Stephen Key is the author of One Simple Idea, founder of InventRight, inventor of dozens of popular products, and mentor to Tim Ferriss.
This interview is PACKED with knowledge to help anyone with a simple idea and turn it into a potentially wildly profitable product.
I love Stephen’s openness and willingness to help, which shines through his students’ many success stories.
- Why it’s easy for “Average Joe’s” to come up with profitable product ideas
- How Stephen went from selling toys at art fairs to licensing top-selling products like Michael Jordan Wall Ball
- How to invent a product and test the idea for less than $100
- The key differences between licensing & manufacturing products
- How Stephen became the largest manufacturer of guitar picks in the world, selling 10’s of millions in big-box retailers
- How Stephen’s student invented the Woof Washer 360 got 70,000,000 video views and got a licensing deal from the biggest company, Telebrands
Links & Resources From This Episode:
- Stephen’s Bestselling Book – One Simple Idea
- Stephen's website – InventRight.com
- Stephen’s required reading #1 – The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday
- Stephen’s required reading #2 – The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz
- Subscribe to Stephen’s YouTube channel – InventRightTV
Subscribe To The Pathways To Wealth Show:
Chris Dunn: Alright. Hello everybody. This is Chris Dunn back with you and today I have another great interview with Stephen Key. Thanks Stephen for being here.
Stephen Key: Thank you very much Chris, my pleasure.
Chris: Awesome. To kind of kick this off, I’ll do a short intro and then I’ll let you take it over. Stephen is the founder for Inventright.com and he’s got a very impressive background, so I'm just going to pass it over to you Stephen, what should everybody know about you?
Stephen: I hate the question. Number one, I think of myself as a creative guy. I wanted to make a living doing something I really enjoy. My father taught me early on that if you want to create great wealth, that you have to find something that doesn’t require these and it doesn’t require your physical presence, so I started coming up with ideas, showing those ideas to companies and they would pay me a royalty on every one they sold and it’s basically renting an idea to a company and it’s really called licensing but I didn’t know it at that time. I just wanted to show them how to make more money and it has worked out beautifully.
Chris: Nice. So do you consider yourself an inventor or an idea guy? How would you define yourself if you have to put it into a definition?
Stephen: That title “inventor” is a pretty big title. I would say I'm a product artist, how’s that? Just like any other consumer, there are things that I like and don’t like about products and I don’t think I'm the most creative guy on the planet, I look for opportunities. I think companies miss a lot of opportunities with product development just because they're so busy putting out so many fires. It makes it easy for guys like me or anybody that’s creative to find those holes, those opportunities that they're missing and come up with a – I don’t think you have to reinvent the wheel. My strategy is to come up with a small improvement on an existing idea.
Chris: Okay, so something that’s proven that can improve and that you know there’s a market for right?
Stephen: I love that. You're absolutely right. If you do that, number one, most likely it can be manufactured; number two, you already know they're selling something similar to it.
Chris: Nice. Well, I have so many questions I think it’s probably best just to start at the beginning. How did you get started in this space and what was your first idea and what have you parlayed that into?
Stephen: What do you with an art degree? You're going to graduate and you realize there are no jobs out there for being an artist, so I panicked. I started in college, I was an economics major, hated it, took at art class, loved it. I want to work with my hands and create things. But once I dived in, I wasn’t quite sure what to do, so I just created my own job because I didn’t think anybody is ever going to hire me. School is not my favorite thing and I just went out and made little stuffed animals type of thing and sold them at street fairs and I learned some very important lessons. If someone doesn’t like your idea, you got to kick it to the curb as fast as you can and find something else to pay the bills – so just kind of creative things and sold them. People like them and I just wanted to know how could I scale that up? How could I put some of those simple ideas out in the marketplace, in stores, and then I met a few people along the way that challenged me a little bit. And so I was thinking how could I sell my little things around the world? And so I started out really not liking business but it all comes back to business a little bit and just having fun with it, so I started just selling things at street fairs.
Chris: Interesting. Were these things that you just created with your hands you just came up with and you quickly found out if people liked it or not and if they didn’t you moved on and thought of a different idea?
