Our December InvENtor Spotlight features Robert Francois! Robert has been a member of the Edison Nation community since 2009 and is an active Insider!
Where is your home town?
Charlotte, North Carolina.
I’ve also lived in Louisiana and Arizona.
Where do you currently reside?
Charlotte, North Carolina.
What is your professional background?
Our family business put me to work as soon as I learned to walk. LOL!
I escaped the family business after 30 years and went to work in the Louisiana oil drilling business. An oil glut hit, so I went back to the family business until I escaped again and entered into real estate.
How did you initially hear about Edison Nation?
I was reading The Charlotte Observer where they featured Edison Nation and our pro football team’s coach, John Fox. The coach’s two sons had an idea that was on Everyday Edisons. The article explained the process, which I felt was revolutionary for the everyday inventor.
Have you ever collaborated with another inventor(s) on a project? If so, how was that experience for you?
I’ve collaborated with several Edison Nation members.
We once had the opportunity to pitch three of our ideas at one function, so I had to build three prototypes in seven days. I must have went to Lowe’s 50 times that week and once to the grocery store for dog biscuits. Not for a dog, as one of the prototypes needed something to emulate fish sticks. So, I had to grind down the edges of those 10 bones and when through, I was covered with biscuit dust.
I decided to drive the 2,500 mile round trip because I couldn’t afford to risk the airline losing any of the prototypes. My brother made the trip with me and I found out he snores like a bullfrog. The night before the pitch, I ended up trying to sleep in the hotel bathtub to avoid the snoring. It was so loud, the guy next door was banging on the wall. Anyway, my brother’s new nickname is “bullfrog.”
I felt like an idiot when I was trying to use the hotel TV remote without my glasses and the channels and volume were working opposite. After I called the remote stupid, bullfrog said, “You are pointing the wrong end at the TV!” We got a good laugh on that one!
Another inventor we knew was also pitching the next morning and staying in the same hotel. She texted us to meet at the bar and stated she was a bit “abbreviated.” I reasoned she had misspelled “inebriated,” so I went back to the tub.
Needless to say, the pitch went better than the trip, but no cigar. But I wouldn’t trade the experience!
What are some general industry trends you have noticed recently?
More of the larger companies are utilizing crowd-sourcing and/or smaller more agile companies and universities for innovation. This appears to be a proficient means of blending agility with brand clout. Edison Nation was a pioneer in this arena and deserves great credit for their vision.
Do you find that invention ideas come to you or do you have to go after them?
I’m much more creative when focused on a specific category, which Edison Nation supplies. After the core idea surfaces from the imagination, features tend to just follow.
What advice would you tell newcomers to the innovation scene?
In my experience, rendering or drawing of ideas tend to spur innovative features.
In this industry you may need to be proficient and prolific, that is, it may take industry knowledge and many ideas to land one.
Creativity flows much easier when we are enjoying the journey and not enamored with a need.
In other words, go to the beach because you are happy and not to become happy. Edison Nation can alleviate stress, which can induce the flow.
What inspired you to start inventing?
I’ve always taken things apart to analyze how they work. I love when things run efficiently and I’m always trying to incorporate the same into product ideas. Form and function is like an art.
When did you come up with your first great idea?
Got cursed out at 10 when I cannibalized several of dad’s tools to create one.
After I got married and my wife’s things started morphing as well.
You have been an EN member since 2009, can you provide us with some details around your experiences and journey to date?
Edison Nation has been extremely good to me via many presentations which comes with invaluable feedback and industry knowledge.
What are some other fun facts about yourself that you’d like to share with the EN community?
Our family business was located about one mile from the EN office. Like Edison Nation’s historic building, we also renovated several of those historic uptown buildings into new businesses.