping, broad brush stroke generalizations.
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  • Profile picture of the author seobro
    Tesla is a good example. He made great inventions, but died without a penny.

    My brother is a lawyer and he told me that most patent lawyers are crooks, and the patents they give you are not worth the paper they are written on.
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  • Profile picture of the author WealthCoachPro
    Originally Posted by winebuddy View Post


    In other words - the copycats make all the money.
    Actually its those that create Tons of Value for Tons of people that make all the money.
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  • Profile picture of the author sallycev
    You only have to know 1% more than those behind you to put a spin on a winning idea and turn it into cashflow!
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  • To sell products or ideas is much easier than doing all the hazzles of inventing or creating it not to mention the financial and time invested. Copycats get rich and faster, that's true.
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  • Profile picture of the author winebuddy
    I think maybe you've fallen into the classic trap of assumptive thinking that people who are of an engineering-oriented mindset aren't good businesspeople... maybe because you personally haven't been exposed to successful businesspeople that are engineering minds. I dunno.
    I am one. And while I have tried to "invent" or innovate in the past, I quickly realized that MARKETING was the key - not a new contraption.

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    • Profile picture of the author MichaelHiles
      Originally Posted by winebuddy View Post

      I am one. And while I have tried to "invent" or innovate in the past, I quickly realized that MARKETING was the key - not a new contraption.
      I am one as well.

      There are exceptions (such as the "Into The Tornado" market phenomenon described by Geoffrey Moore as a technology reaches "Main Street" demand), but in principle, we do agree that marketing will bridge the shortcomings of an inferior technology.

      But within this, the "marketing" being more the traditional view of 4P marketing, not the very narrow scope of internet marketing as discussed on WF.
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  • Profile picture of the author Joseph Then
    Looks like you have to add in the word "GENERALLY" so that it doesn't cover as an absolute

    I can also think of another example: Diner's Club invented credit card. Guess who's the leader now?
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  • Profile picture of the author Raydal
    I've heard Dr. Wayne Dyer 'confess' that all the ideas for his
    books come from old classics that he just 'translates' into
    modern metaphors.

    There's nothing new under the sun according to the Good Book
    and copying without copying is the skill to have. Even when
    you think you're being innovative you're simply re-inventing.

    Some people don't even bother to translate, they just copy.
    (I mean 'swipe')

    -Ray Edwards
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  • Profile picture of the author winebuddy
    But within this, the "marketing" being more the traditional view of 4P marketing, not the very narrow scope of internet marketing as discussed on WF.
    It's interesting you mentioned Woodward... Jello was a failure UNTIL he published and passed out copies of cookbooks that required Jell-O in all the recipes. AND he hired people to dress up in funky costumes and had them placed all over the USA.

    Jell-O sales reached 1 million shortly afterward and the rest is history. Marketing is the KEY, not necessarily new invention or innovation.

    Oh - and here's the qualifier... "GENERALLY" this is true.
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  • Profile picture of the author mikemcmillan
    I'm not going to argue who died rich or poor, but Winebuddy said...

    (If you have to explain why someone needs it - you've lost them already)

    Ain't that the truth! --Mike
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  • Profile picture of the author Rod Cortez
    Interesting read......What I am ultimately getting from this thread, so far, is this: being an inventor or a "copy cat" isn't really a deciding factor in business success, ultimately it's having a solid foundation in both business and marketing and having the acumen to excute consistently. Or am I just a nutjob?

    RoD "Coffee-Made-Me-Do-It!" Cortez
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  • Profile picture of the author King Shiloh
    Banned
    it is not enough to be an inventor. You have to be a hard worker too. This means that you have to keep tweaking your invention and also keep thinking out-of-the-box.
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      Originally Posted by Rod Cortez View Post

      Interesting read......What I am ultimately getting from this thread, so far, is this: being an inventor or a "copy cat" isn't really a deciding factor in business success, ultimately it's having a solid foundation in both business and marketing and having the acumen to excute consistently. Or am I just a nutjob?

      RoD "Coffee-Made-Me-Do-It!" Cortez
      Rod, those two ideas are not mutually exclusive...

      I also have a background in engineering. And in general I would change Winebuddy's subject line to "inventors who can't market and pick inconvenient times to die, die broke. Pure copycats get weeded out or marginalized."

      Every single "copycat" nominated did more than copy, they tacked on an innovation.

      > FedEx innovated systems to make overnight delivery both dependable and affordable on a grand scale.

      > Hormel took the concept of preserving food and innovated a process that made canned meat shelf-stable with a half-life measured in years.

      None of the examples cited was a true copycat.

      And none of the successful innovators would have likely made a dime by innovating something no one wanted or needed.

      Look at the inventors that show up on shows like Dragon's Den. How often do you see an invention get the "it's brilliant, but who would buy it" treatment?

      Yet, a few weeks back, I saw a former visitor to the Den on a US show called House Hunters. He invented a little plastic junction box for home wiring and licensed it to a huge supplier. Three years later, he and his wife are looking for a vacation home in Spain, with a modest budget of 1.5 million Euros. They were also building a new custom manor house in the UK at the same time.

      I've been rambling a bit, so here's my wrap-up. An inventor who can innovate something people want and will pay for can get rich in a way that his descendants will thank him for for generations. A true copycat might make a few bucks, but risks being innovated into oblivion...
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  • Profile picture of the author Freeman77
    Originally Posted by winebuddy View Post


    Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers...

    While all were inventors and all were world famous, NONE of them made and kept very much money. In fact, the guy who invented the very first personal computer died broke in 2003.
    I think Eben Pagen talked about this at length, which was really fascinating. Inventor's don't get rich -- business-minded people do.

    I thought Edison was a savvy business man though. Have you seen the video (avail. on Youtube) where representatives of Edison use Tesla's AC voltage to kill an elephant? They were competitors, and Edison wanted to frame AC voltage as dangerous.
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  • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
    Banned
    This is pretty much why I don't buy MMO info products. I'm am sooo not interested in owning 10 spun versions of the same old crap. Show me something new and my interest gets piqued.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ilya Feynberg
    Reinventing the wheel is a fool's errand. Figuring out how to better the wheel, and out do the next guy is where it's at.

    It's about evolution, not revolution.
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