Stephen: Exactly. The first art show I went to, I would actually take a nylon that women would use and I would stuff them with cotton to make little funny faces. I remember going to my first art show and my father showed up. He said, “Steve, how’d you do?” And I said, “What? I had a great time.” He goes, “Well, how many did you sell?” And I said, “I didn’t sell any.” And he looked at me kind of funny but he knew there was something about that process of showing your goods and having someone maybe wanting them and giving you money for it. I learned very quickly that I had to come up with something else because they didn’t like what I was making. I looked around and people were selling vegetables at this little art fair, so I made little soft sculptures that looked like carrots and bananas and the next time I went, they sold.
Chris: Interesting. So you found some products that worked and what have you moved into since then? What’s a product that you’ve created that has been licensed and just a [unintelligible 00:07:09] and a successful invention or art that you turned into a product that made some money.
Stephen: Yes. My career started I was 27 years old selling at art fairs and I took my first job at Worlds of Wonder which was a toy company and I went over to Hong Kong and helped design and manufacture Teddy Ruxpin, the talking teddy bear. That was my first real job at 27 and then we had lazer tag I was involved in and I eventually decided I wanted to work on my own projects but that gave me the ability to understand manufacturing a little bit, so I started my company Stephen Key design and that the first I did I licensed was an indoor basketball game called the Michael Jordan Wall Ball. I looked at the little basketball games and they were square. I loved playing basketball and I love Michael Jordan, so I just took a poster of Michael Jordan, slapped it on a backboard and so the backboard is now in the shape of Michael Jordan and I loved it. I put it up there and I just played basketball. I remembered thinking I'm going to license this to a company and sure enough I sent it to Ohio Art, and three days later, I had a contract. They had the license of Michael Jordan and it sold for 10 years. In the first year, I made $100,000 on a little indoor basketball game that they licensed for me and it sold for 10 years.
Chris: That’s great. So were you in the big box stores or—
Stephen: It sold to all the traditional – Wal-Mart, Toy R Us – and I remember, there’s a little commercial that came on in TV and Michael Jordan would shoot it and he’d make it and he’d look at the screen and says “The best-looking backboard I've ever seen.” I remember walking into Toys R Us and seeing just a wall of these Michael Jordan Wall Balls and thinking that I've made this basically with about $10 of material. It kind of took me back that my father was right. You have to find something that didn’t require your hands or your presence. That’s what really clicked, that simple ideas showing companies how to make – this situation, showing Ohio Art had to leverage the image of Michael Jordan help them sell more basketball games which put money in my pocket too.
Chris: Nice. Who were the key players in this? It was you, the inventor, if you will, of this idea and then you licensed it to that company and then did they contact Michael Jordan and give him a royalty on that as well?
Stephen: Great question. They were selling this basketball game and they have a little sticker of Michael Jordan on it, but it was too small Chris. It was just about that big, so they had to license and they were selling it already. That was the main point here. I'm glad you brought that up. Because they have to license, they will pay him a royalty, they had all the distribution. I just showed them how to really leverage that image. It went from plastic, it went to paper, cardboard cutout. I showed them how to reduce the cost. They put it in a clear casing. You can actually see Michael Jordan and I never thought in a million years it would sell so many. I didn’t have any protection, and hopefully, we’ll talk about that later because people think you need this protection and you don’t. But that was the first one, and after that one, I was hooked. I was done. I wanted to do this forever.
Chris: This was your art, right? Creating products, improving products, and what an amazing feeling that must have been to see something that was just fun for you to create become this massive product that sold for so many years.
Stephen: The feeling that you have when you bring an idea to market and you see it on the shelf space is overwhelming. The second time that happened to me, I created a – it was a packaging innovation. There was never enough information on packages and I came up with this rotating label, really simple. I first prototype and I remember going to Wal-Mart, picked up the sample took the coffee machine, made a sample, and a year and a half later, it was on TV with Alec Trebek spinning the label. It was in all the Wal-Marts. It came full circle and people used to watch me on my little desk making the sample and probably wondering “What is he doing?” and then to see it later when I walked in the they would all applaud because they saw it made right there and now it was on TV so it was great.
Chris: So people were like, “Man, we were part of that. We were there when he just had this hairbrained idea and just working on it at his desk.”
Stephen: They didn’t believe it, heck, I didn’t believe it either but it worked.
Chris: Nice. Have you had any massive failures or any products that you thought were going to be huge that didn’t quite work out the way that you had hope or thought they were going to work out?
