Tyler Jorgenson 0:01
You’re listening to biz ninja entrepreneur radio. This show was created for entrepreneurs, business owners, marketers and dreamers who want to learn from the experts of today and drastically shortcut their own success to build a business that supports their dream lifestyle. Since 2011, Tyler Jorgensen has been interviewing business thought leaders from around the world, a serial entrepreneur himself, Tyler also shares his personal insights into what’s working in business today. Welcome to biz Ninja, entrepreneur radio. Welcome out to biz ninja entrepreneur radio, I am your host, Tyler Jorgensen. And today, we have somebody who even if you don’t know his name, you know him, right. So Dan clippinger is the inventor of Bop it, I guarantee this toy has tormented you at least once in your life, either directly, or just through hearing somebody fail and get tormented there at the end of it all. But I’m very excited to have Dan on the show to talk about inventing and entrepreneurship. So Dan, welcome out.
Dan Klitsner 1:10
Thank you, Tyler. Looking forward to it.
Tyler Jorgenson 1:12
So Bob, it just hit 25 years old. But how long ago did the product start for you?
Dan Klitsner 1:19
Well, the journey started, probably when I was very young, playing games with family and friends. You know, love always been a game lover. And I think to me, the best memories of connecting with people have always been through games. And as you follow that arc, you know, I went to school as an industrial designer was always interested in mechanical things, and eventually found my way to the industry of toy design toy invention. So it started young, but the, you know, the it really was led there through industrial design. Yeah.
Tyler Jorgenson 1:58
And that’s fascinating. So when did you first realize I mean, you said you loved games, and you loved connecting with people? When did you first realize that you wanted to be an inventor?
Dan Klitsner 2:06
First time, I’d heard about what that you could do. That was actually I was a consulting designer, for a toy company, discovery toys. They were one of my first freelance clients, where I was designing toys for them, maybe preschool toys, and for maybe five, six years. And I kept hearing that there was this sort of possibility that if you had an idea, you could pitch it to toy companies, and they would license it. And I thought, it sounded exciting. I mean, I really couldn’t think of anything more fun. And so I sort of eased into it by looking into that, as I was, you know, discovering that that field existed.
Tyler Jorgenson 2:45
So you know, it sounds like one of the most like purest form, you just love the idea of creating and you love the idea of then being able to, you know, actually, you know, turn that into something real. The my understanding is that Bop It didn’t start originally as a toy the way it is. Now, tell us a little bit about Bob and how its origin story.
Dan Klitsner 3:06
It’s got, I’ll try to make it short. Because it can go on and on. But it because it really is like many inventions, it has quite I think the backstory on how inventions come to be, it’s always really interesting, because usually, there’s several accidents, there’s several lucky breaks, there’s several things that really make something work versus it could just still be in the closet. And Bob, it started because as an industrial designer, I actually had a client Memorex, if you know, who I was doing remote controls for sure. And I was designing, you know, cool looking remotes. And right at that time, this is 1993, something like that. There were universal remotes started to hit the market. And I actually got another client designing there. There’s one for all universal remotes. And while I was doing that, I was also doing toy design for this discovery toys and other starting to look into pitching inventions. Right. And I was while I was doing the remotes, I thought, well, what about remotes for kids? Could there be something like a remote, and that would work just for kids. And I was also sort of on this kick of trying to make whatever I did more physical things that you would have to physically engage with, rather than pushing buttons on a remote. Could you do something and the idea, I think I brought my little prop here for those seeing it. It was this hammer that you was a remote control that you bang on a table to change the channel up and bang it the other way to change the channel down. You would twist for volume and pull for on off. So those are all big physical gestures. Yeah, that were meant to be the opposite of just pushing buttons. I think I like it. I
Tyler Jorgenson 4:50
think it’s funny about that is you know that that was invented 25 years ago, because there was a lot less channels to hammer your way through.
