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Should You Hire an Invention Development Consultant or Handle It on Your Own? Here’s How to Decide.

You’ve got an idea for the next great product, but now you’ve got to turn it into reality. Should you hire an invention development consultant or strike out on your own?.

paced and risky venture that produces many highs when a new idea strikes. It can also be full of lows, especially when those epiphanies hit a snag in the planning or execution phase.

Although mistakes and learning curves are an inevitable part of the process, a truly innovative spirit can get you through most of them. But for those who aren’t sure where to start, there’s also the option of hiring an invention development consultant.

An invention development consultant is someone who provides ideation, research and development assistance to inventors without accepting rights or ownership. They help entrepreneurs navigate the path from initial idea to functioning product.

There are many things to consider before using capital to hire a consultant. Below you’ll find a few of the questions every inventor should ask themselves before hiring a consultant.

Related: 5 Steps for Turning Your Invention Idea Into a Product.

1. Do I know enough about the industry and its trends?
A great idea starts with a problem. In my case, the problem was missed deliveries caused by outdated intercoms as a renter. After dealing with this problem too many times, I was inspired to fix it by streamlining property access with smarter, smartphone-powered intercoms. However, the desire to improve something doesn’t mean that you must have a background in that industry (though it certainly helps).

If your invention or idea happens to fall within an industry that’s not your expertise, what do you do? In this case, you could consider speaking with a consultant who specializes in the field — or you can do your own research and reach out to subject matter experts.

If you go with a consultant, they could help you work through logistics. Or they could help you understand the jargon and technical aspects that might be time-consuming to learn yourself.

2. Is my perspective too narrow?
All creative processes have blocks, and perspectives can easily become narrow without feedback. An entrepreneur’s biggest asset is self-awareness, including knowing when their own creative wells have been tapped.

For instance, if you know that you’ve reached the end of your ability to view your project outside of the box, it might be time to call someone who can help. This could come in the form of a trusted colleague, friend or invention development consultant.

3. Do I have enough time and resources to do it alone?
Everyone is busy — it’s a result of the fast-paced world we live in. No matter how much you may want to devote your time and energy to a new project, it’s not always feasible. You may find yourself lacking the time or even the resources to flesh out a new invention.

If this is the case, hiring a consultant could make all the difference. They can help you by advising resources, choosing a task completion style that works for you and setting a schedule that makes it easier to meet deadlines.

Related: You’ve Got a Great Invention. Now How Do You Get People to Buy It?.

4. Can I figure out what comes next?
Inventing a product is one thing, but carrying it through various stages of production is different. Every new entrepreneur, including myself, faces a learning curve. With new inventions, it’s not enough to just have a winning idea. There are several steps along the way to invention fruition.

5 steps from idea to product:

Documentation: If you’ve spent time developing an idea, then you obviously want to patent it. But before you can do that, you have to document your process in order to prove your date and time of invention.

Research: There’s no worse feeling than spending time and energy on a project just to find out there’s already a patent. Do your research to make sure it’s not only a conceivable idea but that it’s not already taken.

Prototype: Prototyping is a crucial part of seeing your invention through to the final stages, and this will likely take a lot of sourcing and creativity. You’ll need to sketch, create mockups and get your hands on the materials needed to create your prototype.

Patent: Now that your idea is a physical reality, it’s time to file your patent for legal recognition. This is where some knowledge of trademark laws will come in handy.

Marketing: Everything relies on marketing nowadays. It’s nearly impossible to get the word out without some form of marketing. And if you’re not a marketing professional, you’ll need to learn the basics fast if you want to make the process worth it.

During the development stage, an invention consultant could help you:

Make valuable connections

Learn more about patenting

Increase productivity

Create relationships with the right people to advance your idea

Keep and organize records

Related: Inventors, Here’s How to License Your Idea and Make Money

The case for developing an invention yourself
While humble entrepreneurs know they need friends, successful entrepreneurs understand their own abilities. When I was developing my company, ButterflyMX, I didn’t use a consultant, and I’ll explain why I made the case for not hiring one.

First, the internet is full of information these days, and it doesn’t take much to find everything you need. On top of that, there are so many skill-sharing sites that can help further develop your knowledge in any given area of study.

Second, passion makes up for a lot when you’re excited about what you’re doing. If you have sincere passion, everything else you can cherry-pick. For example, if you’ve figured out your whole plan but need help with patenting, find someone who specializes in that alone without spending money on unnecessary services.

Lastly, utilize your network. If you’re friends with someone knowledgeable about something you lack, ask questions and observe. You’ll find that people are more willing to help than you think they are.