Stephen: I think any time you're reaching out trying to do something new, you're going to trip off and you're going to have failures. You know. I don’t look at it as failures. I kind of look at this as a learning experiencing . Let’s put it this way, I'm in the business of rejection and it really motivates me more when they tell me “no” for some reason. It doesn’t bother me. It motivates me, so I try to figure out why and listen to what people are telling me, get good feedback, come back and try to show them another idea. I’ve realized just because I might get rejected with one idea, I built a relationship. I always go back to that company again, submit another idea, so it’s never a waste of time. You only really fail when you quit. It never really bothered me I could probably wallpaper my house with rejection. Don’t get me wrong, you better be prepared to get a quite few “no’s.”
Chris: That makes a lot of sense. It seems like the space that you're in which is improving or creating products to change mass behavior in a lot of times or serve a really big audience, it’s kind of like, you probe ideas right? Like you said, it’s not failing, you're just seeking out and then maybe one in I don’t know how many hits and you're like, “Okay, this is one that actually resonates with people” and then you bring it to market or what’s that kind of process, that discovery process look like?
Stephen: I'm glad you brought that up. The old way used to be I'm going to file for a patent. I'm going to build a prototype and then after all that, I'm going to show somebody or make it myself. I did everything completely different. I want to test the market first and I can do that really simple. I can do that for less than$100. I can file a provisional patent application for $65, anybody can do it anywhere in the world by the way. It gets me one year to put patent pending on my idea and shop it around. I create a sell sheet which is this one-page advertising my product — a benefit at the top, it’s going to do this, and then I send it to companies. Today, it’s so easy to get your ideas to companies now because they have online submission forms. I can send that 12 o’clock at night. I can send it off to a company. Now you have to read the fine print of course and find the right companies but the bottom line is I can spend less than $100. I can come up with an idea in the morning, build a sell sheet, file a PPA, and by the afternoon I can start sending it off to companies to see if they want it or not. Those allow you to take away some risks, speed it up a little bit, and not invest money or emotion into your ideas.
Chris: What’s the biggest mistake that people make? It sounds like it might be doing the opposite which is maybe investing months or years obsessing about an idea and thinking about it and not even knowing if there’s a market for it.
Stephen: The first two things people always make a mistake, they let fear take over. They come up with this idea and they think someone’s going to steal it so I'm going to file a patent on that. That’s a big mistake. If you do a little homework and you can do it really easy, do a Google image search on your idea. If you’ve got a new hammer innovation, type in hammers and look at the world of hammers now on the internet. I can study the marketplace, I call it studying the microcategory and within hours I can learn everything there is about every hammer ever. And then if I see my idea, I can decide, “Well, maybe I’ll do something else” or “Hey, maybe I did it big.” Anybody can do that and that’s based on fear. It’s based on knowledge. And then the second thing would be to go to Google patents and type in hammers and learn about what other people have patented. So you’ve really done the research and you can do it yourself anywhere and with that information, you can decide to move forward. What people had mistakes in the past, they spend too much time worrying about the fear. They spend too much money on patents without really seeing if the market wants it first or if it’s a new idea.
Chris: Nice. I have experienced that fear from entrepreneurs in the tech startup space. I'm an angel investor here in Austin Texas and one thing that I always tell a rookie founder, they say, “Hey, well you sign an NDA before I tell you my idea” and the answer is always no because everybody has ideas, right? Ideas are a dime a dozen but I think it really comes to execution. What would you say is the biggest barrier to executing one of these ideas once they’ve done the research and they think they have a market, what’s the next step and where do people usually trip up at that point?
Stephen: They were thinking. They imagine what people are going to say, they don’t realize to try it. File a provisional patent application or don’t even file one. Don’t even do that or forget it, just contact the company and go “Hey, I'm a product developer. Can I submit ideas to your company? How do I do it?” Do that first and see how they treat you. If they treat you poorly, go to the next company. But if they say to you, “Hey, fantastic, thanks for calling” This is what you need to do. You're going to realize, “Hey, I can do this.” Most people hesitate because they think maybe they don’t have enough experience or they're starting to think of, well, how do I protect it, what do I own, all the things that run through your mind.
