As a fixture in Silicon Valley for more than 50 years, I have helped nurture more than 40 new ventures. In keeping with the mission of the re-launched Inventors Digest, the magazine asked me to show how three inventors turned their creations into viable businesses. Selecting just three wasn't easy. Then again, neither is creating a business from an idea scribbles on a cocktail napkin.
Although all three ideas are vastly different, they share a few common characteristics: identifiable market need, sufficient capital, and persistence.
Mark Publicover was a general contractor in Saratoga, Calif., until shortly after his three young children received a trampoline as a gift from their grandparents. After several fall-off accidents, he looked for some form of fall protection, but not finding any he designed and built the first affordable safety net enclosure for trampolines.
I met Mark in 1997, the very early days of JumpSport, and was introduced by a mutual friend to evaluate whether he should go into the business or license his technology. The numbers were compelling: 500,000 trampolines were sold each year in the United States, there were three million existing trampolines in back yards across America, and 80 percent of all serious injuries resulted from fall-off accidents. Obviously there was a big, unsatisfied market for a safety enclosure. Mark had surrounded himself with a team of qualified, experienced people and had the backing of a loyal investor, so I encouraged him to go for it.
At the February 1998 Super Show, the JumpSport enclosure was voted one of the five best new products of the year and within months it was selling briskly at Costco, BJ’s Wholesale, Fred Meyers, and other retailers.
By 1999, low quality knockoffs began displacing JumpSport at the major retailers. The company shifted production overseas to compete, but margins continued to fall. In 2000 Mark responded by creating a new line of patented safety-enhanced trampolines that were sold directly online (www.jumpsport.com) and a new high-end brand, “AlleyOop Sports,” that sold through a nationwide network of small dealers. By 2002, the company was profitable. In 2006, after a 5- year battle, JumpSport successfully enforced its patents on appeal. Today the company is very successful, has a portfolio of innovative products in the works, and the inventor I met almost 10 years ago is now a wealthy entrepreneur
To get your own JumpCourt check out the company's web
site: www.jumpsport.com. East Coast customers can also
find some products at BJ's Wholesale.