The role of inventors in an entrepreneurial society

Most of the new business ideas I see are technology related to services, digital media or software.  This trend should be expected since there are many great opportunities in these sectors.  But I am beginning to feel like we have given up on making things.  If this belief I have is true it is unfortunate for us as a society.  We still buy things and the creation of things puts people to work and gives them a sense of accomplishment.  The people employed are also not likely to find a comparable opportunity in the digital or service based markets.  For these reasons I think we need to find and nurture the inventors in our society.

There is a substantial group of people who are garage tinkerers and basement inventors.  Maybe they have seen something that could be done better and tried to build it.  Often they just love to build and fix things without any real thought as to the immediate need or size of the market.  That is a lot of ingenuity, energy and passion that could be put to use in building an entrepreneurial society.

There are other trends taking place that could magnify the impact of these inventors.  Technology such as social media and ecommerce combined with 3D printing and other low tools make it possible to create distributed and low cost manufacturing.  Build things where the markets are, customized to the needs of the buyer.  Not everything needs to be mass produced.

The cost advantages in remote countries is also declining with rising wages, supply chain complexity and increased transportation costs.  Interest is growing in the US in bringing production back from overseas.  We need to make sure the same trends happen in Canada.  But we won’t necessarily be bringing back the old model of large scale operations employing hundreds of people.  We should leverage the new business models and home-grown ingenuity to create a new manufacturing industry.

The first step is to surface these garage inventors; find out who they are and engag them.  From there we can work with them to build business models, fill in the gaps in their teams and provide support and financing.  Instead of two or three plants employing hundreds of people maybe we have a number of plants that each employ 10 to 50 people.  There would be less exposure from the failure of a single business and I suspect people would enjoy working in these smaller environments.

Published by Vince Bulbrook

Vince has spent over twenty five years working with entrepreneurs providing financial and strategic advice. Much of this advice has centered on business model design and product development. Issues such as determining how to invest product development resources, pricing options, features, distribution and client requests all come in to play. For much of the past fifteen years Vince has operated a business providing CFO and strategy services to small businesses. In this period he spent three years in the product development group of a software company that had a $26-million development budget. Along with overseeing the development of a product he also worked with senior management and the other product teams to determine how to manage the product portfolio. He has advised clients in software, entertainment, digital media, publishing, retail and distribution on product pricing, feature selection, distribution strategy. Prior to founding the advisory business Vince worked with Price Waterhouse and Ernst and Young. Vince graduated from the Ivey School of Business with an HBA and is a Chartered Accountant.

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