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Are Patents a Game Changer? (a Good People Update)

May 15, 2019

So, there we were in Limbo, and not the fun, dancing under a stick kind.  An unseen force crushed our hopes. We had a crisis of commitment and thought about looking for other professional paths that might be less soul wrenching for us and our families.  And we came out the other side with…

 

patents, three of them.

 

Even for a patent attorney, that smacks of anticlimax.  I mean, six months on top of two years on top of a whole lot more that Ethan’s been working on getting his father’s technology to market, and we get three legal documents that few people can read (or would even care to) and convey little more than the right to send sternly worded letters (unless and until we can actually afford to enforce them).  So, what’s the point?

 

For us, the patents means three things

First, we no longer have to look over our shoulders and worry that something might happen to Ethan’s father’s company that trips us up.  We still plan to work with Ethan's father and hope that our success will help his company and their other cool (and patented) technologies.  But the Phoenix is ours now and we never have to go through that particular brand of Limbo again. 

 

Second, our license was a non-exclusive with a specific market focus.  This meant that we could prove a market, and then end up with licensed competitors.  There were also markets and business models we couldn’t even consider. And several of our advisors felt that our license would have been a non-starter for most investors.  With the patents, we no longer have those risks and limitations.

 

Third, it moves us into the position of licensor.  We can now enable others to integrate the product and patented technology into their services and products.  We can identify markets, complementary products, and service opportunities (or, better yet, people can approach us with great uses for the product) and work with strategic partners who are better positioned than we are to make things happen.

 

Which brings us to our pivot.

 

What’s a pivot (in startup jargon)?

A pivot is a decision to change some substantial aspect of a startup company’s strategy, generally in response to learning something about the market and/or technology that makes the prior strategy less appealing.  It is called a pivot because it isn’t supposed to change the big idea the company is built around, just adjust its direction relative to that fixed center.

 

Obviously, startup companies are making small adjustments to their technology, business model, message, and target markets on a monthly, weekly, and even daily basis.  That’s part of what makes startups such an effective approach to innovation, the freedom to be in constant learning mode. But a pivot generally represents a larger a-ha moment.

 

So, what’s our pivot and why?  

 

We are still anchored in our big idea of making it easier for people to adopt energy saving technologies while demonstrating corporate stewardship.  And we still believe the Phoenix’s tech is the right place to start. But there is a lot of room to pivot around those core ideas.

 

The patents are a big deal, but so are many other things we’ve learned along the way.  I’ll get back to you next post with our new direction and the key lessons driving it.

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