Tue | Sep 27, 2022
ADVISORY COLUMN: SMALL BUSINESS

Yaneek Page | Selling your business ideas

Published:Sunday | August 14, 2022 | 12:09 AM

QUESTION: Persons I have been interacting with have been asking which company or to whom should they go and sell a business idea in Jamaica. I am also interested in knowing that as well. In all honesty, there are millennials who have great...

QUESTION: Persons I have been interacting with have been asking which company or to whom should they go and sell a business idea in Jamaica. I am also interested in knowing that as well. In all honesty, there are millennials who have great business ideas that they would love to pitch, but due to lack of monetary resources, they find it difficult to get a start. I am confident in you advising me on the matter. My suggestion is that you could start something similar to “Shark Tank” in Jamaica or another idea of your choice to assist the persons who are hungry to make their business ideas come to fruition despite the challenges. If you should say yes to this response, once you require team members, I can be of assistance in organising.

—Social media user

BUSINESSWISE: This is a fantastic question! It Is thought-provoking and provides an excellent opportunity to skim a wealth of issues related to innovation, intellectual property ownership and rights, and strategic business collaboration.

Local enterprises do sometimes pay for business ideas but usually within a very narrow scope. For example, from time to time, some local companies will organise and host various idea-pitch events, promotions, and even competitions where they invite the public to submit innovations related to improvement of the company’s marketing strategy, business processes, and even products or services. However, it is exceptionally challenging to find local companies that have established frameworks or ongoing programmes that support unsolicited business idea submissions. I did considerable internet research to find local companies that have a policy and established process to accept such ideas from the public and came up empty.

Unsolicited ideas

Interestingly one of the few local companies that have a published policy on receiving ideas is Dairy Industries Jamaica Limited, however, the company’s ‘Ideas Submission Policy’ expressly rejects unsolicited submissions, warning that any ideas submitted to them become their own. It reads as follows:

DIJL does not accept unsolicited ideas and submissions for products, packaging, marketing, advertising, research, or business operations. Should you ignore this policy and submit an idea, you agree that the idea becomes and remains the sole and exclusive property of DIJL without further compensation.

The fact is, like Dairy Industries Jamaica Limited, many enterprises, particularly those that are expansive and highly successful have established innovation strategies and mechanisms and don’t want your unsolicited business ideas. Global enterprises like Pepsi, Apple, Walmart, Burger King, and many others discourage external ideation and instead leverage their internal innovation capacity and strategic acquisitions thrust.

Indeed , to stave off spurious claims for intellectual property ownership surrounding their innovations, many companies have policies to proactively reduce IP legal risks.

Here is a short excerpt from the unsolicited business idea submission policy from the wealthiest company in the world, Apple:

Apple or any of its employees do not accept or consider unsolicited ideas, including ideas for new advertising campaigns, new promotions, new or improved products or technologies, product enhancements, processes, materials, marketing plans or new product names. Please do not submit any unsolicited ideas, original creative artwork, suggestions, or other works (“submissions”) in any form to Apple or any of its employees. The sole purpose of this policy is to avoid potential misunderstandings or disputes when Apple’s products or marketing strategies might seem similar to ideas submitted to Apple.”

Who will buy

Ultimately, the pool of buyers for business ideas is limited. However the good news is that there are some international companies that drive innovation by actively encouraging individuals and organisations to collaborate or pursue partnerships by submitting ideas and proposals. In fact, one global corporation that is bullish on exactly what you have described is Bosch.

According to their webpage — https://innovate-bosch.com/ — which is dedicated to external partnerships, they offer a fast track directly into their organisation and will provide you with a personal adviser who will introduce you to the Bosch contacts so that you can develop meaningful partnerships.

Notwithstanding, a critical point I need to impress upon you is that generally speaking, enterprises and investors do not favour ideas but prefer provisionally registered intellectual property and/or start-up or early growth phase businesses that have demonstrated considerable promise to provide substantial returns on investments based on market validation and financial performance.

Therefore, if you are seriously considering selling ideas to businesses, the more viable approach is to expound upon and build out your ideas into innovations that can either be registered as intellectual property — such as copyrighted works, trademarks, registered designs, and patents — and/or launch lean start-up ventures.

I understand that financing innovation is costly and requires considerable resources, and unfortunately, this is an Achilles heel for inventors and innovative entrepreneurs worldwide, particularly in small island developing countries like Jamaica. However, the fact is that the pool of prospective investors will increase dramatically once you pass that critical proof threshold, garnering evidence that your innovation is market ready, functional, and profitable, with scope for growth.

On a final note, thank you for your suggestion regarding a Shark Tank-like TV show. I’ll consider it for the future as well as your kind offer to assist.

One love!

Yaneek Page is the programme lead for Market Entry USA, a certified trainer in entrepreneurship, and creator and executive producer of The Innovators and Let’s Make Peace TV series. Email: yaneek.page@gmail.com