Interview with Inventor and Patent Attorney Andrew Spriegel about the Portion PadL
| Published: December 1, 2010
My thanks to Inventor and Patent Attorney Andrew Spriegel for agreeing to an interview with me about his business partner Greg Getzinger’s invention the Portion PadL and how together they brought the product to market. The Portion PadL was invented to enable pizza businesses to quickly and easily slice pizzas into equal pieces. The Portion PadL is available for both commercial and home use.
Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about yourself, where you are based and your career background?
Andrew: I worked most of my career as a Manager or a Lead Senior Electro-Mechanical Engineer for Fortune 100 companies, GE, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Invacare and others. My experience involves a wide range of products, satellites, locomotives, off-highway vehicles, medical durable goods, surgical devices and consumer goods. I have many US and international patents and had made a lot of money for other companies. At 48 years old I decided to go to law school to become a patent attorney and commercialize my own products and other’s products. I now own a patent law firm (www.Smart2Patent.com) and own several businesses commercializing products.
Tara: Is the Portion PadL the first invention you have bought to market?
Andrew: No, I had brought numerous products to market prior to the Portion PadL.
Tara: I understand that the original idea for the Portion PadL was invented by Greg Getzinger with whom you are now in business. Please could you tell me a little bit about Greg, how he came up with his invention and how the two of you connected and set up your business?
Andrew: Prior to owning a pizza business (Pizza BOGO, www.pizzabogo.com) ), Greg was a Vice President for a large Insurance Company. He developed the equal slice pizza cutting board (Portion PadL, www.PortionPadL.com) for his business to develop school and institutional accounts. He heard complaints about unequal size slices of pizzas and worked on developing a solution for the problem. Greg and I met at a networking event that his group was having at the building where my law firm is located. It was a chili cook-off and Greg brought in a “chili pizza” on one of his prototype boards. I saw the board and I asked him if it was patented and said that if it wasn’t it would be a great product to patent and commercialize. We formed NuVo Grand, LLC as equal members.
Tara: Did you start with working drawings of the product or did you make a prototype?
Andrew: Greg built numerous prototypes (20+) of the equal slice pizza cutting board. He was trying to perfect the cutting board for his business. He did not have drawings, rather his father-in-law was making various designs based on Greg’s dimensions. Greg tried numerous materials, sizes, grooves…
Tara: How did you go about protecting the invention?
Andrew: I have written two utility patents on the cutting board and I am working on a third utility patent. We are building up a lot of intellectual property around the product.
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Tara; Were there any mistakes, issues or problems you both experienced in the process of commercialization of the idea?
Andrew: Actually it has gone very smoothly. Greg and I seem to compliment each other’s skill sets. Greg is great at sales and marketing and I knew how to have the product manufactured, the manufacturers, the processes and protecting intellectual property. I spent my career commercializing complex products very quickly and therefore I help inventors avoid the mistakes made by the typical inventors. Greg did encounter a big snow storm delivering materials to the manufacturer…a two hour trip turning into a twelve hour ordeal.
Tara: Did you consider licensing the invention or did you always plan to manufacture it yourself?
Andrew: The only products that I pursue are patentable, simple, revolutionary and either we can manufacture or have someone manufacture, preferably one at a time. I prefer to take an order and then manufacture the product, that way you get to positive cash flow quickly. Inventors often run out of money because they buy large quantities of product to get a good price on the product and they wind up with a garage full of product they can’t sell.
In my experience, licensing a product is a difficult thing to do. Either you don’t get a deal, someone attempts to steal or design around the product or you get offered pennies on the dollar.
If you can manufacture and sell the product you start to “take away market share” and companies sit up and notice. At that point if you sell or license the product you get a much better deal.
Tara: How will you go about marketing and publicizing your product? Do you intend to sell the product direct to businesses and public yourself or are you planning to wholesale it?
Andrew: Greg started marketing the product to large companies right away. He has a real talent for sales. Greg knows that it takes a lot of “no responses” to get a single yes. Now our customers are Domino’s, Schwan’s, Speedway, Piccadilly Circus Pizza…and many Mom and Pop pizza shops.
I built the website www.PortionPadL.com and work with bloggers and social networking to build the brand. If you Google “Portion PadL” we are the main listing for about the first six pages.
Tara: How long has it taken from Greg’s initial idea to where you both are now with the business?
Andrew: We have been working together less than a year.
Tara: What advice would you give to an aspiring inventor who thinks they have a good idea?
Andrew: We all love our own ideas, you have to determine if there is a market for the product.
Here are some of my key decision factors:
- 1. Is the product Protectable? (Patent, Trademark, Copyright…)
- a. If you have a great product and it is not protected people will copy it fairly quickly.
- b. If you can’t protect the product I wouldn’t bother commercializing it
- i. However, there are products that sell very well such as the Snuggies, the Amish Fireplace…but those products have been successful because of large ad campaigns
- c. The Portion PadL is protected by numerous Utility Patents Pending so it’s met that key decision factor
- 2. Is the product Revolutionary?
- a. If it meets “a need” it is likely a commodity
- i. People can listen to music on a large number of MP3 players
- b. If it meets “a want” it is likely Revolutionary
- i. The iPod is the product that people want to listen to music on and therefore they have the largest market share.
- c. The Portion PadL has numerous advantages over the existing products that assist people in cutting and therefore it is a “want” product.
- 3. Can be manufactured “one at a time” until you have volume orders?
- a. In the initial stages of commercializing the product we bought a full sheet of Richlite and when a customer ordered one we had the manufacturer make one and ship it. That way we got to positive cash flow quickly.
Tara: What advice would you give to an inventor who has already developed and manufactured their product and are now looking at ways to publicize and market it?
Andrew: If they don’t have the expertise get help. Many inventors have a great idea or product but they get in their own way because they have no idea how to sell it. The product fails not because of the product but because the inventor cannot let go of controlling everything.
Tara: You have started creating a series of books for inventors chronicling the journey of inventors from invention idea to commercialization, perhaps you could tell me a little more about what you hope to achieve with the books?
Andrew: The series is called the Spilled Coffee Chronicles of Invention. I have several writers documenting inventors progress in commercializing products. I have a high success rate in commercializing products and the books will help inventors avoid the many inventors pitfalls. The books describe the successes and the failures along the way. The volumes are just starting to be published but the first volume for the Portion PadL is on Kindle and Amazon at: http://tinyurl.com/2wspqrh and http://tinyurl.com/36ypa6a, respectively. The books are also written to dispel many of the myths around inventing. It is not a get rich quick thing, it takes hard work and persistence. The books generate income for the inventors, the writers, myself and for reinvesting in publishing the series.