Selling ideas – the future of jobs

February 2016

By Sandeep Chatterjee, Founder & CEO, EVx

Sandeep Chatterjee was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Earlier, his Ph.D. dissertation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was selected as one of the top inventions in computing, and is preserved in a time capsule at the Museum of Science in Boston, Massachusetts (USA).

Technological advances are making it easier and faster to translate ideas into commercial products. For example, new software tools and programming languages allow for the development of software systems in a matter of days instead of months. Physical goods can also be readily fabricated or manufactured. In fact, 3D printers will soon bring manufacturing directly into our homes and offices.

“With the right support, anyone can have a good idea and succeed,” say Sandeep Chatterjee, EVx founder (center) (photo: EVx).

In line with this trend, the true value of a product or service is becoming more about its underlying idea and less about its implementation. In this context, larger companies typically have the operational and marketing capabilities to translate ideas into commercial products and to bring them to market quickly and cost-effectively. What these companies may lack, however, is a steady flow of good ideas to generate value in a sustainable way. Many individuals, on the other hand, including college students, professors and professionals, have great ideas but lack the means or know-how to commercialize them. How can these often brilliant ideas be harnessed? What needs to be done to connect these ingenious and creative individuals with the companies that have the interest and the means to bring their ideas to market?

That is where I believe the Emerging Ventures Exchange platform (EVx) and its global ideas network have a role to play.

The beginnings of the EVx ideas network

Since the early 2000s, I have been running an intellectual property (IP) and commercial litigation company in the United States, and have been working with the largest companies and law firms in the world on IP valuation, commercialization and litigation issues. Also in the early 2000s another of my companies was involved in a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) project to build one of the first secure e-banking platforms for the millions of people around the world who do not have access to banking services. The project was successfully piloted in Uganda, and subsequently rolled out in other countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. I soon realized, however, that the people we were serving – in semi-urban, rural and remote communities – had little or no money to transact with the bank. What they really needed was a reasonable source of income!

The EVx platform gives people the chance to earn money from their ideas without bearing the risks associated with starting a company.

Time and again when travelling in emerging market countries, I encountered college students, academics, professionals and others with great ideas for new products and services or ways of improving existing ones. Unfortunately, many of those ideas simply fell by the wayside because the people who hatched them lacked the resources and the relevant connections to commercialize them. Even if they did connect with investors or companies, they found it difficult to communicate and negotiate effectively with them. All too often these potentially valuable ideas ended up at the bottom of a desk drawer.

My experience in monetizing IP convinced me that if these innovative individuals could be connected with companies that would buy and commercialize their ideas, everyone could benefit. This prompted me to develop the EVx platform.

A “go-to” platform for workable ideas

Good ideas are everywhere. They are not exclusive to highly educated researchers in major laboratories. In fact, some of the most commercially successful ideas have come from individuals who simply identified a problem and devised a practical solution to overcome it.

With the right support, anyone can have a good idea and succeed. The EVx platform seeks to do just that. EVx is a global ideas network that offers anyone with a workable idea – regardless of their education or background – a chance to earn income from it.

EVx partners with universities, trade associations and individuals around the world and teaches people how to develop their ideas. Our aim is to empower people, specifically in emerging market countries, to develop their ideas and translate them into financially viable products.

We provide practical educational courses online, through our Web portal and mobile app, and in classrooms. EVx also provides directed training and guidance on the technologies and subjects that are of interest to industry, giving EVx members an opportunity to focus their time and resources on these critical areas.

Any idea can be posted onto the EVx platform as long as it works and solves a real-world problem. A prototype or a patent is not a requirement to use the platform. But steps taken to develop the idea, such as a proof of concept, software source code, hardware circuit design, or a patent application, usually mean that companies will pay more for it.

When an individual joins the EVx platform, they simply post a written description of their idea through our proprietary content delivery system. The idea is then made available to our expanding network or corporate partners, of which there are now over 60.

EVx offers its members a complete solution, starting with practical, real-world training and ending with a direct mechanism to monetize that know-how and their ideas.

EVx connects individuals with ideas to an expanding network of corporate partners. It creates opportunities for people to generate income from their ideas, often to the benefit of entire families (photo: EVx).

