Work & Purpose

How ‘Nontrepreneurs’ With Ideas Can Win Money

Midlifers may want to enter the WayFounder contest for its $10,000 prize

I’m hooked on ABC’s Shark Tank (along with about 8 million others), because it’s fun to watch passionate entrepreneurs extract money from the likes of Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran and Kevin “Mr. Wonderful” O’Leary.

But what about people with clever ideas who don’t run companies and don’t want to?
That’s where the WayFounder Spring 2014 contest comes in.
A Contest for Nontrepreneurs

It’s inviting “nontrepreneurs” to submit their notions for must-have products in the categories of Home and Garden; Baby and Parent; Pets and Wild Card (essentially anything else). At least one winner will get a $10,000 cash prize. WayFounder will commit to spend up to $50,000 to bring the product idea to market, at which point the winner will get a 5 percent royalty on all sales revenue.
If WayFounder decides the product has the promise to scale up into a product line or spawn an entirely new category, it will commit up to $250,000 to hire an experienced CEO and give the winner 5 percent founder equity in the new company.

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There’ll definitely be one winner, but there may be more if the competition’s judges find worthy candidates. The cost to enter: $10.
WayFounder’s Los Angeles-based founder and CEO Damon D’Amore (a former producer for NBC’s The Apprentice and CBS’s Undercover Boss) says he’s looking for people “with great ideas but who aren’t interested in disrupting their lifestyle and family” to start a business.
Good Fit for People 50+

You’ve probably seen ads or heard about companies like Edison Nation or InventHelp that aim to help independent inventors bring their ideas to market. But to me, the WayFounder contest sounds like it’s especially for people 50+, ensconced in their careers or perhaps in retirement, who’ve been hankering to get their why-didn’t-anyone-think-of-this-before product to market (and make a few bucks from it).

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“People who are hobbyists or enthusiasts may have spent decades on their passion and they know what’s lacking in their market,” said D’Amore. “I see people all the time who say ‘if only someone would take a risk on my idea, I know there’s a market.’”
Don’t bother entering if your idea is for a service and not a product or an app.
“If you think, ‘I want to build the next Uber, that’s wonderful, but we can’t prototype that for $50,000,” says D’Amore. “If you can picture yourself walking into a store or an app store and buying the product for something like $200, it’s probably doable.”

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What WayFounder Is Looking For

You can submit one idea per category and here’s how WayFounder describes the kind of products and apps it wants:

  • Consumers should find them valuable, entertaining or necessary
  • They should be bold, fresh and original ideas
  • They should solve an existing problem or fill a need
  • They should be appealing to a large number of users
  • They should be technologically and financially feasible and realistic (WayFounder says “we’re not building rocket ships”)

Although WayFounder says submissions can be as short as a few paragraphs or as detailed as a full business plan, my advice after speaking with D’Amore is to provide as much detail as possible — things like photos, diagrams and video links.
The deadline for this contest’s entries is June 8; the winner or winners will be announced in July. WayFounder plans to run future competitions quarterly.
Interested in entering? Register and submit your idea or ideas at the WayFounder site.

Good luck and watch out for those sharks.

RIchard Eisenberg, editor at Next Avenue wearing a suit jacket in front of a teal background.
By Richard Eisenberg
Richard Eisenberg is the Senior Web Editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue and Managing Editor for the site. He is the author of How to Avoid a Mid-Life Financial Crisis and has been a personal finance editor at Money, Yahoo, Good Housekeeping, and CBS MoneyWatch. Follow him on Twitter.

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