BAB LEAP Client of the Month

This month, BAB LEAP is bringing the spotlight to one of our most forward thinking clients, Innovate Product Design, Inc. We caught up with the CEO of this product development company, Alastair Swanwick, to find out more about what makes Innovate tick and hear how they managed to break into the US market earlier this year.

Innovate helps individuals on a budget develop their inventions, protect their designs and commercialize their new product ideas.  An inventor himself, Alastair Swanwick had struggled to find the assistance he needed to make his ideas a reality when working in London in the 1990’s. And so the idea for Innovate was born. Today, Innovate guides inventors through all the stages of                                                      the invention process to give them the best chance of success at marketing their products.

BAB LEAP: Having operated in the UK for over 10 years, Innovate is a well-established and successful business. What attracted you to expand into the US?

Alastair: There is a real inventive spirit in the US, so building a presence here was an obvious choice for Innovate. The sheer size of the market and the fact we share the same language also made it an attractive move.

We thought hard about where we would base our US team. San Francisco stood out. The city is known for being a hotbed of new ideas and we wanted our clients to benefit from this reputation. San Francisco is where the future comes from.

We also looked closely at what our competitors, standard invention marketing companies, were doing in the US. They have some good ideas that are well advanced of what we see at home. By learning from our experience in the US, we hope to be ahead of the game in terms of the UK market.

BAB LEAP: How was the process of setting up the business and incorporating Innovate different to what you had experienced in the UK?

Alastair:  In some way the process was quite similar, you call in the expert! This was where the services of BAB LEAP were invaluable. Stuart Bagshaw has a real knowledge and wisdom about the US market and was able to help us navigate the whole process; from incorporation through to setting up our employee payroll. It was a great help; in fact we didn’t know how much we needed it until we had started. It was a relief to be able to pick up the phone and have someone there to talk to who was able to explain everything and make sure we avoided the many pitfalls.

BAB LEAP: How would you describe your initial entry into the US market?

Alastair: It was a steep learning curve for Innovate! In some ways, we definitely tried to run before we could walk. Initially, we set out with a blanket nationwide advertising campaign that was ultimately expensive and offered little return. I would definitely advise others to take the time to get to know their prospective US clients. For example, we’ve found that people on the US side of the pond are much more receptive to visually inspired communication, so we’re re-launching our US website and other marketing materials to focus on images and video content. We’re also now making sure our marketing is much more focused, both geographically and in terms of whom we are targeting.

BAB LEAP:  Do you have any other advice for UK companies looking to expand over here?

Alastair: One of the best things to come out of our initial business trip to the US was a meeting with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), a branch of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. They were extremely helpful in terms of putting us in touch with the right people and offering us advice on export issues.

We also found using the BAB LEAP offices really helpful. Having a fully functional office with all the administrative back up ready and waiting for us meant that we could get on with the business of doing business, without getting bogged down with administrative issues. Having all the know-how of the BAB LEAP team under the same roof was also an enormous help.

BAB LEAP: Have you had any particular success stories since you arrived in the US?

Alastair: We measure success at Innovate by our ability to help a client take their idea from paper to product. It’s been fantastic to see the first few US clients come through this whole process; from initial design and development, to securing patent protection and creating prototypes ready to be pitched to potential investors and manufacturers.

I would also consider finding the right personnel to manage our US operation to be a success. We needed someone who could really understand and relate to our clients, but also someone who could help us appreciate the local nuances. Jessica Vann has been fantastic in that sense. Not only is her father an inventor, she is half American, half British, and speaks both languages fluently!

BAB LEAP: What’s next for Innovate?

Alastair: At the moment, the focus in the US is on really getting to know our clients, to understand what they need from us and to ensure that our services are able to meet those needs. Once we’ve consolidated our presence in California and New York State, we’ll be expanding our reach across the US.

In the future we’d like to create a pathway that will allow our UK clients to put their ideas in front of US companies and exploit the market here. Likewise, we will create a gateway for our US inventors to market their ideas to Europe and beyond.

We know we’ll be watching Innovate accelerate and expand with interest here at BAB LEAP.

If you would like more information on Innovate Product Design and the services they have to offer, please click here

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