Start-up and small business owners usually make a breakthrough with products and services based on a small incremental improvement on an existing product. In fact, there is an old rule of thumb that says to make something commercially viable in the market it’s best that it not be more than about 15% different than what is already available on the market.
If you look at it another way, think about a company you would invest in. Would you invest your own money in a cellphone app that is completely new on the market or would you invest in a company that has come up with one that is about 15 % percent better than what is already on the market?
Start-ups and small business small businesses are usually cautioned not to come up with something radically new because of the costs involved in developing it as well as marketing and distributing it.
Many so-called “new” products are “discovered” by looking at the attributes of and existing product or service and finding out whether these attributes could be made cheaper, accomplish processes faster and save customers more money.
Or combinations can be made of two separate products that do two jobs at the same time – for example, the cellphone is a phone and a camera. I’m looking at a “new” product right now which is a portable coffee mug with a simple filter system that allows you to make plunger coffee that is just as good as the non-portable units that are sold by the mass in supermarket chains.
I don’t usually cover inventions but one recently stood out and that is the story about a 15-year-old Canadian girl, Ann Makosinski, who has invented a flashlight or torch that generates electricity with the warmth of your hand. Her inspiration, reports People Magazine, was when she was inspired by a friend in the Philippines who didn’t have electricity and couldn’t complete homework and therefore was failing at school.
Ann experimented with Peltier tiles to produce an electrical current when opposites sides are heated and cooled at the same time. She has spent months working on the project and her patent-pending design uses a transformer that she has come up with. She discovered that the power created by the tiles wasn’t enough to power and LED light and so she created a circuit that allowed for transformers to up the voltage. Ann won a scholarship by submitting her project to Googles’ 2013 Science Fair. She needs to further develop the flashlight before it is market ready and says she is more interested in helping people than making a profit.
Whether this body-heat powered torch will ever see the light of day is unknown. The torch could be too expensive compared to others that are powered by kinetic energy which produce more light. Yet it’s very refreshing to see a young person who has taken interest in science to come up with a new invention that will benefit people, particularly those who may not have electricity.
The story also says much about this young person’s creativity and persistence. One woman commented on the article saying, “This young lady is inventing things that could change the world and I can’t even get my kids to load the dishwasher correctly!”
Some people already see the flashlight as useful for power outages, especially when conventional torch batteries have run flat, for storm shelters and, as mentioned, in rural areas that may not have electricity.
In our own country, South Africa, we shouldn’t forget about our youth power. Did you know that the reel gardening product that is in available in nurseries throughout the country was invented by a school girl in Johannesburg. Basically, what she came up with was a strip of paper with seeds in it, which makes it easy to plant seeds of different varieties. The seeds on a reel or strip provide excellent space distribution between seeds which is often difficult to do manually eecially with small seeds.
For me, most inspirational of all is that it just goes to show that you can come up with new ideas whatever your age whether you are still at school or have had a full career and are retired. The world is full of stories of people of any age who have done just this.