I am one hundred percent psyched about last night's finale of American Inventor. Not only did Janusz's spherical safety car seat for children win the $1 million prize and support from CEO Rob Matteucci of Evenflo, but Ed Hall ALSO won recognition from a major player in his product's industry. Mike Hirtle, VP of R&D at Hasbro, promised to take WordAce back to his design and marketing departments to do his best at getting the fun and educational game out into the marketplace. Hall said, "can't beat it," and I agree with him. Erik got a strong promise from an industry bigwig, too. He seemed sincerely ebullient about meeting Jerry Rice, more so than hearing that Rice would do everything in his power to make the Catch a market reality. AND, Francisco received an internship at Trek from Steve Baumann, who represents their industrial design department. Francisco also got a shout out from bicycle superstar Lance Armstrong, whom I actually witnessed winning his first of seven Tours de France back in 1999.
Bragging rights aside, Lance Armstrong's appearance on American Inventor seems significant to me for two reasons:
(1.) It says he endorses Francisco's product. If Francisco develops it further with Trek (who, incidentally, made all seven bikes that Armstrong rode in the aforementioned Tours de France), he has the most famous cyclist on the planet making very influential positive statements on the double traction bike's behalf. Everyone knows that celebrity sponsorship equals major sales. It's like Michael Jordan said, "hey, dude, nice kicks."
(2.) Armstrong's/Trek's, Rice's, and Hasbro's appearance also indicates that ABC is totally cool. The network whittled the nationwide search down to four finalists who each had pretty darn good ideas, are immensely passionate and intelligent, and are genuinely good people (you can just tell!). So, ABC (allow me to remind you: owned by Disney), does the right thing and gives each of them a huge concession prize that will have them well on their way to making the most important thing in their lives, their brainchildren, happy and healthy brainadults (sans brain accessories, I hope).
Although Francisco received the lowest number of votes, I believe that he is the one who could sustain that injury the most because he is the youngest of the four and can now channel his experience into a career. Erik probably fared worst of the three runners-up. Sure, he had the (arguably) greatest NFL player of all time promise on national television to provide a little elbow grease, but it's not like he said, "hey, dude, be my kid's trainer." Now that would have made me feel a little more comfortable about Erik's financial woes. He was so sweet, though, to say, "My kids need to see that dream come true." They do, but I think what this show is teaching us is that it takes more than having a dream. It takes the right idea, lots of work, and heart. It also takes the right balance of flexibility with determination. It takes listening and communicating. It takes the guidance of dedicated experts. It takes money. (I almost wanted to plug the current Visa slogan here.)
I'm glad to hear that there will be another season of American Inventor right around the corner. It has real substance and should be making people really think about solving modern problems. There are so many of you that are developing fascinating new technologies, and I want to learn about them all. For more invention fun, check out Jason Barkaloo's hybrid books, last month's Fast Company cover subject Homaro Cantu Jr.'s exciting food innovations, and Inc's intellectual property feature in this month's issue. And, let us know if you've enjoyed my coverage of this season, if you've been watching the show, whether you'll be watching next season, or if maybe you want to hear another staffer's voice. Anyway, it's been fun. Thanks for reading!