Patently Strategic Podcast: Robert Cameron and the Power of Perseverance

We’ve seen few entrepreneurial success stories that haven’t involved heavy doses of perseverance, grit, observation, and creative problem-solving. Today’s guest possesses these qualities in spades. And while I can’t necessarily recommend some of the more death-defying specifics of his approach … at least not without a lot of “don’t try this at home” fine print … I do think that most inventors and aspiring entrepreneurs will benefit immensely from studying our guest’s thoughtfully crafted, time-tested, and wildly inventive approaches to innovation and business.

I met Robert Cameron back in October at the US Inventor Conference in Washington, DC. I was lucky enough to bump into him over dinner when he shared his incredible story with me. It’s one of the funniest and most inspiring success stories you’ll hear.

Our Guest

 Robert Cameron is the Owner and CEO of Multi Wedge – as well as the inventor of some brilliant products sold under the same name. Multi Wedge non-marring pry tools are designed to pry delicate materials without damage, making them excellent tools for woodworking, electrical wiring, delicate mechanical work, and so much more. Robert’s wedges were recently tested by SpaceEx and used in the manufacturing process of Jet Engines at G.E. Aviation. And of slightly less significance, but much closer to home, found under the Christmas trees of several of my closest relatives this past December. Robert has molded 1.3 million 3-piece sets, 3.3 million single wedges, and has been selling Multi Wedge in over 18,000 stores since 2010!

Episode Overview: Inventor Stories Vol. 3

This episode is the third installment in a series (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) we’ve started that focuses on lessons learned from inventors at various stages of the innovation lifecycle. Each installment presents unique perspectives and takeaways from those actively in the trenches. In this episode, Robert and I discuss:

  • Robert’s journey from New Zealand native to American innovator
  • Harrowing tales of self-bootstrapping while literally dodging bullets
  • A hilarious side hustle to keep the lights on while the business took hold
  • How to stay nimble when establishing product-market fit and knowing when to pivot
  • Creative approaches to customer discovery, gaining traction, and product distribution

Robert’s Model

If you want to know how it’s done without spending a ton of someone else’s money and losing control of your company, Robert’s stories provide an excellent recipe. Not everyone is going to have to dodge bullets, benefit from crossing paths with one of the most uniquely qualified CMOs at just the right time, or get a side job as a plumber after failing 39 of 40 questions on the application test, but there’s a lifetime’s worth of entrepreneurship lessons to be learned from Robert’s incredible experiences.

  • Leverage your talent stack. Focus on problems that matter to you and that can be solved with skill sets you’ve developed when seeking out solutions. Being an “idea person” isn’t going to get you far if resource constrained. From prior roles, Robert had observed many situations where workers struggled to pry expensive precision parts from one another without damage. He made his first wedge prototypes from modeling wood to test the size and look of the product he hoped to create. After finalizing the design, he built the injection mold using a traditional Bridgeport Type Mill, relying on his tool-and-die apprenticeship.
  • Sweat equity has the best ROI. You don’t have to overleverage yourself or give up control of your company to investors if you can stay lean. Robert left his job, found a minimally viable machine shop (to put it mildly!) to work in, did a side hustle to keep himself fed, and performed all of his own R&D. While gaining traction, he did all of his own customer research, sales, packaging, and order fulfillment.
  • Stay nimble and keep your eyes open. If your initial vision doesn’t make for a good product-market fit, stay open to new possibilities and opportunities to pivot. As a mechanical guy who had worked on rally sprint cars and motorbikes, Robert originally envisioned his prying tools being used for splitting motorcycle cases. After facing the dejection of realizing a prototype he’d created hadn’t even been taken out of the box at a Yamaha dealership he had left it with (due to a different specialized tool already existing), he observed another machine shop resident (and future CMO) using his wedges to pry apart picture frames and realized that perhaps his tools had a better future with woodworkers.
  • Creative and persistent entrepreneurship. Innovation doesn’t stop with the product. You’re also engineering a business, and I think this is where many fail or just stop short completely. Robert details some incredible stories about his persistence with and creative approaches to zero-cost customer research, how he got into some of the biggest distributors and hardware tool chains via private label arrangements, and how he’s been running his business since 2010 with no warehousing, no sales reps, and no employees.

Broadly speaking, inventing is both the big and the small. Collectively, all of these inventions in our world make up the miracle that is modern life, and it’s really about recognizing some need, tirelessly working toward a solution, and staying nimble and open to new opportunities and paths that present themselves along the way. I love the journey Robert’s taken, what he learned along the way, and the decisions he’s made. It’s a truly great American invention story, so I hope folks out there take a lot away from this. I know I did.

Mossoff Minute: Litigation, Injunctions, and Trolls

In this month’s Mossoff Minute, Professor Adam Mossoff discusses findings from the recently published World IP Day Patent Litigation Study. This study clearly shows problems with the patent system but not the problems you typically hear from the companies that have been dominating the patent policy discussions for the past decade. Adam also highlights the importance of injunctions and damages – something we’ll be discussing a lot more in segments to come. We’re also publishing excerpts as short-form videos on Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, and TikTok.

Related Listening and Reading

To further explore the topics discussed, see the following past episodes and resources:

 

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