The first time I used a model to swing a deal is blogged below. The next time this sneaky technique was employed was in my first patent license deal based on our shaped-crystal growth process: but first a bit of background.
I forget how it came about, but the New York Times picked up on our activities, the fruits of which were some amazingly long and intricate constant cross-section sapphire crystals, grown with great dexterity from molten alumina at over
The article generated lots of interest, but not a whisper from Gillette. OK, so who, we asked ourselves, is an Avis to Gillettes Hertz? (Remember when Avis used to try harder?) We decided to target Gem, a razor blade manufacturing subsidiary of
Off we traipsed to Richmond, Virginia, armed with hastily grown sapphire ribbon-like crystals roughly in the form of long single-edged razor blades, and a (grossly inaccurate) estimate of the time and cost to perfect the technique and to bring the price per blade down to what we imagined would be an acceptable level. (Ah, the refreshing naïveté of youth and inexperience: so much more stimulating than the somber face of jaded professionalism.)
Because the tech-stuff we described to the Gem engineers was leagues more exciting than their usual diet, we encountered not the NIH (not-invented-here) Syndrome of a Gillette, say, but rather an enthusiasm that transcended their habitual engineering torpor.In fact, everything seemed to be progressing smoothly, and uncharacteristically swiftly, until: enter the sharp-faced eyeshade wearers to discuss the financial details of a possible deal, most notably the matter of license royalties.
The concept that had emerged from the discussions with the techies and the marketeers was a one-piece razor comprising a fancy plastic handle bonded to a sapphire single-edge blade. It would be advertised as everlasting as older versions, at least, of the wedding ceremony also proclaimed.
OK then, we needed to agree on a royalty rate (1%? 3%? 5 %?), but as a percentage of what? We, of course, sought to make the royalty base the net selling price of the fancy ready-to-use razor; they, no surprise to learn, insisted that the royalty base be the cost of the sapphire part only. Reasonable? In a pigs eye! Since they would be manufacturing the blades, even if we made the pre-sharpened ribbons, they could assign an arbitrary cost to the blade, making it a very small fraction of the selling price of the sexy razor. Our royalty would then be a very small percentage of a very small percentage: phooey!.
My youthful chutzpah not having been seriously eroded, I insisted on talking to THE boss-man, a very senior
For this crucial meeting, probably to be scheduled for no more than 15 minutes, a show-and-tell deal-unbreaker would be needed: no trenchant arguments, no how-can-a-giant-like-you-beat-up-on-a-small-company-like-us sort of thing, no verbal foreplay, just one swift knockout punch. Call in the model-maker!
The prop I decided on was a sapphire-bladed model of an old-fashioned cut-throat razor with a teak handle, to nestle, of course, in a red velvet-lined teak box. (From the previous blog you now know what razors and thermoelectric generators can have in common.)
Wonderfully ingenious Harry LaBelle figured out how to grow a long sapphire crystal with the same cross-sectional geometry and dimensions as the blade of a classic cut-throat razor, but with a rounded rather than a sharp cutting edge. (We couldnt afford the risk of a slashed
Back, then, to Richmond with the precious prop, and to a room full of weasel-faced nay-sayers arranged in an arc around the massive desk and presence of His Nibs the unmentionably senior Philip Morrisite. OK gentlemen he said, but in a tone that made gentlemen sound more like an insult than an approbation, whats the issue? He was addressing his cohorts, but focusing on the box that I was slowly unwrapping. The senior eye-shaded cohort ranted on about the unreasonableness, illegality even, of our demand that the royalty base on the to-be-developed everlasting sapphire-bladed razor be the net selling price of the whole fancy razor, and not just the novel blade. But by then, the exec had the box in his hand, had opened it, had carefully taken out the razor, had run his manicured fingers along the shiny sapphire blade, had held it up admiringly to the light, and had acquired that visionary demeanor to which only the most overpaid execs are allowed to aspire. Give them what theyre asking, he proclaimed: exeunt the corporate plebes, spluttering and muttering, but to no avail.
Said I: May I be allowed, sir, to request that you keep, as token of our appreciation, the , the .(What should I call it? Not model surely.) No need to worry: his piercing stare defied me to request the return of whatever it was to be called.
At the negotiated royalty rate of 4%, we would have attained wealth beyond the dreams of avarice if only the damn project had been successful. But then, us research types are, well lets hear it from the thrice-married but still virginal Ms. Smith: Married for the third time? expostulated the incredulous gynecologist. Well, said demure Ms. Smith, my first husband was killed in a car accident on the way to our honeymoon; my second husband may have had a stiff you-know-what, but his wrists were big-time limp; and my present husband is an R&D Director who keeps telling me how good its going to be when it happens.
OK, a flippant account, this, but of actual events and with a powerful message. Maybe professional intellectuals, philosophers and the like, can buy an idea from words alone, but most men/boys (women are less likely to still be girls) often need a tangible something to open the clogged passage through their cynical yea, tell me another attitude, the metaphorical Kevlar vest to protect them from idea salesmen. That something will best be a physical model that can be played with, e.g. disassembled and reassembled, or at least a toy that can be handled and admired. What it really is, in context, is a metaphorical drill to burrow through the veneer of adulthood into the spontaneous receptivity of the youthful mind. (Wow! Did I say that?)