How to validate a business idea cheaply

I found this video from the New York University Entrepreneurs Speaker Series. It is all about starting up a business, in this case a tech business, but many of the ideas could be adapted for all businesses including checking out if an invention idea might be feasible. The speaker Amit Klein talks about how some of big companies such as Zappos and SkillShare tested out their ideas. Enjoy!


Interview with Product Development Expert Joseph Donoghue

Click the play button below to play the podcast interview with product development expert Joseph Donoghue

Joseph Donoghue Leardon Solutions Product developementProduct development expert Joseph Donoghue is CEO and Co-Founder of Leardon Solutions. Leardon Solutions is a company that helps start-ups and small companies to turn their ideas into products.

In this podcast Joseph offers advice on many aspects of developing a product including explaining the difference between a proof of concept prototype and a design prototype. He also talks about the process between prototype and going into manufacture and how to avoid the costly mistake that some novice inventors make where they end up with a house full of product that they are unlikely to sell.

You can find out more about Joseph and his company Leardon Solution at

Some of the inventions Joseph Donoghue and Leardon Solutions have helped develop

  • is a snowboarding attachment to help attach your boot to a special snowboard binding.  The company Bomber Industries is located in Silverthorne, Colorado, US
  • The cyclemower is a push lawmower that utilizes an innovative two stage gear system that allows the blade to get up to the same speeds as a gas mower.  Thsi company is located in San Diego, CA.
    CycleMower inventions
  • The EcoLeeser rockfish release device helps fisherman return rockfish suffering from barotrauma back to a depth where they can most practically survive.  This company is located in San Diego, CA, USA.
    Ecoleeser fish invention
  • This horse massager from a company in San Diego, CA, US, makes warm up and cool down massages to horses much more practical and inexpensive.
    Equus Athletics Horse Massager Invention
  • The Hugx pet down is an innovative design from an inventor in Londonderry, UK.
  • The Floe product is a winter drain down system invented by an inventor in Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK who has been written about in the BBC news ( and has won the Practical Caravan product of the Year.
  •  Roll Mole is an innovative tape dispenser from an inventor in Belfast, UK.
    Rollmole tape dispenser invention
  •  Sturman BG, located in Woodland Park, Colorado, US makes taps for beer homebrewers and microbreweries. The tap attaches to a 1.5 gallon bottle that can be filled with your beer of choice and kept fresh in the refrigerator for many months on carbon dioxide.

If you enjoyed this interview you can find more here.

Are you an inventor or invention expert with an interesting story or advice to share? Please get in touch via the contact form or email tara (at) ideasuploaded (dot) com

How Inventors make Prototypes

tools for prototype

Think of the word prototype and immediately what springs to mind is probably some beautifully crafted professionally made first version of your invention. What I have learned from most of my research is that this is not always necessary, especially if you are looking to license your idea rather than manufacture it yourself. I also put together a post on lots of different methods of making a home made prototype that I have discovered (I have not tried them all).

When I have had ideas, I have tested them out with bits of card, plumbing pipe (my favourite) and realised that in fact my original idea didn’t quite work as expected or having done further research something similar existed. The good thing is it got the idea out if my system before I spent too much time on a dud.

Through reading and interviewing inventors I have also learned how they have made, or had made for them prototypes if their inventions. One of them most unusual methods I read about a little while ago was an inventor commissioning a dentist to create him a prototype with their mould making equipment, though what the product was has now slipped my mind.

Below are a few of the methods how some of the inventors I have interviewed have prototyped their inventions:

A hammer/mallet prototype made with a home made mould

Johnny Smith created his first prototype for the Hammer Bumber by using a foam cup as a mould and filling it with a rubber like solution.

Read the full inventor interview

A prototype of a wrist water bottle made of clay

Julie Austin inventor of Swiggies created her first wrist water bottle prototype using clay.

Listen to the full inventor interview

First prototypes for marker with erasers made with felt and then with clay

Julia Rhodes inventor of Kleenslate dry eraser markers with erasers on the end made her first prototypes using the felt meant for the feet of furniture.

Listen to the full inventor interview

Undisclosed invention prototype created with the aid of a local university

Lyndsey Young, The Queen of Easy Green enlisted the help of a local university to help create a prototype and do patent research for one of her recent (not publicly disclosed) inventions.

Listen to the full inventor interview

Toy prototypes made from breaking apart existing toys

Tony Ellis from Conceptioneering is a toy inventor and has used existing toys pulled apart to create a prototype for a new product idea.

