Commercially successful inventions are rare
The chances that you find a commercially successful technology by randomly picking a patent from say the Espacenet database of the European Patent Office, is about 3 percent. This means that about 97 percent is commercially unsuccessful. Why are these numbers so depressingly low? Well it resembles a statistical law of nature. If we look at the DNA of the human body that is actually coding, it appears to be 3 percent as well, meaning that 97 percent is junk. The commercial selection of innovation appears to be much like the natural selection of successful “properties”.
The “junk” stuff however does serve a purpose, if it wasn’t there, both in nature and in innovation, the good 3% would not be able to exist. And still the “junk” may provide for insights that later on become slightly twisted or applied in a different technical field, commercially successes.
How to judge inventions before they have proven to be successful?
In selecting inventions from an investor point of view, two factors make all the difference. If both these factors are absent, the invention is likely to commercially fail. If one or both factors are present, the invention has a high chance of becoming commercially successful.
Factor 1: The innovator solves a problem at existing, paying clients
The innovator is a person working for company having clients in a specific field of business and the person sees a specific problem at the client, and provides a solution. Since the company already has clients in the very field of technology of the invention, most likely some of the clients are willing to try the innovation and actually may be willing to pay for it.
Factor 2: The innovator is dying to have the innovation himself
The innovator is dying to have the proposed innovation himself. The innovation thus finds a intrinsically motivated person, that is wanting to solve a problem he is confronted with. This innovator most likely is a private person, but can also be a group of people eventually be a group of people within a company.
These factors are no guarantee for success, yet a great filter to select the most promising innovation to invest. To inventors: if you find none of these factors resonating in your invention, please be careful not to spend to much resources on that specific invention.