An Underground Alternative to Entrepreneurship

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How many times have you come up with great ideas for products or entire businesses, but bailed on them because you didn’t want to be the one who had to take on the risk, the overhead, the complexity, the sleepless nights of building a business around them?

What if you could spend your time dreaming up nutty ideas and get paid for that and only that? What if you could hand your concept over to another company that had the capability to mass produce it, distribute it, handle all aspects of the business and then just write you a check every month for a percentage of sales?

Sounds like some wacky fantasy scenario…but it’s not.

I’ve become fascinated, over the last few years, by ways to leverage and scale ideas that allow you to:

  • Bring cool things to life
  • Minimize complexity, and
  • Generate enough to live well in the world.

One of those ways is commoditizing knowledge and selling it in digital form online, also known as info-products. If you’re reading this, you probably already know about that approach.

But there’s an entirely different world that very few people know about—the wacky world of licensing—that allows you to accomplish this not just online, but in the real world with tangible products. And unlike info-products, often times, you don’t even need to create a product or prototype, sell it, manage the money side or market it…nothing.

You just need to come up with the idea and share it with the right people. Licensing fascinates me. I wanted to know a lot more about how it works.

So I turned to my friend, Stephen Key, an inventor and product creator who has licensed tons of ideas over the last 30 years that have sold hundreds of millions of units and generated, well, let’s just say serious money. Here’s what he shared:


Stephen has also become one of the leading authorities on licensing in the world. He’s been featured on all the fancy business TV shows, he runs a company called inventRight, speaks all over the place and, most importantly, walks the talk. He’s constantly coming up with ideas and licensing them to partners.

And he’s the author of a book I’d highly recommend, One Simple Idea: Turn Your Dreams into a Licensing Goldmine While Letting Others Do the Work, that essentially walks you through the entire process.


[FTC Disclosure – You should always assume that pretty much every link on this blog is an affiliate link and that if you click it, find something you like and buy it, I’m gonna make some serious money. Now, understand this, I’m not talking chump change, I’m talking huge windfall in commissions, bling up the wazoo and all sorts of other free stuff. I may even be given a mansion and a yacht, though honestly I’d settle most of the time for some organic dark chocolate and clean socks. Oh, and if I mention a book or some other product, just assume I got a review copy of it gratis and that me getting it has completely biased everything I say. Because, books are like a drug to me, put one in my hand and you own my ass. Ethics be damned! K, you’ve been warned. Huggies and butterflies. ]



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25 responses

25 responses to “An Underground Alternative to Entrepreneurship”

  1. Best FTC Disclosure ever! Shill away, I say.

    Thanks for the connection to the world of licensing. For me it would take a mindset shift to fully embrace that. I love making and selling stuff.

  2. Hiro Boga says:

    Jonathan, your “disclosure” made me laugh so hard I forgot what the preceding article was about, and had to go back and re-read it.

    At which point, I re-read your disclosure and laughed so hard that… It’s Groundhog Day all over again! 🙂

  3. John Sherry says:

    What the big idea is is actually the simple idea. It’s always the simple stuff that millionaires are made of. Take a Rubiks Cube. And happy to chip into your affiliate fund Jonathan as it’s a top notch book I wouldn’t have heard of otherwise.

  4. parker lee says:

    wow this is such a helpful post.

    Thankyou jonathan!!!

  5. Pamela says:

    Great interview! AND an amazing kick in the creative pants – this licensing issue is popping up more and more with artists and craftspeople. I always get the post I need when the questions arise and they appear to be coming from you more and more, Jonathan.

    Thanks!

  6. This is really interesting. I had known that licensing was out there, and that people did it, but Stephen makes it seem so achievable.

    I’ve got a product that I stopped working on last year because I didn’t want to commit myself to the business. I’m going to call up a couple of companies today to see how they like it.

  7. susan kuhn says:

    Licensing IS entrepreneurial! It’s modifying the format of an offering to fit the market. So congratulations on helping your readers to be more entrepreneurial — that is, seeking their right fit in the marketplace.

    What creates overwhelm is lack of the entrepreneurial mindset. Was it you (?) who blogged about the comment that “everyone’s concept of work is a job?” That is, as a bunch of tasks to be done.

    Entrepreneurs don’t just get out there with their offering — they focus on the fit between the offering and the customer. A lot of wheelspinning and frustration comes when that fit isn’t right and we’re left jostling and shoving to sell.

    And the connective tissue between ideas and money takes many forms — of which licensing is one. In fact, when you get really good at this, you can get paid multiple times for his or her content.

    Hey — and if it were easy, we’d all be doing it!

    Thanks for continuing to share such great content.

  8. marie-jeanne juilland says:

    Perfect timing on this post! We live in Silicon Valley where my husband for years was highly respected in tech sales (semiconductors & aeronautics mostly). After being laid off recently, we stumbled upon a great opportunity. You guessed it – licensing 🙂

    Some good friends of ours just happened to have invented a low-cost gadget called the Lightscoop that gets rid of ugly flash photos (he’s a well-known photojournalism prof). In this case, rather than doing the inventing, my husband is using his years of sales skills to get it licensed for them.

    Luckily, the product already had some great traction (chosen as a top product by NY Times tech reviewer David Pogue), so he is able to leverage that. His goal will be to get it licensed by a Nikon or Sony or any major consumer electronics store. Stay tuned …

    So in our home, we now happen to have both bases covered: I’m handling online information products (helping folks with joint ventures & affiliate programs) and he’s handling the “tangibles” you are talking about.