Dan Klitsner 4:57
Absolutely. You know, even though there were books Enough, I just thought it was funny. Like, it’s a, it’s kind of like watching a TV became a game you just had, right, you know, bang on the table, you know, 20 times, you know, now 900 times. So it was started is that and I had some other ideas for remotes as well that were like a channel, sir for couch potato and a slice of pizza with the pepperoni with like, just silly ideas, but they were all funny gags, but none of them were physical. And so the company I licensed that to, I did license those and some people have them was not interested in the hammer because it was too different than the others too hard to pull off. So in showing it pitching it to some other companies that are this hammer thing. That’s cool. You know, it’s like a toy, but it’s a remote control. And someone like this is one of the things about being an inventor, I think is most people will tell you, it’s about as much about listening, as it is about inventing. And I was pitching it to in one meeting and someone said, Well, maybe it’s not a TV remote. Maybe it’s just a game maybe and, and instead of saying, of course it’s a remote, you stop a goat, well, maybe. And so I you know, through that, and a couple other iterations started to think about it as a game. And this hammer that you you know, you bopped on the table said what if it just what if it was memory? What if it was like Simon where it had lights on it, and it told you what to do? And I actually tried that. And it was kind of too hard to remember these physical moves. When you think about Simon, it’s a pattern and your mind can memorize visual patterns quite easily. But then I sort of said, Well, maybe it’s audio commands, because I just it’s part of that experiment. And not you’re never sure where these epiphanies come from, right. And so I tried memorizing four moves in a row five moves in a row. And actually, it was too hard. And so really what happened to you know, the biggest sort of realization was, what if it was just one move? Wouldn’t that be too easy? Would you ever get it wrong? If I told you, you know, pick up that pen, turn off the lamp, you’re like, well, you’ll just do it right, you’ll never get it wrong. But somehow, because this was rhythmic. When I tested it, it was Bop it, twist it, pull it, twist it, pop it, twist it, pop it, twist it. And you could tell by speeding it up, you know that you would eventually get confused with these physical gestures. So the biggest moment there was sort of having this hunch that one move, it’s the only game really that’s been done where one move at a time, you’ll still get it wrong. If you think that’s why people laugh, they laugh at getting it wrong, because it seems too easy. Right? You know, versus a game that had plenty of ideas that are too hard. It’s hard to make one that’s that easy. So that eventually, I pitched it to a company at the time it was actually Milton Bradley, again, to many relationships. At that time, I had also pitched some other ideas and successfully licensed some other games. And luckily, the guy, you know, in a lesson of it’s who you pitch something to not just the company, it’s the individual and this guy, Bill Dorman, who’s passed away last year, was a very legendary guy, he had discovered Twister and nerf for Milton Bradley, I believe he was, you know, so I was excited to pitch in this. And he looked at it and said, You know, we’re not doing games like this. But we should. So that little but we should was wire how Bop it really got in the door where it was that individual saying, we should be doing this? And and that’s really the story you’ll hear from many entrepreneurs, it’s, you know, did they make it through this gate or that gate? And from that point on, a lot of the development was done internally at Hasbro by some very talented designers. And really, you know, again, to make the story short, that’s the origin story of Bob, it
Tyler Jorgenson 8:56
was no, it’s pretty fascinating. And I, I love the number of things that as an entrepreneur, you can learn from that, right? So you can learn the ability, like what you said was early on in that was really, really significant to me, which is, it’s not just about pitching. It’s about listening. Because it’s that those little things, a feedback like that there were several different times that allowed you to really iterate and get it to something that took off now, I think when it first went to market, it had some nominal success, but the thought was it might only have a short two or three year window. When did you know that? that they’d really this was going to be a bigger thing that it was a hit?
