This week's episode of American Inventor took our six finalists and their products through six weeks of development. First, they hit a focus group. Then they consulted with designers. Some of them chose to take lessons in marketing to package the final piece. At least one team of inventors, the Miller brothers with the Wrap-Away, chose to allocate a portion of their $50,000 in funding to a consultant for help with the delivery of their pitch. The end of the episode brought the pool of contestants down to half.
Interestingly, the inventors cut from this round were each parts of pairs. The brothers, the students, and the romantic couple had their hopes dashed as each in turn learned that their inventions either were not appealing to a great enough number of consumers, were too complicated to use, or simply paled in comparison to the competition.
Partnership is a tricky road to navigate, whether it be between family members, friends, or lovers. Unfortunately, we didn't get a comprehensive sense of how each of these pairs worked through problems in their product development phases. The magic of television seemed to conceal any hardships the pairs faced, whereas the viewing audience got a heap of drama from Cato (born into poverty), Chavez (saving lives), and DeRennaux (children are our future). Did the partners ever butt heads about critical decisions in the design of their products? Did they flatter each other too much and convince each other that there were no flaws?
In the course of my day here at Inc., I encounter a dizzying spectrum of companies with leadership ranging from the one-man show to those founded by a circus of characters. The latter often makes me wonder which is the real ringmaster or whether it is possible to have a truly collaborative democracy running the show. Should every company have a series of checks and balances? Or does an organization benefit more from a clear sense of hierarchy, when there is one place to turn for the final answer? Maybe the nature of the business decides the optimal number at the top.
I felt very satisfied with the outcome of this week's show. The 6-in1 bra, the Christmas tree extinguisher, and the DIY remote racers have each proven to be worthy of the real world marketplace. It will be interesting to me to see which wins. I think who is chosen might have a lot to do with the demographic that watches ABC on Wednesday nights, much like the limited sampling that focus groups can offer. Who did you vote for?
I'm going to have to root for the one thing I would personally buy. Not only have I been needing exactly what Cato proposes to provide me, but I like her poise, her background, her race, and her gender. It would be dishonest of me to say that her position as a woman of color doesn't affect my endorsement. In fact, if you are a woman of any breed, and you are an entrepreneur, I encourage you to contact me directly and tell me your story. You don't have to make bras for my support, but you definitely have to be innovative and you have to have proven your mass appeal.
Can't wait to have a real girltalk session with you!
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