This Baltimore agency ignites business for inventors

John Cunningham formed License to Innovate last year to help inventors navigate the business world. Now he's bringing a compact camp stove to market.

nCamp's combustible stove is slated to be released in September.

(Courtesy photo)

In 20 years working at Stanley Black and Decker, John Cunningham saw a lot of inventors with good ideas. But when it came to getting a product into the marketplace to sell, there were challenges.
Figuring out a business plan, potentially licensing technology and just navigating the business world presented roadblocks. It’s the nitty gritty work that helps an invention turn into a money-maker.
When he left last year, he set out to help inventors.
“I wanted to be that champion for small businesses,” said Cunningham, who is from Dundalk. With his company License to Innovate (L2i), Cunningham is putting in place “a robust process for how to get that product to market.”
He met one such inventor in Dan Cuffaro. The Cleveland-based industrial design professor and avid backpacker created a wood-burning camp stove that can collapse into the size of a paperback book.
“The core technology is a collapsable cylindrical combustion chamber,” he said, adding that it can burn twigs, which eliminates the need for fuel and the packaging that comes with it.
When it came to the business side, Cuffaro attempted to fund it on Kickstarter, but didn’t reach the goal to get it funded. He met Cunningham through a colleague, who shared his business-side expertise. Now, the two have a deal where Cuffaro continues to own the patents, and L2i has exclusive rights to run the business. It’s a bit like tech transfer from universities that we often cover, but for a different kind of product.
Since teaming up, work has been focused on refining the product, lining up production and setting up distribution, the stove is set to be released in September under the nCamp brand.
“It’s really unusual from a designer’s point of view to find the business guy who is willing to dive in like that. That resonates,” Cuffaro said.
In fact, they’re looking to build a pipeline of products.
“We’re trying to look at every experience, every touchpoint on the campsite and say, ‘How can we make it more compact? How can we elevate the experience and how can we reduce weight'”? Cuffaro said.

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