But the bottom line is this, companies need ideas. It’s called open innovation of companies who have opened their doors for outside inventors, creative people like myself, product artists to submit ideas. They need us. The appetite for new is so great to this country that all you want to do is feed the machine, give them ideas, give them ideas. Most ideas that come to market do not have patents. They come from individuals such as ourselves, but for some reason, we think we have started a business. The thing I like about licensing is that you don’t have to quit your day job, you don’t have to raise money, you can do it anytime you want to, anybody can do it, and it’s all those things that stop people from the fear of being an entrepreneur. That’s what I like about licensing and licensing is really finding that perfect partner that has experience, has relationships, marketing budgets. They have everything you don’t have. The thing that’s missing is a good idea. That’s why I like it and I've been doing it forever. I write books about it. I've been talking about it and it’s just fun. It’s fun.
Chris: Have you ever gone the opposite route where you actually manufacture yourself or do you stick with the licensing model?
Stephen: No. A good friend of mine I've known forever came up to me and said “Hey, let’s do guitar picks.” Why would they do guitar picks? But we did. We jumped in and I started designing guitar picks and the first one I designed was a skull. A guitar pick with the shape of a skull. It was hit. It was really big hit. We brought it to a trade show and I got a new business business two reasons. Number one, he knew about the music business. He had a store. Alright. But how much money could it possibly take selling guitar picks and it cost pennies. I said, “Okay, I'm going to jump in with my own money now.” And we did but what I realized very very quickly we grew so fast, we became one of the largest supplier of guitar picks in the world. We did Mickey Mouse, we have Taylor Swift. I was sold them at Wal-Mart, 7-11’s, tens of millions, people don’t realize how much money it takes. Even selling the guitar picks, still I was floating up my own money at least $300,000 just to Wal-Mart.
Chris: Just for the inventory?
Stephen: People have no idea. It didn’t start out that way but when you become successful or start to deal with those type of retailers you have to have enough product to put in their pipeline and then you have to have more inventory because if they sell out, they're going to order it again, you have 2 days to fulfill it. You have to backup your inventory and you just got to be on hand, so you end up having all this money out. You're going to work twice as hard as you think they're real work. I loved every minute of it but you're going to work hard.
Number two, you're always going to be owing people money, which I never liked, and you're always going to be looking over your back who’s coming to get you type of thing. We were lucky, the people who were making our guitar picks was the biggest supplier of guitar picks, so we took our competition out, but we had to work very very hard and that’s not what I wanted to do long term. I did that for at least four or five years, had a ball, but long term it wasn’t really something I wanted to do.
Chris: Gotcha. So you went back to licensing and is this something that you're still doing on a daily basis or every year looking for ideas, submitting ideas, or have you taken a step back from that.
Stephen: No. I'm still very involved. I came up with this one idea that has generated quite a nice royalty string for me over the years. In fact, for 20 years I still collect royalties from it. I don’t create as much. I tried to manage that business a little bit, drives me nuts to making sure people pay you. If it gets manufacturers on time, things go right.
Chris: What business is that?
Stephen: Well, it’s my spin label. It’s in colleges, it’s been on Nescafe coffee in Japan, it’s been on Jim Beams, it’s been on national brands. It comes and goes Chris. It came out really hard. We sold hundreds of millions of them, made a ton of money, and then it died down. I went and did something else and then I got pulled back in it again. I don’t want to do anything for 20 years. I don’t care what it is but it keeps on pulling me back. Now, it’s on college campuses which was really cool by the way because I went to one of my best friend’s son’s graduation, 10,000-seat auditorium and I see people, they're drinking water spinning my label. It was so cool to see it. That’s what I do most of the time, but also, I do a lot of education. Of course, I write books on the topic as well.
Chris: Yeah, I see you're very active on entrepreneur.com and a few other big publications, so it seems like you really have a passion for writing and helping people and I think we’re pretty similar in that way. What was it that inspired you to get into helping other people bring products to market or licensing?
Stephen: It was an accident actually. I went to an inventor’s group 15 years ago and everybody was struggling. A good friend of mine invited me to go. I went there and I realized what are all those people gathering for and why are they struggling and I realized they were doing everything the wrong way. So I met my partner today, Andrew Kraus and he said, “Steve, how did you figure this out so easy?”And I told him, “Why don’t we start teaching it?” So I started teaching it and it grew into just a small community. It started 15 years ago. It’s called Inventright and it just grew.