    ‘re both working out of our home office, and our 7 and 10-year-old are asking: “So what do you do for work now?” So far we’re loving the work and lifestyle – sure beats the Silicon Valley big-company grind 🙂 Plus we get to help some great fun people get their great ideas out into the big world.

  9. Brent Reader says:

    Thanks Jonathan! Great interview. Will gladly send some affiliate funds your way for giving us the heads-up on such a resource. (Are you getting this, FTC?)

  10. Dear Jonathan –

    You get an A plus for this interview.

    It was fascinating.

    You are such a natural.

  11. Daniel says:

    Thanks for this!

    The (half) joke with my wife is every time I come out of the john I’ve got another brilliant idea. I’ve been saying for years “I just want to get paid to think stuff up”. And given that I’ve uttered that exact phrase as recently as yesterday, this article is right on time.

    I really enjoyed the video. You guys covered so much of the immediate FAQ stuff. It’s not hard to feel fired up and ready to dive in after watching that. When he mentioned the guitar picks I exclaimed “Wait, I have some of those!” I got some for a halloween gig a few years back. I remember the vampire shape worked remarkably well.

    Anyway, great stuff! Thanks to both of you. Can’t wait till the book gets here!

  12. Jennifer says:

    This post has been the best ever so far, simply because it introduced me to a new concept I hadn’t really known about or considered before. And of course that matters here for me because I am exactly that person you describe. I’m always thinking and saying that “if I could get paid to just come up with ideas”.

    Though most of my ideas are more store concepts, not products. Not sure that can be licensed, but will certainly look into it now. I have two ideas that I know would rock, but I really don’t want to run a chain of stores.

  13. Wow. Head asplodes.

    Thanks for sharing this, man.

  14. maurille says:

    i have designed two innovative designs for the childresn market and I found it horroic to get it on the market through another company. They want you to attend meeting after meeting, it takes years for them to devellop the product and finally the money it makes with royalties is peanuts if you count all the hours you spent on it in the end.
    So maybe it will work for others but I will never do it again.

  15. […] shared_object.attachChicklet("email", document.getElementById("ck_email")); Last week, I shared an underground approach to turning ideas into products and revenue called licensing. It’s a great way to bring ideas to life without all the risk.But […]

  16. julie kucinski says:

    here’s the big question: how do you protect your ideas even if you get to the right people?

    i have known many friends who’ve had ideas stolen by companies large and small after presentations.

  17. […] Letting someone else take your idea to market. Has it ever occurred to you that marketing an idea doesn’t necessarily mean having all the resources in place yourself to produce, distribute, market and sell it yourself? Introducing the wonderful world of open innovation and licensing and new way for small businesses and entrepreneurs to get into the game with almost no upfront investment and minimal risk. JonathanFields.com […]

  18. […] Letting someone else take your idea to market. Has it ever occurred to you that marketing an idea doesn’t necessarily mean having all the resources in place yourself to produce, distribute, market and sell it yourself? Introducing the wonderful world of open innovation and licensing and new way for small businesses and entrepreneurs to get into the game with almost no upfront investment and minimal risk. JonathanFields.com […]

  19. […] Letting someone else take your idea to market. Has it ever occurred to you that marketing an idea doesn’t necessarily mean having all the resources in place yourself to produce, distribute, market and sell it yourself? Introducing the wonderful world of open innovation and licensing and new way for small businesses and entrepreneurs to get into the game with almost no upfront investment and minimal risk. JonathanFields.com […]

  20. […] Letting someone else take your idea to market. Has it ever occurred to you that marketing an idea doesn’t necessarily mean having all the resources in place yourself to produce, distribute, market and sell it yourself? Introducing the wonderful world of open innovation and licensing and new way for small businesses and entrepreneurs to get into the game with almost no upfront investment and minimal risk. JonathanFields.com […]

  21. […] Letting someone else take your idea to market. Has it ever occurred to you that marketing an idea doesn’t necessarily mean having all the resources in place yourself to produce, distribute, market and sell it yourself? Introducing the wonderful world of open innovation and licensing and new way for small businesses and entrepreneurs to get into the game with almost no upfront investment and minimal risk. JonathanFields.com […]

  22. […] Letting someone else take your idea to market. Has it ever occurred to you that marketing an idea doesn’t necessarily mean having all the resources in place yourself to produce, distribute, market and sell it yourself? Introducing the wonderful world of open innovation and licensing and new way for small businesses and entrepreneurs to get into the game with almost no upfront investment and minimal risk. JonathanFields.com […]

  23. […] Letting someone else take your idea to market. Has it ever occurred to you that marketing an idea doesn’t necessarily mean having all the resources in place yourself to produce, distribute, market and sell it yourself? Introducing the wonderful world of open innovation and licensing and new way for small businesses and entrepreneurs to get into the game with almost no upfront investment and minimal risk. JonathanFields.com […]

  24. […] Letting someone else take your idea to market. Has it ever occurred to you that marketing an idea doesn’t necessarily mean having all the resources in place yourself to produce, distribute, market and sell it yourself? Introducing the wonderful world of open innovation and licensing and new way for small businesses and entrepreneurs to get into the game with almost no upfront investment and minimal risk. JonathanFields.com […]

  25. Kevin says:

    Jonathan,

    Thank you for sharing this great content, broadening my horizons.

    Hv already purchased the book. Makes it so simple.

    Kevin