Read the full inventor interview

A prototype built from various barbecue tools

Peter Wachtel broke apart various barbecue tools and stuck them together to create a prototype for new all in one barbecue tool. In his inventor interview he also mentioned that he uses parts from other toys and from the hardware store.

Listen to the full inventor interview

Award winning product designer starts off prototyping with cardboard

Professional Product Designer Damian Evans explains in his inventor interview how he often starts off by building models out of cardboard.

Listen to the full inventor interview

Prototype for making a child carrier made from parts from an army surplus store

Wayne Lifshitz inventor of the PiggyBack Rider used parts he and his brothers purchased from the local hardware and army surplus store to create their first prototypes.

Read the full inventor interview

Toy prototype made from a simple water spray bottle

Mary Ellroy from Gamebird is a toy inventor and agent who prototyped one of her toy ideas for a rainbow creator with a simple water spray bottle. She also strongly advises the use of video to set up a scene so it looks like your prototype is working and fulfilling it’s function.

Listen to the full inventor interview

First prototype for pet hydration made from a dog waste bag

Cesar Belmonte co-inventor of the Nina Dog made their first rough prototype from a clean doggie waste-bag filled with clean water and tied it to the leash

Read the full inventor interview

A Prototype for a Camera pole mount system made from mechano like construction kit

Jim Polster create his first prototypes for his camera mount system from mechano like construction kit

Listen to the full inventor interview

What have you used to make your invention prototypes?

Free and Inexpensive 3D software for Inventors to Create Sell Sheets

There are a lot of different ways you can create images of your invention idea in order to produce your sell sheet and hopefully sell the idea in to a potential licensee. One of the ways I have been creating my sell sheets is with the use of 3d software. One of the benefits of 3D software is it can make your product visuals look almost real and I also use it for some of my design clients who want to present their products to potential clients. Not many years ago 3D software used to cost an absolute fortune, but now you can get a highly capable piece of 3D software from completely free to a few hundred dollars. Check out some of the low cost and free 3D options below.

Low Cost

Cheetah 3D – $149 (Mac Only) – UPDATE CURRENTLY ON SALE FOR $99
The 3D software I use is Cheetah 3d which is a Mac only piece of software which is very user friendly if you already are comfortable with mac graphics software. You can also buy a set of tutorial videos to guide you through the program for $29. You can try out a save disabled version of Cheetah 3D for free.


Strata 3D – SE version $49, CX version $699 (Mac and PC)
I also use Strata Design 3D CX ($699) which I find good for geometric modeling, but not as good for organic (curvy) modeling as Cheetah 3D. The Strata Design 3D SE version of Strata is cheaper ($49) but has a cut down amount of the modeling tools. You can download a demo version of the CX product.

Free 3D Software

Blender 3D (Mac and PC)
is a free, very capable piece of 3D software (just check out the gallery to see what I mean) and I have downloaded it several times and dabbled with it, but have always given up quite quickly as it has quite a complicated interface. I just downloaded the latest version and although still complicated it has definitely improved and now has the added bonus of some free tutorial videos plus there are also now several blender tutorial books available.


Rhino 3D Mac Beta (Mac only paid full version available for PC)
I haven’t had chance to play with Rhino 3D beta yet, but have just downloaded a free beta version for Mac. Rhino is usually a paid piece of software available on on a PC, but as they are creating a Mac version for future release, there is currently a beta Mac version available for free. Obviously as it is a beta version there may be more bugs in it than a completed piece of software.


Autodesk123D PC Beta (PC Only)
Autodesk have released a beta version of their 3D modelling application Autodesk123D for free. It’s currently PC only so I haven’t been able to test it. I have noticed there are many requests for a Mac version so hopefully this will happen in future.


Google SketchUp (Mac and PC)
Google has a free 3D modeller called Sketchup available for download for Mac and PC


More Free 3D Design Software

Pov-Ray Mac, PC, Linux
3D Crafter
PC only
Wings 3D
Mac, PC, Linux

25 (Free) 3D Modeling Applications You Should Not Miss
A fantastic post on the blog – all that’s missing here is a note telling you which ones are Mac or PC compatible

3-D CAD Models – How to Prototype Just About Anything
A great blog post on Stephen Bozzone’s Invention Addict Blog which includes a list of Free CAD software (some are just demos)

Need a Free Photoshop Alternative for Enhancing your 3D Models or Creating Textures

To created textures or edit your rendered 3D model you will need a photo editing program, fortunately there are some free solutions available such as Gimp (Mac and PC), Picasa from Google or check out 10+ Best Free or Open Source Photoshop Alternative Software



How to Make an Invention Prototype Cheaply

Since I started writing this blog I have learned a lot about the importance of creating rough prototypes even if it’s just to prove to yourself that your concept works. Your prototype doesn’t have to be a work of art, just functional. I have collected together a series of articles, videos and prototyping materials that I hope you will find useful.