One of my early students was Tim Ferriss and Tim Ferriss kind of put me on the map. He was a student. We couldn’t get rid of him. He’s probably the most persistent person I've ever met and he wrote the 4-Hour Work Week, wrote about me in the 4-Hour Work Week and then my phone just rang off the hook and I didn’t know what happened either because it was pretty quiet until one day everything changed. It’s like, “What happened?”
Chris: Something blew up. Yeah, I remember that.
Stephen: That it happened by mistake Chris, it was no great plan. And then, I found my voice. I found something I really like. Education was really something special for me, so I just kept with it. No plan. McGraw Hill contacted me about four years ago and said, “You got a good audience. Why don’t you write this book” and I remember I sell a course and I put the whole course in the book but the course is very expensive, so everybody was saying, “Why would you take your whole course and put it into a book for $14.95?” They thought that was crazy. Tim Ferriss told me, “Steve, if you're going to write anything, write it like it’s your last. Never hold back one bit of knowledge” I didn’t and that book has been translated in four or five different languages. It still sells today.
Chris: And that’s one simple idea?
Stephen: One simple idea. It’s got a 10-step system that I still teach. We have students all over the world that use it. My students are extremely successful. We have a coaching program that’s almost like a fitness program. We make you do the work. We make you do everything within 60 days. If you don’t, we call you and hound you. We don’t let you go. And what happens, people get in it and they realize, “Hey, I can do this” and they license a lot of ideas, so it works. It’s a good thing.
Chris: Nice. What piece of advice would you give somebody who has never submitted an idea to a company or hasn’t reached out or made any headway but maybe they have ideas, what’s the most important piece of advice that you would give to a new inventor?
Stephen: The whole world has changed. Companies want ideas, so they do want you and you're an expert, you don’t even know it because you're a consumer. Number two, because of Shark Tank, because of 3D printing, because of Kickstarter crowdfunding sites, you can get your ideas to market now. You don’t need to rely on three guys in the back room making decisions now what’s going to happen or not. You can gather all this information and you can play. The game has changed. Don’t think you have to quit your day job. Do as much research about licensing if that’s the way you want to go or if you want to venture, learn as much as you can. You know the drill. Find someone who’s doing it, get as close as you can to him, and then suck all that information out of him. I believe that this is so simple and so fun to do but you have to take that first step.
So I tell everybody, do this, call a company for kicks, just call a company out of the blue somewhere that you like and you can do it now, you can do it tomorrow. Tell them you're a product developer, call them up, “Hey, I'm a product developer. I want to start submitting ideas to you. How do I do it?” And when they give you the right contact information and said we’re looking for an idea, you're going to fall out of your chair. You're going to realize, “Alright. I can do this. I better get more information.” I try to tell everybody “It’s fun to do and get off the couch, man.”
Chris: Do something.
Stephen: Do something fun. I love it when your hands get sweaty and you're not quite sure what’s going to happen. That’s when you know you're really alive. I think it’s okay to – you're not going to have all the answers. It’s perfectly fine. No one ever does.
Chris: Beautiful. To recap that, the barriers to entry are gone, meaning the game has changed. It’s easier than it ever has been. The second thing I got from was find a mentor and extract all of the knowledge out of it and I think starting with your book would be step one. I mean, you packed so much value into that. And then number three, just make some calls. Take some action. What’s the worse that’s going to happen? You're not putting out a lot of money. You're just spending a few minutes of your time, right?
Stephen: Thank you for summarizing that so beautifully. But what’s really fun, I have so many that bought the book, they do exactly what they're doing and then they get a contract, and then they're like, “What do we do now?” Now, I talk a lot about the contract but that’ when you know “I'm really in the game.” You're not in the game sitting on the couch, you're not in the game not thinking about it, you're not in the game just by reading books. It takes action. Once you do, you're going to realize this is really fun and I'm all about watching people succeed. I love that. when people license ideas, especially my students reading the books, I feel like it’s part of my success. That’s what I love about it so much. So get out there and try it, and if you do, let me know how it turns out. Let me know. Let Chris know. Do it, let him know.
