The invention of ‘Fidget Spinner’ offers valuable lessons for startup entrepreneurs
The handheld gadget has had its share of controversies; from being banned by schools for "creating distraction among students," to the controversy over its original inventor
By Major Sunil Shetty, SM (retd)CEO at AskMentor
Fidget spinner, also popularly known as finger spinner needs no introduction; from a four-year-old to upwards- anybody who could get two fingers around the fast spinning device has tried it.
Due to its popularity, the palm-sized toy has made it to the best sellers list in Amazon’s toys and games category, according to news reports.
The handheld gadget has had its share of controversies; from being banned by schools for "creating distraction among students," to the controversy over its original inventor.
Within its short life span, the fidget spinner has joined the list of evergreen toys, such as the Frisbee and Rubik's cube designed by the Hungarian sculptor Erno Rubik, which each successive generation has either owned it or at least played with it.
Unlike other toys, the spinner is versatile as it can be customised to suit once taste; not just in colour, size but also in design and material it is made from. It is here to stay!
The fidget spinner- a simple yet intriguing toy has interesting lessons to share with start-ups and entrepreneurs.
"It’s the sales, stupid!": Various news reports have identified
Catherine Hettinger, "a Florida based chemical engineer by training," and Scott McCoskery, an "entrepreneur based just outside of Seattle" as inventors of the fidget spinners.
McCoskery's two-winged spinner is identical in design to the popular three- winged gadget being sold on the market.
However, it is Catherine Hettinger who first developed the concept of a finger spinner.
Though the jury is still out and it might take a while to know who invented the toy- but in the meanwhile, it is the Chinese manufacturers who made money by selling the product. Entrepreneurs should be aware that nothing is more important than sales- So step out and make the sales, doesn’t matter who invented the product in the first place.
Rejection is not the end for a founder: According to reports, Hasbro, a toy manufacturing giant, had rejected Catherine Hettinger's concept after carrying out initial customers trials.
There is nothing to prove that she made attempts to connect with other manufacturers or even investors.
But today, Hasbro is selling the spinners- "almost 20 years after it denied the original product," says a report. There is scarcely an entrepreneur who hasn't faced rejection in the early stage...Rejection is not necessarily a failure- if you use it as constructive feedback or a chance to build a relationship.
There are lessons to learn even when the answer is "no."
Mentors are the key to success of failure:
A mentor could be the differentiator between enjoying success or agonizing over a failure.
Both Catherine and McCoskery would have immensely benefited from the professional advice of seasoned mentors.
After the Hasbro rejection, Catherine needed to show perseverance, and a mentor would have helped her to keep the course in spite of the disappointment.
Scott introduced his "two barred spinner in 2015 with the name Torqbar."
In spite of receiving encouraging response from customers, who were lining up to buy his spinner, Scott continued to sell it as a customised product.
A business mentor would have helped him tweak his business strategy keeping mind the customer feedback.
In the start-up world; entrepreneurs have time and again credited their success and growth to their mentor who provided timely advice, guidance and helped them in navigating through tough times.
Unique Businesses too need Scaling up:
Both Catherine and McCoskery achieved limited success as they failed in expanding their respective business beyond their local geographies.
Though, both the inventors found buyers for their products; they couldn't turn their idea into a profitable and scalable business.
Entrepreneurs should recognize that having a unique idea or product is not enough- what makes the difference between winning or losing is - how well you can scale up your business.
Most entrepreneurs start their entrepreneurial journey with limited skills and or experience.
Some acquire requisite skills as they go and other builds teams with complimenting skills.
While entrepreneurs are busy building their product or tweaking their business model, they may lose sight of emerging opportunities & challenges thus it helps to have a mentor who can be a guide and a sounding board when needed.(The author is founder-CEO of Hyderabad based AskMentor, a platform for startups. Views expressed are personal. Edited for Moneycontrol.)