I could spend all my time lecturing new inventors about how their own work attitudes and behaviors influence the success of their inventions more than any other factor. They would continue to think that invention success happens magically, or worse, from an "invention success" company.
But every once in awhile, I run into a three-dimensional, walking, talking and, most of all, hard-working soul, who embodies the qualities that make inventors successful. This time it's Robert ("Bobby") Amore who, with his "Toner Belt," made it to the round-of-twelve in season one of American Inventor (ABC, 2006). Bobby just happens to be one of the few contestants from season one and two who has reached the mass market with his product... now being sold as the "Walk n' Burn."
Bobby's a guy who has never taken "no" for an answer; not when something mattered to him. He played varsity ice hockey at Power Memorial Academy, a NYC high school that groomed athletes the likes of NBA's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Chris Mullen, and NHL players, Brian and Joe Mullen. In his senior year, Division A hockey recruiters told Bobby he "hadn't grown enough," for Division A. He was five feet, six inches tall, but he went on to become of the best players in Division B.
When Bobby wasn't taken by the pros after college, again because he wasn't tall enough, he became a sports diplomat with a People to People program to the then "Soviet block" countries. It turned out to be the best job in the world for Bobby: a life of travel, hockey playing, and diplomacy in other countries.
Curiosity, diligence, optimism, and perseverance are Bobby Amore's trademarks, and these characteristics can be seen in everything he does. These traits were no less obvious to commodity traders on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange where Bobby, knowing nothing about trading or commodities, went from a floor runner to highly-paid trader, than they are to his invention partners.
Like most inventors, Bobby's first invention, a skate brake called SKIDS, didn't just hop from his frontal lobe to every pair of inline skates. SKIDS had its ups and downs. When financing fell through the first go-around, Bobby spent a year looking elsewhere, got his product patented, produced, licensed, and then he collected royalties on it for eight years.
When his first movie role with his friend, actor/director Tim Robbins, wasn't going too well, Bobby graciously bowed out and went to acting school until he got the confidence to get behind a camera again. To date, Robert Amore has had five other movie roles.
So what did Robert Amore do when the judges on American Inventor said 'sorry Bobby?' After months away from home, devoting almost every waking moment to creating packaging prototypes for the Toner Belt and scenarios for his TV appearances, after commiserating with all the other hopeful inventors on the American Inventor show day in and day out, after his family was misled by the producers into believing that Bobby would make it to the round of four.... What did Bobby do? He went out and made his product a success without American Inventor.
Bobby says he doesn't know exactly why the Toner Belt didn't progress further on American Inventor, but his disappointment didn't hang around for long. After all, he had received a U.S. patent for it, the Toner Belt was needed (especially by couch potatoes!), and he was determined to make it a winner.
Contacts with his patent attorney and others involved in the development of Toner Belt - now Walk n' Burn - introduced Bobby to licensing companies. Last summer, Bobby spent four entire days making connections with big licensing companies at the NYC Licensing Show. Bobby talked to a few companies before settling on a license deal with one of them. Now that his Walk n' Burn is off the ground, selling through infomercial and website, other licensing companies are asking Bobby to bring them more inventions.
Who's the winner of American Inventor? I say it's the guy who has thousands, maybe soon-to-be millions, of people buying his product. Bobby Amore only made it to the round-of-twelve on American Inventor Season 1, but that didn't keep him from making it to Number One in the real world.
If you want Bobby's help...
With an already full plate of his own inventions, a large new website venture, and weekly hockey coaching, Bobby is helping other inventors present their inventions to potential licensees If you want him to help you get your invention licensed, you'd better have your homework done ahead of time! He needs you to prepare a good drawing and/or prototype, a statement of purpose, marketing research, and a preliminary patent search. If Bobby thinks your invention will make a good fit with one of his contacts, he'll present it for you. Write him a note through Toner Belt.
(Another personal hero is Roger Brown, a successful inventor who writes for InventorSpot.com and participates often in the Forums. His interview can be read here.)