Chris: Yeah. I'm always looking for feedback. I love when people take action and they're like, “Hey, I failed miserably and here’s why” or “This worked out amazing and here’s why.” Any feedback is great isn’t it? It looks like you’ve learnt with a lot of people. What’s a product that stands out that was wildly successful from one of your students?
Stephen: I’ll give you one, you're going to love this too. You know how your sink gets clogged with hair and everything in there. One of my students, Gene, came up with – it’s called a Zip It. It’s this long plastic piece of little bars and you stick it in there and you pull all the hair out. Now, that’s such a simple idea. Now, what’s really about it, he sells hundreds of thousands just at one retailer a month. A piece of plastic sells for $2.69, it’s called Zip It.
There’s another one you can see in the spring time, it’s called woof washer 360. He got turned down by everybody, became a student, read the book, did all that great stuff and found a smaller company — don’t got after the big companies, go after the smaller guys. They will love you to death – he goes out to the smaller guys, they put this little video on Facebook, got 70 million views in 19 days. The biggest company came along, they licensed it, you’ll see it out this spring. It’s going to be everywhere. It’s called the Woof Washer 360. It’s how to wash your pet.
Chris: Woof Washer 360. Let me get that straight, so he created the product then he manufactured it himself?
Stephen: No. He made the product, showed it to everybody. Now this is what I love about it, everybody turned him down until he found this one small company that said, “Hey, we’ll try it.” They made a little commercial. In fact, when they put it on Facebook, they didn’t put sound. There was no sound. They made a mistake. It still got 70 million views. It was enough now we went to a big company they're going to manufacture it. It’s going to be on commercials. They're going to do the whole nine yards. He’s going to collect checks. He’s going to make so much money. He’s going to do whatever he wants and whenever he wants.
Chris: I just looked it up. I remember seeing this. My wife was like, “We have to get one” because our dog hates getting in the bath tub so it’s like the circle that you just kind of run over your dog. I love it, 70 million views.
Stephen: I remember when it first came on my Facebook feed, it had 6.9 million views. It’s Ryan Diaz. He called me said, “Steve, this thing’s getting a lot of views” it’s got like 6 million views and then it just went up and up and up to 70 million views.
Chris: Oh my goodness. That’s amazing.
Stephen: You got to love it.
Chris: So he created a product, he partnered with a smaller company, proved that the product has a market. Did they take presales or did they actually have inventory that they sold?
Stephen: They didn’t have any. They just put the commercial on. My phone was ringing off the hook especially all the guys who turned it down were calling me. And I said, “Look, I have nothing to do with this. He’s my student. You got to talk to him.” And then now, the biggest guy on the planet grabbed it and you’ll see it everywhere. It’s called the Woof Washer 360.
Chris: Nice. So they're going to be doing infomercials? Are they doing QBC or can they can not do that with the licensing agreement?
Stephen: The company is Telegrams which is one of the biggest. It’s going to be everywhere.
Stephen: Yeah, there won't be a place – this will be available all over the world too. In fact, they just got an email from him today. They’ve made a couple of changes to make it even better. I'm just so happy for him because he got all the “no’s” and it still didn’t stop him.
Chris: Nice, just persevere. Because he go the “no’s” how did he know he had a good idea or was he just guessing.
Stephen: He got all the “no’s” and then he contacted us. And then we said, “Alright, let’s re-look at it again” and what I said to him, our team said “Look, you got a lot of no’s from the big players. Why don’t we find a smaller player? Find the guy that wants to be a big player” because sometimes the big guys don’t get it right. They're so set on their formulas that they don’t want to take a risk. So he found a smaller guy that looked at it and he was like “I love this” and it worked.
Sometimes when we go after the big companies, I did the same thing too, but the big companies don’t take the risk. They don’t have to be market leaders. They're market followers. They’ll wait for the small guys to fight it out and they come back if they got great distribution, so we’re all about making a complete list, contacting everybody, but don’t go after the big guys first. Go after some smaller guys and you’ll have more luck in there and he did and it worked.
Chris: Nice. Tell me a little bit more about your coaching business and how that works. Do people come to you and you have a course that you put them through and then you partner with them? What does that look like?
