Trends. Not surprisingly, the well-prepared presenters came armed with facts and research, although there were often many holes. One woman's pitch raised the question of how often people vacuum their cars. Another woman pushing a stand for holding multiple pairs of eyeglasses -- similar to what one might see on the counter of an optician -- asserted that the average eyeglass wearer owns three to four pairs. As is the case in high-tech consumer products, this talent search kept in mind the American idle, albeit in contrasting ways. While the first product presented provided a way to work off a few calories even while seated at a desk, the last one presented enabled consumer to take their shoes on and off without having to keep tying their laces.
Team. In demo conferences and VC pitches, entrepreneurs highlight their record of achievement, how they've built and sold companies or at least run high-profile divisions at successful companies. But those who had made it to the Telebrands Inventors' Day came from all walks of life. Some were career inventors like the identical twins behind Twinnovations, some sold their creations at flea markets -- like a family that had created a modular candle that burns in sections -- and some projects grew out of crafts. One of the judges' favorite products was the first invented by a certain graduate student -- a spray for women's legs that left them shiny for a few hours.
That's not to say that experience didn't count for anything, or at least the relationships that prior pitches could bring. In the end, perhaps the judges' two favorite products came from inventors who had already launched successful products. The first, designed by the brothers at Twinnovations, was a ridiculously simple tilted stand on which one would place a pan in order to have the fat and oil drip off fried foods, achieving the effect of a poor man's George Foreman grill.
The other, designed by a pediatrician known as "Dr. Jen," was mostly two small plastic squares joined by a hinge to provide resistance. Placed on the floor, he device counts the taps of your foot in an effort to encourage exercise while seated, extending the idea behind "10,000 step-a-day" fitness programs. Her previous product was a U-shaped mat with slots for cards to encourage parent-child interaction. Think you've got a shot? Upcoming Inventors' Days will be held in New York and Las Vegas. To apply, you need only send your ideas to email@example.com.
After the winning concepts are picked, distribution terms are negotiated, and the products are test marketed to see if they can make the jump to national infomercial fame. Ultimately much will have to be weighed before the company makes the call, but you can bet that operators will be standing by.
Ross Rubin (@rossrubin) is executive director of industry analysis for consumer technology at market research and analysis firm The NPD Group. Views expressed in Reserve Power are his own.