A gateway to commercialization

By becoming a member of EVx, college students, professors, professionals and others can focus on what they do best – developing good ideas and solutions – without having to spend their limited time and money on identifying investors or companies that are interested in buying and commercializing their ideas.

The platform is a gateway to companies that can commercialize ideas with market potential and put money into the hands of individual inventors and creators. At the same time, it relieves inventors and creators of the need to negotiate complex licensing deals or to pay for the legal expertise to draft and finalize licensing agreements for their ideas.

Our aim is to remove many of the barriers to commercial success. Once ideas are posted, inventors simply sit back and wait to hear from interested companies. If more than one company is interested, the inventor or creator selects the preferred buyer and purchase price.

A successful transaction via the EVx platform can generate far-reaching benefits. Anyone with a good idea has an opportunity to generate income from it. Companies usually pay members a large lump-sum through the platform. These funds often benefit entire families, securing the livelihoods of dozens of people.

Benefits for companies

All companies are hungry for good ideas and new commercial opportunities. They are not necessarily looking for major scientific breakthroughs, but for new product ideas or ways to improve existing products or services.

The automobile sunshade, for example, is essentially a piece of cardboard cut into the shape of a windshield that blocks the sun and prevents the inside of the car from heating up and suffering heat damage. It is a practical solution to a real-world problem and now represents a multimillion-dollar industry. Through the EVx platform, such simple and practical ideas, as well as more complex ones, can be purchased outright or licensed by companies.

While companies may not pay millions of dollars for these ideas, they may well pay between USD500 and USD100,000 and sometimes much more. These amounts represent several months or even several years of income for many living in emerging economies.

I see the EVx network as a win-win solution. It offers companies ready access to interesting new product ideas and cutting-edge research, providing a useful and cost-effective complement to in-house research and development (R&D) efforts, where they exist. It also offers individuals with smart ideas an opportunity to generate income.

The future of jobs

The technological advances we are witnessing today are having an enormous impact on the jobs market. For example, in the software industry, new technologies, tools and programming languages are enabling software systems to be developed in days instead of months such that companies no longer need large software development teams. This is already evident in countries like India where many outsourced development companies are hiring fewer software engineers.

As the number of available software engineering jobs dwindles, more and more people are earning their livelihood and securing an income from selling their ideas to companies that can commercialize them. And as implementation technologies and tools advance, it is likely that the amount paid for these ideas will rise.

Individuals who successfully commercialize their ideas through EVx are often recruited by the platform’s corporate partners and other companies around the world. All companies are looking for innovative, practical and creative thinkers who can add value. As successful EVx members have proven their worth, employers in India, the United States and elsewhere are eager to hire them. In fact, EVx itself has hired a number of them.

Traditional entrepreneurship is tough

Starting and growing a company is hard! Nearly 90 percent of all start-ups fail. Despite its many challenges, there is today a big push in many emerging economies to promote entrepreneurship. Many who seek (or are pushed) to become entrepreneurs are ill equipped to do so and often put their livelihood and that of their families at risk to establish a business, only to see it fail.

EVx offers a low-risk route to entrepreneurship. It gives people the chance to earn money from their ideas without bearing the risks associated with starting a company. In some cases, having received payment for their idea, EVx members can also license the product back and set up their own company to commercialize it in their own country. This “early taste of success” is what drives future entrepreneurs and enables them to succeed.

The global scope of EVx

EVx is a global platform that consists of an expanding network of nearly 320,000 individuals (including over 600 colleges and universities). Our aim is to have over one million members by the end of 2016. Our main focus is India, China and Latin America but there is also strong interest in other Asian countries and Africa.

New income opportunities

Jobs, poverty alleviation and financial empowerment are critical areas for all governments and are widely discussed at multiple global fora. The orthodox view is that better education and increased foreign investment will lead to more jobs. This may work, but is likely to take decades. What about the people who need money so they can live and buy food for their families today? People do not necessarily need jobs, but they do need money so that they can provide for themselves and their families.

EVx offers new opportunities for people from all walks of life to generate income, for companies to prosper and for consumers to enjoy new and improved products and services. 

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