Stephen: No. We don’t partner. We strictly do education. It’s a year-long program. It’s hand holding program but I don’t know why people meet but they do at time, not everybody meets but some people do. They find us on YouTube. We have a channel called Inventright YouTube, they see it or they find my website, they read something and then they follow me for a while. But eventually, when they sign up, they get assigned a coach and they can call that coach anytime they want as many times as you want for a full year. So you work with a coach, and then the coach takes them to step, and the 10-step system takes them to step number 8. When they get a licensing agreement, that’s when they call me and I handle that for them because that gets a little tricky.
Our coaches have licensed ideas. Our coaches are on the same boat the students are in, the same boat I'm in, we’re all in the same boat. We’re all tied together. And I believe this, we’re only successful if our students are successful. Whatever you have to do, stay with them, push them hard, and make sure they follow our system, they take everything that we show them and make them do it, and when they do it, they realize things happen. Doors open, they learn things, they get in the game, their whole life changes. And then usually what happens once they get a deal, they get it, they don’t rely on us so much anymore because we’ve taught them everything, and now, they just become friends. That’s the thing I like about it. I got friends all over the world. I love it and I even have students who have licensed ideas come back and then years later call me and we still help them out. We’re all in the same boat, same community, so it works.
Chris: That’s great. Well, I'm probably going to be Tim Ferriss and be one of your most annoying students because a partner of mine here locally, he’s another venture capital guy, we’ve had an idea that we have been kicking around for a few weeks and we’ve done some market research and we’re like, “Okay. Well, let’s go ahead and start manufacturing this thing” and I'm like, “I don’t know if that’s the best idea maybe we should think about licensing,” so I want to use that as a case study that hopefully a few months or a few years from now we can come back to this interview and look at it and laugh at it and say this was the starting point of something really cool.
Stephen: You call me anytime you need me and I will help you cut that deal. And you know what you're going to find? If you look at licensing that’s finding the perfect partner, your speed to market is going to increase so quick and today it is about the speed to market.
Stephen: You can spend years developing a company only for someone to come in and take your market share.
Chris: Yeah, I don’t know the first thing about manufacturing or distribution of physical stuff. I'm a digital tech guy. I really appreciate your time today Stephen. I just a few rapid fire questions that I wanted to shoot out to your really quick. What book would you say, other than your own, is required reading for somebody that wants to invent or create ideas and bring them to market?
Stephen: Well, I don’t call my book an “inventing book” as they're all so dry and boring, so I don’t recommend any of them. But I’m going to recommend one book, in fact, two books, the one I just read recently that really changed my perspective broader than just inventing would be The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday. I love that book in that you're always going to have obstacles in your way but how to treat an obstacle is an opportunity. Once you shift gears, you then you don’t see any problems anymore.
Chris: That’s great.
Stephen: That’s a huge shift. And then the other one would be The Magic Of Thinking Big. That’s a book that has been around forever. I think it’s Charles Schwartz I think, I'm not sure. But The Magic Of Thinking Big, you’ll find that book is very motivational and inspiring especially
when you're going after a big project where you know you're going to be beaten up along the way, get the book.
Chris: The Magic Of Thinking Big and The Obstacle Is The Way. Do you have a favorite quote or a mantra that you like to live by?
Stephen: I don’t know. I always believe that, I said this earlier, you only fail when you really quit. I've realized no matter how many people tell me “no” I never quit. I never fail. That’s what I go by. I don’t know who has quoted that. I have no idea but that’s what I go by.
Chris: Nice. Final question. What does true wealth mean to you?
Stephen: The freedom to do whatever you want whenever you want it. Time is the new currency. I felt that way. I just got goosebumps saying that I've always felt that time was the most precious thing that you have and it’s very very limited and if you control what you do with your time, you're the richest man on the world.
Chris: I love it. I think that’s a great way to wrap it up. Stephen, thank you so much for spending the past 40 minutes with us. I'm sure everybody’s going to get a ton of value out of this and for anybody that has ideas, absolutely grab his books. We’re going to link everything up here on the show notes. Any final words of wisdom Stephen?
Stephen: No. All I want to say is, Chris, when you get started if you need me, call me and I’ll help you. And to any of the other listeners, try it, you’ll be amazed at what you can do.
Chris: Awesome. Well you’ve just opened up Pandora’s Box my friend.
Stephen: Good, good, good. Thank you very much Chris, I've enjoyed it very much.
Chris: Thank you so much Stephen.