Michael Fruhling's Blog

A bunch of stuff about innovation…

In Search of the Corporate Sugar Daddy

Posted by mdf4u on January 8, 2010

There is a pervasive disconnect between the public’s perception of external innovation and its reality as practiced within major corporations.   By “public”, I mean inventors and small business persons.   With my business, I see this every day.  It is remarkable how consistent the message is (such as the following):

“I have a great idea for an invention that will make millions.  All I need is for a big company to fund the completion of the development, and they can then put millions of dollars behind marketing it and distributing it to Walmart, Target, Kroger and Walgreens.  We’ll all be rich. 

By the way, Michael, since I don’t have any money myself and I want to compensate you fairly, how about you work on contingency, and I’ll pay you a hefty portion of our earnings when our ship comes in!”   

In effect, most of these folks are looking for a corporate Sugar Daddy…an entity that knows what it takes to create and implement a business plan and has the resources to successfully pull it off.   The entire premise of the television show American Inventor (the inventor version of American Idol) which aired several years ago was based on the inventor’s pursuit of the Sugar Daddy.

The reality is, that corporations aren’t routinely seeking “ideas”.  What they really want are commercially viable, manufacturing and cost feasible, protected/protectable technologies and products.  Some companies, like Kraft and P&G go to great pains to explain on their portals what types of innovations they’re seeking, and even list examples of them.  They may even go on to say that they strongly prefer ideas that are near or are market-ready.   From Kraft’s “Innovate with Kraft” portal:

“Kraft is accepting ideas ….for new products, packaging, and business processes/systems only. We are most interested in ideas that are more than a concept, in particular new products & packages that are ready to be brought to market (or can be brought to market quickly).”

If one studies the P&G Connect and Develop website, one will notice that the “success stories” posted substantially describe collaborations with established businesses.  

Despite this, individuals cling to their belief (rewritten as “dream”) that they will succeed once a major corporation embraces their vision and will fund their idea.   This is not at all to say that an individual with a substantial innovation can’t appeal to a major corporation and do business with them.   I’m guessing that this does occur, on occasion.  However, I suggest that if one wants to play with the big boys, one should at least know how the game is played in order to maximize their success odds.

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