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Justice Department Investigation TikTok Owner for Spying on U.S. Journalists: Reports

The company admitted in December that some of its employees improperly accessed the data of U.S. journalists in a bid to uncover the source of leaks.

The Justice Department and the FBI are investigating the parent company of the popular social media app TikTok for surveilling American citizens, including journalists.

According to reports, federal authorities began their investigation late last year, after TikTok owner ByteDance Ltd. acknowledged that some of its employees improperly accessed journalists’ location data and other private data. Forbes was the first to report the investigations.

The investigation comes amid scrutiny of the app and a hardening policy stance by a bipartisan group of lawmakers and the White House over concerns that China is using the app to gather data on American citizens and influence elections.

ByteDance is based in China and has ties to the Chinese government. The app is banned from federal government devices, government devices in more than two dozen states and those in several European countries.

The FBI and the Justice Department are part of an agency called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which has asked ByteDance to divest from the U.S. arm of the app – or face a potential nationwide ban, which the White House has signaled it might support.

Former President Donald Trump in 2020 issued an executive order that effectively forced the company to divest of its U.S.-held assets, drawing on emergency economic powers. Despite several reports that a sale was imminent, no agreement was reached. The order did not survive legal challenges in federal court and was ultimately revoked by President Joe Biden.

The latest request has come amid ongoing negotiations between the company and the government over its ownership and the storage of data belonging to Americans. ByteDance has previously proposed another plan whereby the data from U.S. users would be stored in the U.S. and managed by a U.S.-based team.

ByteDance said in December that the employees who accessed the journalist’s data did so in a bid to uncover the source of leaks. Those employees have been fired, it said.

Federal prosecutors in Virginia are also investigating ByteDance, according to reports. TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew is scheduled to testify in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee next week.

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Is the future of shopping still autonomous?

Dating back to the first vending machine developed in London in the early 1880s to sell postage stamps, autonomous shopping has had a long history.

In 2018, there were an estimated 350 stores in the world offering a fully autonomous checkout process — and this is expected to grow further with 10k autonomous stores anticipated by 2024.

But since then, consumer preferences have shifted: There’s an increased demand for personalisation, on-demand delivery, sustainable consumer choices and the growth of AI.

So how have autonomous stores been affected by these new market trends — and is the sector still on track to hit 10k stores in 2024? Sifted sat down with the experts to find out.

An increased demand for personalisation
Scaling personalisation has been shown to be one of the key retail trends of 2023. Consumers respond well to personalisation throughout the shopping process — from sales and marketing to upselling and after-sales support.

Brands are increasingly relying on consumer data, algorithms and online surveys to fulfil this growing demand for customised products.

For Natasha Thakkar, head of marketing at AiFi, an AI-powered platform that helps retailers scale autonomous shopping solutions, the boom in AI presents the perfect opportunity for it to be used more widely in enabling personalisation in autonomous shopping.

“AI analyses consumer purchase patterns, previous transactions, interests, demographics and other relevant data to help suggest personalised recommendations to the consumer,” she says. “This increases the likelihood of them making a purchase and interacting with the brand more frequently.

Paweł Grabowski, head of unmanned solutions at Żabka Future, a unit of Żabka Group that fosters innovation and finds businesses increasing the value of the convenience store chain, says that autonomous stores (Żabka Nano) allow them to deliver a personalised experience in the offline world. It now operates over 50 stores, making Żabka Nano the largest chain of autonomous stores in Europe.

“It’s like ecommerce shopping, but within brick and mortar — we can collect customer data and track the customer journey at all the stages, which allows us to build advanced analytics, including sales funnel or advanced shopping history based on events.

“The data, combined with our mobile app, enable us to personalise communication, offer and even discount coupons to the customers,” he says.

On-demand delivery and flexible lifestyles
The pandemic drove up the demand for quick online shopping — also known as quick commerce or qcommerce. But now, there’s a shift back to offline shopping and consumers are increasingly opting for a hybrid approach — a mix of online and offline shopping.

40% of consumers who intend to increase in-store shopping and decrease online shopping say it’s because delivery costs are too high.

The experts say that a hybrid approach is the way to go for all brands.

“Both autonomous stores and quick online shopping educate people on how to do grocery shopping differently. We believe in the synergy between those business models,” Grabowski says. “Customers are expecting a complete ecosystem of convenience solutions. Qcommerce is based on dark stores located in good city spots. What if autonomous technology can extend their role to them? Dark stores can then serve both as warehouses and come-and-grab stores for the local community.”

