A million pound invention doesn’t need to be complicated. Even the simplest and seemingly obvious idea can serve a purpose and make their creators wonderfully wealthy. We take a look at five ingeniously simple creations, their stories, and what you can learn from them. Just take a look at the world around you, there’s an idea waiting to be discovered and earn you a shedload of money.
- Always keep your eye out for the next big idea
- Don’t say yes to the first offer
- Don’t be afraid to think outside the box
- Be childish, be creative
- Solve problems
Velcro is the creation of Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral, who in 1941 went on a hunting trip with his dog in the Alps and crossed paths with the burdock burr. The tiny seed, covered in hundreds of ‘hooks’ which latch onto the microscopic loops on hair, fur and clothing, was a bit of a nuisance for people. But Georges saw something different: an idea that would change the world. Ten years later he patented Velcro, which earns Velcro Industries approximately £177 million each year.
Inventor Tip: It doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing, always keep your eye out for the next big idea.
Sadly the Smiley image is not the result of Forrest Gump using a t-shirt to wipe mud from his face. It was instead invented by the American artist Harvey Ball in 1963 but he went on to sell the rights to the design for the measly sum of around £30. How he must have regretted it when brothers Murray and Bernard Spain realised its marketing potential and sold it as a licensed image for roughly £34 million.
Inventor Tip: When someone offers you a few pounds for your invention, don’t say yes. It could be your biggest regret.
It may only be a piece of paper with a bit of glue, but the post-it note continues to serve a practical purpose. Yet the idea was an accident that came about in 1968 when Spencer Silver was trying to develop extremely strong glue for the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. Instead he created a “low tack” adhesive, which wasn’t what they were after and so he was moved on to other projects. Six years later, his colleague Arthur Fry opened his eyes to the potential of his discovery, using it to attach bookmarks in his notebooks. Thus the post-it note was born and annually makes around £70 million.
Inventor Tip: Not sure your invention is any good? Maybe you’re looking at it the wrong way
The world needed an app that offered different farting noises. Don’t believe us? Entrepreneur Joel Comm’s company Infomedia released the iFart Mobile app in 2008 and people have been eating it up, and letting loose a selection of flatulence noises, ever since. The paid-for app dominated download charts and allegedly brought in somewhere close to £7,000 a day at one point.
Inventor Tip: No matter what your family and friends say, keep a hold of that infantile sense of humour; it could make you rich!
Remember ketchup in a glass bottle and the nuisance of having to bash the bottom to get it on your chips? The result was either a no-show or a torrent of ketchup on your plate. Not anymore thanks to the upside-down bottle. It was invented by Paul Brown in the early 90s, and a special valve let people release the contents by pressing the sides. The leak-proof container has revolutionised everything from shampoo bottles to the cups used by astronauts, and Paul managed to sell his invention for an alleged sum of around £9 million.
Inventor Tip: Find a common problem, and solve it.