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Inventor Spotlights

Jim Brady

Founder & President, Earthcomber
Chicago, Illinois

Innovator Develops App to Connect People, Businesses

Finding people—and finding them fast—is Jim Brady’s innovation. Connecting people was his prerogative back when he was executive producer of Oprah.com; there Brady helped develop a system that allowed producers of Oprah’s talk show to find guests for a myriad of topics within hours of taping. Those connections would then allow Oprah and her guests to connect with the world.

Today, finding people fast continues to be Brady’s passion as founder and president of Earthcomber. Earthcomber’s navigation application allows a user to set his location, then helps the user find nearby businesses or events that might be of interest to him. The app then alerts the user’s friends about the location. Instant connections.

But Brady also knows that just because an inventor develops a useful innovation doesn’t mean he or she will get the praise they deserve or be in a position to profit on the outset. “You’ve got to look at the stakes of the real world,” Brady said. “In my experience, it was a very frustrating lifestyle—I had this great invention, I could see the world using it and I couldn’t do anything about it. There seemed to be a real disconnect between developing a useful idea and benefiting from it.”

Start-ups Lack a Level Playing Field

Many inventors like Brady feel stuck because they don’t have the backing to take their patent to the next level. That’s not a good position to be in. “I tried to assert my patents on my own, but I didn’t have the wherewithal, the legal clout, or the money for companies to take my start-up seriously.” A start-up’s resources can be exhausted quickly, Brady explained, and other companies with bigger legal teams know that. “In a battle of giants, you have to be a giant. Only then will people come to terms, talk ‘real turkey’ and work out licensing or subscription agreements.”

Connecting with Intellectual Ventures is what ultimately propelled Brady’s business forward. He sold his patents and put Earthcomber back on a level playing field with his competitors. “We were slogging along in the space, doing what we could to make ends meet, not making much profit, and suddenly we are able to realize our investment. All the people who believed in our company from the beginning, who thought it was a good idea, were able to get their money back and then some. It freed us up to explore different applications as well. This changed the business reality for us.”

“The business of Intellectual Ventures is a win-win in my experience.”

This is one connection from which Brady’s business will continue to benefit for a long time. But he also realizes that companies needing access to IP also benefit. Companies can’t own every patent they need, Brady said, so instead they can subscribe to and take part in innovation in a way that honors the innovator. “That serves a great purpose.”

Brady says he hopes his own start-up will grow to participate.

Jim Brady
"Patents can be valuable, but the idea that they will be honored is really a naïve thing."

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