One Simple Idea Review: How to go from IDEA to PROTOTYPE

I have been following Stephen Key for a while now, ever since I read Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss and trying to be part of the “new rich” community, I have tried to learn more from the experts in the area.

One of the things that excited me about Stephen Key’s approach is the ability to take action with your ideas rather than just sitting on your dreams and different aspirations that you may have because of not having the proper resources. His main approach to making new products is to get someone else to do it. By getting companies to license your idea, you are able to collect royalties and leave the hefty patent filing fee to the company that can afford it. This is especially useful when you are just starting out and don’t have the money to initially put your product out there. With this approach you can think it, create a sell sheet for it, file a Provisional Patent Application ($110) and try to get a company to believe in your idea. I have done this before, unsuccessful on the licensing part, but got it pretty far and learned along the way. My idea was a back brace attachment that allows people with chronic pain to use their existing back brace, but allows them to insert hot and cold compresses in the attachment.


Really cool right? What sucks is that with a PPA you only have one year to get someone to be interested in it to file a Non-provisional patent or you have to file it yourself. Here’s what I would have done differently.

  1. Don’t go through a third-party website to file a provisional patent application.- I ended up spending $100 more just to have someone “review what I did” when all I needed to do was visit here: – Here you are able to file online, and the process is pretty simple, especially with a lot of the help you can find online, I was able to file in less than an hour this time around.
  2. Don’t hire a fancy illustrator to do your drawings – Contrary to popular belief, when you have an idea, you don’t have to have it ALL figured out, especially when it comes to a Provisional Patent. As long as you have a good idea, you can make a prototype, take a picture of it, try to draw it, or sketch it out. As long as the general idea is there and you are able to explain it, your idea is protected. I did most of the sketches up front, but I thought it had to perfect and only ended up using a couple of the drawings.
  3. Don’t wait for the “perfect time” – Sometimes we get afraid that people will steal our ideas, or we can improve upon an idea that hasn’t even been invented yet. Perhaps it’s good to take time to do research, but once you are able to see if your idea has been done (doing a quick patent search on google can help), then it’s best to just jump right in and start contacting industries. It seems daunting at first, but once you are passionate about your product, you’ll notice how quickly it is to get it from idea to paper.
  4. Don’t hire a spokesperson – No one knows your product better than you. I made this mistake of trying to get people to call for me, or friends to call for me because I was too afraid that I would say the wrong thing. At some point, it doesn’t matter and your passion speaks for you. When you believe in your product, you get others to believe in your product as well.
  5. Read the book! – Stephen Key hadn’t written this book before I filed my first application. I learned a lot of information from listening to his radio podcasts, and reading forums on the site, but this book helped put it all in one place and actually allowed me to see what steps I needed to take next and extra resources. There is a big supporting community out there, and it’s great to know that you aren’t the only one in a dark basement coming up with ideas. (or is that just me!) You can buy the book from here: One Simple Idea by Stephen Key (warning: this is an affiliate link, but in no way has this persuaded my blog post, it’s just a good book!)

I hoped you gained some information from this post. No matter what field you are in, if you have a good idea, it’s good to act on it. I’m a designer, so I do have a benefit of being able to design my own sell sheets, supporting websites, and any other marketing material I may need. That’s the good part. But you can always hire someone from sites like Elance, Odesk, or hire CHD Collective.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about how you get your ideas out there, please leave a comment below! I would love to hear about it!


Comments (1)
  • Ayla

    August 8, 2011

    Hello. I have an idea for a greenhouse design to minimize environmental impact on small scale food production. I’m not a mechanical or civil engineer in any capacity but I have an idea. I need to make some drawings.

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