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20 Questions with Technologist and Entrepreneurial Inventor, Dennis Fountaine


By: Sydney Carver, Tech Writer

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Have you ever wondered how new products and technologies are created? Where does the idea come from and how does it become an actual product that we purchase and use? I have always been curious about the process of invention, so I reached out to a well-known Technologist and Inventor, Dennis Fountaine, nominated to be one of America’s Top 100 Inventors. Dennis agreed to answer my usual 20 questions.

Sydney: Hi Dennis, how did you start your inventing career?

Dennis: Hi Sydney, thanks for contacting me. Funny story, (kids DO NOT try this at home) when I was 8 years old, all the kids in my neighborhood had weekend Lemonade Stands, I wanted to do something innovative and compete on a different level, so I took an old piece of wood, hammered two nails through it about 6 inches apart and then cut off the female end of an old electrical extension cord, stripped the wires and put one end around the bottom of one nail and did the same on the other nail – I plugged in my contraption and stuck a hot dog between the two nails and started cooking and selling hot dogs in my driveway. I made 20 times as much as the kids selling lemonade until my parents came home and discovered that I had invented a live electrical killing machine because anyone who accidentally touched both nails at the same time would potentially be electrocuted. So there went my Hot Dog career, but I learned a lot about inventing and being an entrepreneur just from that one electrifying experience.

Sydney: OMG! Your parents must have been in “shock”!

Dennis: Cute Sydney, yes, let’s just say that my electricity privileges were suspended for a while.

Sydney: What was your next big successful invention?

Dennis: I had a Video Production Company and was creating and producing various video programs. I met a gentleman by happenstance who was in charge of the Army/Air Force Exchange Service in Germany. He asked me if I knew of any video products that could be used by the GIs to communicate with friends and family back in the States. I didn’t, but thinking quickly on my feet, I told him I would come up with something for him, so I started thinking about it and created a new video product called The Video Capsule. It was like the old Photo Booths but recorded video instead of just taking photographs.

Sydney: Interesting that you were able to rely on your video technology knowledge and expertise and incorporate that into one of your inventions.

Dennis: Yes, I try to do that a lot.

Sydney: What would you say is your most successful invention?

Dennis: I can tell you both my most successful and my favorite.

Sydney: Yes, sure, tell me about both.

Dennis: I’d have to say that my most successful invention was my Bluetooth wireless earpiece for mobile phones – I think it was actually the very first one that was wireless and incorporated Bluetooth.

Sydney: Wow! That’s very impressive!

Dennis: Thank you – I was tired of dealing with cords and cables…and back in the day, we had to do that.

Sydney: And which one was your favorite?

Dennis: Well, there are actually several of them – many of which unfortunately never made it to market.

Sydney: That is unfortunate. What is the usual success rate – or is there one?

Dennis: It’s just all about timing and being at the right place with the right idea. I’ve had multiple inventions be way ahead of their time and then five – ten years later I discover my idea that someone else eventually also had but their timing was later and because of that they have success in the market with the product. But I’d say two to three out of a hundred new ideas actually go from idea in someone’s head to a success in the market.

Sydney: What about your success rate?

Dennis: I usually try to conceptualize, research, develop, prototype and license around seven new ideas per year and maybe if I’m lucky – one to two of those will actually get licensed, sold and brought to market. Some years its more successful and other years nothing happens. So, again, it’s all about timing and doing your market research.

Sydney: Getting back to your favorite inventions, is there one or two you can tell us about?

Dennis: Sure. One was called Motion Memory – a brain and body gamified electronic yoga-like floor mat – which is so much fun and great exercise for your body and memory. I’m still working on getting it to market. There were a few ice cream desserts that I created, which I sold to a large retail ice cream chain and numerous pet products.

Sydney: That’s amazing – you are really diversified – consumer electronics, toys, pet products, and desserts? How do you do that – come up with so many different types of ideas.

Dennis: Well, you haven’t seen anything yet! Marketing and promotions play an important role.

Sydney: You mentioned marketing – do you have to be a good marketer to be a good inventor.

Dennis: Definitely – you not only have to understand the market but you almost have to predict emerging market trends – you really have to do your research and homework before spending any money on your product concept and then you have to be a good marketer and salesperson to convince executives at major companies to license or purchase your concept, or for a consumer to buy your product. However, it always starts with an idea. Speaking of great inventors and marketers, I’ve always been a big believer in what Thomas Edison once said to the news media, “I find out what the world needs, and then I go ahead and try to invent it.”

Sydney: What are your words of wisdom for any aspiring inventors?

Dennis: I actually have several. 1. Do your market research and homework. 2. Do not spend any money until you know that there is a market for your invention and that it is unique, innovative and would have a chance at success. 3. Do not become emotionally attached to your ideas – you will always have other ideas – so you have to know when to call it quits and move onto another new idea. 4. Try not to manufacture or bring your product to market yourself – license or sell your product and let others do all the heavy lifting – you’ll leave a lot of money on the table but in exchange – you will not have the headaches and expense of manufacturing, marketing, sales and customer service. I’d rather have ten inventions each making me a royalty of a one dollar a month than try to do everything and make ten dollars a month on that one product – does that make sense? And my favorite words of advice to any inventor is to always throw a bunch of stuff up on the wall to see what sticks!

Sydney: I get it – yes – I agree with you. What’s next – what are you working on now? I hope it doesn’t have anything to do with nails or electricity?

Dennis: (Laughs) You probably won’t believe this – but coincidentally, one of my current projects does involve nails and electricity – but a different kind of nail – women’s fingernails. I wanted to give busy women the freedom and ability to instantly change the color of their nails at any time. So, I’ve been developing a special type of press on nail that



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20 Questions with Technologist and Entrepreneurial Inventor, Dennis Fountaine



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