It’s Not Where You Start That Counts

As they often do this time of year, my thoughts have started to come back to beginnings. The previous sentence is a bit misleading,

As they often do this time of year, my thoughts have started to come back to beginnings.

The previous sentence is a bit misleading, though.

Beginnings are never really far from my mind. They can’t be.

The very nature of my work precludes it. Every day, I meet with inventors and innovators. Some of them have been creating and inventing longer than I’ve been alive, or at the very least longer than I’ve been practicing patent law. Some of them are just coming up with their first invention at age 15, 20, 30 or 40.

Wherever they’re at in life, chronologically or otherwise, they’re just starting out on the next phase, the next step. They’re launching a new beginning, and it’s my job to help see them through the legal snares, tangles and pitfalls to get their innovations the protection they need to safeguard their financial future and their legacy. What they do after that is entirely up to them, whether they sell their patent rights for hundreds of millions of dollars or quietly make their fortune and fade back into obscurity. I have little to no say in it, and truthfully don’t think I’d want it even if I had it. It would be a little like a midwife demanding the child she just helped birth become an NBA All-Star—doesn’t really make sense with all the time between birth and that contract, and all the things that can happen and change in the interim.

Still, I’m thinking about beginnings.

I always find it kind of fun to look back at old prototypes and first drafts of various innovations, in much the same way I enjoy thinking back to when I first moved to South Florida to open my law firm.

My first office was a bedroom in my parents’ house which they allowed me to commandeer for my practice, in a home which I shared with them, my wife and, at the time, three kids ranging from newborn to late toddlerhood. Some 20 plus years later, my firm now occupies a 10,000 square foot building that is home to the offices of The Patent Professor®.

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It’s amazing how much things change over time!

If you’ve followed the rising career of Jeff Bezos, you may know that he started out of his house. What many people don’t realize is that his first desk started life as a salvaged door! A few bolts and screws, some angle braces and brackets, and you have the desk that launched him, and his company, to the top .0001% of the wealthiest people on the planet!

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Sara Blakely started off selling fax machines. But at 27, she had an idea to cut the toes off her pantyhose so the seams wouldn’t bother her feet in the Florida heat and humidity. This seemingly simple concept became a runaway sensation when her nascent company came to the attention of none other than Oprah Winfrey, who loved the new product. With two weeks’ notice, a home full of inventory and no shipping department, Sara had to hustle—and she did, parlaying this modest idea into a billion-dollar brand you know today as Spanx!

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Jay Sorenson was working as a commercial real estate agent when he dumped 12 ounces of hot coffee in his lap one morning. This was apparently commonplace enough to warrant no more attention than some mild cursing. But a few days later, while talking to a friend at a Portland Starbucks, he noticed customers holding their coffee cups between their thumbs and forefingers so as not to get burnt. The two incidents combined in Sorenson’s mind—and one of the biggest game-changers since coffee filters was born, in the form of the Java Jacket!

There’s roughly a 25% chance that while you’re reading this right now, you’re reading it on an Apple computer or an iPhone. But the first Apple computer, in 1976, didn’t look anything like the sleek models we’re used to today. In fact, the first model looked more like a child’s attempt to create a cardboard “computer.” Today, it’s tough to look at the integrated, advanced, solid-state tech we use as such an integral part of our modern life and equate it to the brutish, strange-looking antique that looks more like an old-style cash register than a computer and came out of a garage in Northern California—but from that first model sprang a computing revolution that has changed just about every part of our world!

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 The point is, it isn’t where you start that counts—as long as you don’t stay there.

The true innovators, the ones who really change the world, keep making moves. Even if there are false starts, fumbles, failures and foul-ups, the point is to always keep moving.

Remember the Bandai Pippin from Apple? Don’t feel bad. Hardly anyone else does, either…

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After all, no one ever made billions, revolutionized industries or made the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in the nation by resting on their laurels!

So my challenge to you today is to ask yourself this:

If today is where I start, where will I end up?

About the Author

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John Rizvi is a Registered and Board Certified Patent Attorney, Adjunct Professor of Intellectual Property Law, best-selling author, and featured speaker on topics of interest to inventors and entrepreneurs (including TEDx).

His books include “Escaping the Gray” and “Think and Grow Rich for Inventors” and have won critical acclaim including an endorsement from Kevin Harrington, one of the original sharks on the hit TV show – Shark Tank, responsible for the successful launch of over 500 products resulting in more than $5 billion in sales worldwide. You can learn more about Professor Rizvi his patent law practice at

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I’ve helped hundreds of inventors successfully prosecute their patent applications, from initial filing to final award and look forward to helping you with your new idea.

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