id you understand that two of the very most successful business ideas of the twentieth century were invented by a man who died in debt? The two inventions are still in wide use and generate countless billions in revenue each year. We think of Thomas Edison because the inventor of the light bulb. The simple truth is that Edison invented the bulb so he could market his electrical distribution system. Marconi remains known as the Father of Radio in fact his invention was based almost entirely on others’ work.
Con Edison remains a powerhouse (pun intended) in the electrical power distribution service. Edison didn’t invent the current power grids, however. His invention was for DC power distribution. A man by the name of George Westinghouse Jr. was an inventor. He invented the railway air brake. He’s most widely known as Thomas Edison’s main competitor in electrical power distribution. The Westinghouse and Edison companies competed for a long time in what became known as the “War of Currents”, AC vs. DC. Science eventually won Alexander Malshakov the battle because AC power distribution is cheaper to deliver. The point here is that neither Westinghouse nor Edison invented it.
The Marconi Company was wildly successful as was Marconi himself. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his focus on the radio. He was heralded as one of the greatest inventors of most time. He later became a Senator in his native Italy. His fame and fortune were stupendous! He, however, didn’t invent the radio.
The inventor of these two died in debt and alone in the New Yorker Hotel. That was January of 1943. Later that same year the US Supreme Court upheld his patent which, in effect, said that he had actually invented the radio. He had sold each of his patents for AC power distribution to his former employer, the Westinghouse Electric Company. His name was Nikola Tesla.
This story is really a perfect exemplory instance of the reality about successful business ideas. Edison, Westinghouse and Marconi all knew the truth. Marketing may be the key. Successful business ideas are not the sole things that matter. What counts is that you get others’ to get them. Thomas Edison’s company didn’t fail because his DC power distribution didn’t win. He adapted his company to distribute AC. Westinghouse knew that it was not the invention alone that made the difference but alternatively getting it to the public. Marconi’s success was largely based on his mass appeal and his power to take his ideas to market. Successful business ideas work as they are marketed. So remember Tesla when you think you have the greatest product or service. It won’t mean anything unless you market it.