Emanuel de Bellis, associate professor and director of the Institute of Behavioral Science and Technology at the University in St. Gallen, Switzerland, says that he sees autonomous technology working better for quick shopping in local stores. De Bellis’s research focuses on how consumers perceive and use new technologies.

“I don’t see a future with larger stores that are fully autonomous because I don’t really see the incremental benefit — the technology works better for smaller local stores where you can just grab a couple of things,” he says.

Additionally, autonomous stores also give brands the flexibility to operate within settings which were traditionally considered unusual for stores. The ATX Market at Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas, recently became the first soccer stadium in the world to introduce a checkout-free store.

“Our stores are located in the middle of the offices, dormitories, gyms and inside other stores,” Grabowski adds. “Autonomous stores can provide convenience services in locations where traditional retailers are unable to operate.”

Sustainable consumer choices
Given inflation and the downturn, this may be the right time for brands to leverage technology to improve their offerings and come up with innovative ways for consumers to shop and save.

“Since there’s no checkout staff operating autonomous stores, retailers can operate them 24/7,” says Thakkar. “This not only provides more convenience to the customers, but also helps in increasing the revenue and significantly decreasing operating costs, thereby increasing overall store efficiency.”

Consumers are also increasingly shifting towards conscious shopping habits — buying decisions revolving around ethics, environmentalism and sustainability, regardless of macroeconomic conditions. A 2023 survey shows that 78% of consumers prioritise sustainability.

Grabowski says that at Żabka Group, the business and ESG strategies are interlinked. For example, the stores use only energy from renewable sources.

“Since there’s no checkout staff operating autonomous stores, retailers can operate them 24/7″

“Another crucial element is reducing food wastage: our store is data-driven, so for example, we can accurately predict the demand for fresh products,” he says.

De Bellis says that this also points towards a possible future where human intervention for grocery shopping can be completely eliminated — homes and retailers would be interconnected to predict the items and quantities that need to be purchased and replaced.

“With large amounts of data, it could check what’s in your fridge, for instance, or it could also be connected to many more things such as your blood glucose level and order specific things depending on how healthy you are,” he adds.

“It’s something that we can expect only in the distant future, but are slowly moving towards.”

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Why Do Your Customers Really Buy from You?

The following is a simple question for business owners. Why do your customers buy from you?

I told you the question was simple, but an accurate answer, on the other hand, can be far more complex and perhaps even elusive. To achieve long-term, sustainable success, your understanding of why your customers choose to do business with your company needs to be both correct and substantial.

Many business owners develop a customer value proposition (CVP) alongside their company mission and vision statements. The brief declaration is supposed to document why a customer would opt to buy your product or service over the competition.

While developing a CVP is commendable in its customer-centric approach, it often falls short of its intended purpose due to ambiguity, a lack of self-reflection and sometimes even outright insincerity. Dollars to doughnuts, there is not a single CVP out there that reads, “Our customers turn to us because we deliver lackluster service and a marginally good product.”

Related: Who Is More Important — Your Customers or Your Employees?.

I would also assume that there are many businesses whose CVPs portray an exaggerated sense of the company’s true customer value. CVPs should never be created based on hype or manufactured mantras; instead built from sincere, astute insight.

Bravado and disingenuousness are not the only ways business owners are misguided in their understanding of customer engagement and loyalty. The following are common misconceptions related to the question of why customers buy from you.

“We are the cheapest”
Sure, this value statement might be dressed up as “We deliver the best value,” “We are the low-price leaders,” or some other cost-based differentiator. But when I hear any form of “My customers buy from us because we are the cheapest,” I cringe. Competing on price alone is simply not a good model and is often unsustainable. There is always some other business owner who is willing to run out of cash faster than you are.

Most customers – both B2B and B2C – understand the balance between cost and value. They walk that tightrope in every purchase they make. Contending that cheapest is the key attribute that keeps them coming back shortchanges both your business and your customers.

“We have the best employees”
Forgive me for being a bit skeptical about this assertion as well. Sure, your business may have good employees; but are they really the best? You may provide excellent service, but your competitors probably do as well. Is it truly your employees that keep your customers coming back? With the rare exception of that ultra-charismatic salesperson who charms the socks of buyers, the answer in all likeliness is a resounding no.

That is not to say that hiring for personality and alignment with company values is unimportant. It most definitely is. But to put the onus of success and customer loyalty squarely on the shoulders of your employees is shortsighted.

Related: 3 Reasons Why I Gladly Welcome Competition

“We’ve got the best product on the market”
While possessing a corner on the market is a great position to be in, it does not account for innovations in the marketplace and often fickle changes in consumer preferences. Evolving customer motivations and expectations, coupled with aging business models, have been the downfall of even some of the most successful industry titans.

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