Hand Mouldable Plastic

Shapelock or Polymorph is a plastic which melts when put in boiling water and then can be moulded by hand into different shapes or moulded onto things.



Sugru is a material which you can mould in your hands like plasticine. It dries after a day to a Waterproof material, that has a bit of give like silicone or rubber


Clay such as Sculpey or Fimo

Sculpey or fimo can be used to make prototypes themselves or be used to create moulds to cast other materials.

Making Your own Prototype Moulds

Amazing mould putty or sculpey mould maker are puttys which can be hand moulded around things (such as a clay model) and then left to cure to create a mould that you can then use to fill with different materials.


TAP plastics have a range of videos which show you how to make your own moulds so you can create prototypes in a variety of materials.


Inventables – To Source Materials for your Prototype

Inventables has a great range of materials which can be used in prototypes or just used to spur ideas


Make your own Vacuum Forming Machine

I am not sure if I would dare try this one, but instructables has directions for how to create a home made vacuum forming machine a finished one is shown in the video below.


Ponoko Online Fabrication for Prototypes

Ponoko is an online site where you can get your designs made on demand (ie. One at a time)


Shapeways 3D Printing

Shapeways offer 3d printing via their website


Parts for Making Game Prototypes

Rolco Games is a place to buy dice, spinners and counters for your game prototype.

Materials from the Local Hardware Store

plumbing pipe prototypeI have found the local hardware store extremely useful, and recently build a rough outdoor toy prototype out of plumbing pipe and some plastic funnels amongst other things. I created a rough drawing of my toy and then took that to the hardware store to try and find suitable parts. In the podcast interview I did with Peter Wachtel a toy inventor and designer he talks about finding most of the things he needs in the hardware store and that anyone who has done model shop (woodwork, metalshop etc) at school should be able to put basic prototypes together.

Take Apart Other Products

When I interviewed Inventor Roger brown and Toy inventor Tony Ellis, they both suggest that prototypes can be made by taking apart or adapting existing similar products.

Using Universities or Fabrication Labs to Help Create your Prototypes

When I interviewed Inventor Lyndsey Young, The Queen of Easy Green she talked about how she had help with prototyping and IP research by a local university. Check if your local college or university could help you at all. There are also fabrication labs in many countries where you can go in and use their equipment (for a charge) to create your prototype)

Create a Video of your Prototype

When I interviewed Mary Ellroy Toy a inventor and agent, she said toy companies like to see videos of your invention. Create a rough prototype and then even if it doesn’t work make it look like kids are playing with your toy or game.

Making Paper and Card Models

Inventor Stephen Key is a big advisor of using paper and card to create your prototype mock ups.


Kenny the inventor, an Inventor on Youtube also uses paper and card for his prototypes

Imants Caklais from Paperlandmarks also uses paper and card for invention prototypes. Imant’s is a regular on Quirky and Genius Crowds


Make Miniature Prototypes to Test if your Idea Works

Mark Sanders who did an inventor interview about his Strida Bike invention started off with small prototypes to get an idea if the design would work


Articles about Prototyping

Creating an Invention Prototype – Start up Nation

A guide to prototyping yourself – Ayers Concepts

If you have any suggestions for other ways to make cheap prototypes yourself please let me know in the comments below

Learn about Inventing with Green Inventor Spencer Brown

Spencer Brown is an Eco friendly/Green inventor, you may heave heard of his company Rent a Green Box, a company which takes trash and recycles it into eco-friendly green plastic boxes which people hire when they are moving home. Not only does this mean that waste is being put to good use, but also there is no additional waste from the cardboard boxes people would usually use to help them move their stuff.

In the video below you can see Spencer talking about Rent a Green Box and some of his other inventions, but then Spencer has also created a series of videos aimed at educating people about invention (also below).

Spencer Brown talks about Inventing and Renta a Green Box

Getting Rich with Inventions

The Invention Business

Invention Prototypes and Production

You can watch the rest of the series of invention videos here