Know the main characteristics of inventors and entrepreneurs to max out both skillsets 

We must ask what the holding item is for each step, and often that is money and your risk of losing it.


Each of us is born with one or more inborn talents, and we are most fulfilled, most happy, when we pursue our strongest talent … our “calling.”

Psychologist Abraham Maslow created his popular hierarchy of human needs—in 1954.

At the top of his hierarchy is self-actualization, which is the realizing of one’s full potential especially through their occupation. Self-actualization applies to both entrepreneurship and inventing if we are serious about bringing a product to market or licensing our patent.

But there’s a hitch: Inborn talent is unique. An entrepreneur and an inventor are generally two different personalities. It is possible to find each personality in the same person.

Thomas Edison is a good example. But in my experience, each of the two personalities tends to be more narrowly endowed in separate persons.

Characteristics of the entrepreneur: 

  • Schedule keeper: Assigns completion dates; does not procrastinate.
  • Risk-taker: Takes well-considered risks.  
  • Creator: Creates concepts, rather than specific products.
  • Profit producer: It is his or her first consideration at every major step of a project.
  • Market oriented: Will my product find its customer easily?
  •  Partners: May take in a partner with complementary capabilities.
  • Personality: May be abrupt and tactless at times.

Not every successful entrepreneur you meet will score A+ on each of these six characteristics, but the mix will probably be a B or B+.

          Characteristics of the inventor:

  • Schedule keeper: May neglect setting realistic schedules.
  • Risk-taker: May be too optimistic about odds of the invention being novel.
  • Creator: Often has two or more ideas brewing at the same time.
  • Profit producer: Often too optimistic about the invention’s profitability.
  • Market oriented: Most energy is devoted to the product early.
  • Partners: Seeks mainly a financial partner or friend.
  • Personality: Garden variety, but seldom as stern as the entrepreneur.

Perhaps I have exaggerated the characteristics of both. But I’ve known many of each, and I believe my details are fair.

Your self-analysis scoreboard

If you wish to score yourself on either type, I suggest you rate each characteristic 1 to 5, with 5 being an exact match. A total score of around 22 to 25 should be reasonable for a faithful match.

The concept can be shown graphically with a horizontal line. At the left end is the radical inventor, at the right end the radical entrepreneur. Edison would fall in the middle.

Each of us should pick the point on the line where our inborn talents would place us. We don’t have to become modern versions of Edison to succeed. But we need a reminder as we start an invention project that we have needs that must be provided one way or another—money being one of the most important.

          Now, let’s think about the typical inventor—who scored, let’s say, a 24.

          Do many or most inventors neglect scheduling the detailed steps of their projects? I believe they do.

          We must ask what the holding item is for each step, and often that is money and your risk of losing it.

          A good patent search is not cheap. But think of it this way: Your intended patent will be several times the cost of your search. And then, the overall probability of it issuing with your key claim is only about 50/50. The better the search and opinion upfront, the better your chance of having your patent issue.

          By key claim, I mean that one claim that defines what is not only novel but is the essential feature that your prospective licensee will understand as valuable to their market—that is, will increase their profit. If that claim is denied by the patent examiner but three or four trivial claims are allowed in the final issue, you probably have nothing worthwhile to license.

Determining profit is hard

I admit I am guilty of having more than one invention on the sketch pad at a time. It happens to most of us.

We have to pick the one with the most potential for earning income so that we can go on inventing. The others will have to sit on a low back burner until we have the time and resources to turn up the heat.

Determining the profit an invention may make may be the most difficult of the six characteristics.

Few of us have the background that will enable us to estimate the cost of manufacture. And even if we do, we’ll probably be wrong. We can work with an industrial engineer who will be able to give us realistic costing, but not early in your project.

My philosophy is that the costing belongs with the company that is going to produce, not with the inventor—unless the only way we can license is to provide it.

Marketing is the weak point of most inventors. And our project is dependent not just on the logistics of marketing but discounts, packaging, shipping cost, guarantees and maybe even required advertising. (OMG! How can the inventor become an expert on all of this? I’ll cover in future issues.)

Partners can be a help, or a pain in the butt. Your friends aren’t likely to have the skills you need to drive your project to success.

If you need money, advertise for a “financial partner.” If you are short on marketing expertise, advertise for a “marketing partner.” But avoid partners if you can. 

Your personality may be affected by your dedication to your inventing.