Dan Klitsner 9:31
Well, yeah, I got I started to get some calls from you know, it probably came out in June, July started to pick up no advertising, just no Try me. We’re just sitting on the shelf. And they started to do some TV on it. And they were kind of surprised, hey, this is taking off. I got a phone call from Bill. And he said what what do you think we should do next? You know, and if this keeps going, this is going to be a brand like they kind of knew maybe maybe it took about Another few months, but they were aware that this could be another brand. So that’s why I came up with Papa extreme, like, right away, I had probably some of the coolest drawings I have was like the original. This was the first bought but extreme sketch, you know, just the idea of taking it further instead of smaller or seeming it was just in my mind, it was a we can go bigger with this thing. And so luckily, again, they took that on, and that sort of cemented it once. It sort of gained another more momentum another couple years later, but I think everyone was surprised that it sort of, ultimately, it’s hard to get an evergreen game, there’s very, very few throughout history, and
Tyler Jorgenson 10:42
there’s not that many who knows, and monopolies and bypass. Yeah,
Dan Klitsner 10:45
that’s right. And so 25 years, it’s very significant that it’s hit that generational time where people that were kids, you know, we’re nine years old, but it started are in their 30s. Now they’re having kids. And so that’s when a brand I think really takes off, it’s when you you get the generation to remember it when they were kids and pass it to their kids.
Tyler Jorgenson 11:07
I agree that nostalgia has a really, really powerful component. Totally agree with that, you know, so typically, we ask entrepreneurs, the challenges that they overcame, while they were in that journey. So not necessarily just bought it, but really just, you know, Dan clips or moving from, you know, a engineer into becoming an inventor and an entrepreneur. What challenges did you face early on? And how did you overcome them?
Dan Klitsner 11:31
Well, it’s a great question about business models for someone who you know, and really to clarify the difference that I’m not an I’m not a manufacturer, it’s like, if you’re a screenwriter, and you’re pitching movie scripts, you know, you still have to have the right director and the right company, someone has to buy it, who’s the right company to do something with it. And I think as an inventor, when you have a lot of concepts, one is it’s not like you have just one idea. Most people are successful, have hundreds of ideas. And you’re trying to matchmake you’re trying to build enough relationships with enough companies so that you have the right idea at the right time, with the right company with the right person, with the right marketing with the right luck with the right serendipity like, all these things have to go right for an idea to make its way through. So you better have a lot of relationships. And you never know like Bob it actually I think there was seven eight companies that said no, you know, and it kept changing a little every time they’d say no, and I’ve many concepts like that.
Tyler Jorgenson 12:29
I think that’s really important. Right? So not only did you listen and make adjustments you want and you kept pitching to no more to other people. But it also, did you just have one idea and stay with that until it worked? Or were you also like pursuing new ideas coming up with new like always? Yeah,
Dan Klitsner 12:45
probably 100 ideas a year, maybe 200? You know, and because each company is a little different. And as people find out about you, or as you start to build relationships, you just need one of those companies, the right companies say yes, so you can be so depressed. No one likes this. I really thought it was good. It’s on the show. Yeah, I’ve had stuff sitting in a cupboard for five years. And then someone’s in the office, and we say, what about this, and it’s gold to them. So you have to really play, it’s like, you wouldn’t pick one stock, right? Just say That’s it, I’m never buying another stock, you got it. You gotta have a portfolio, if you’re going to be a professional inventor have a portfolio of ideas, understand your audience know which company sort of has which type of line. Some of them are looking for preschool and some for activities and some for games and stuff. Like they’re all different. And the biggest mistake people make is they’re sort of knocking on doors that are the wrong door. They haven’t done their research, or it’s the wrong time. As I said, it’s it. There’s a lot of the art of when and who, when you’re pitching ideas.
Tyler Jorgenson 13:45
Yeah. What’s another product that you’ve invented, that people may know,
Dan Klitsner 13:48
one of them that was done? Let’s see. This one is actually quite well known. It turns out, I just found out from my Tiktok post, is that this is the sand digger that people have seen on beaches for the last this was actually before bapa It was my first product that I licensed. I made a lot of mistakes on it. I actually don’t like make royalties on it anymore. Which is sort of a it’s like shareware, you know, it’s out there. I’m just proud that it’s still being knocked off. Yeah, you probably used it. And so this is my first you know, product. People know it. And it’s I’ve got all the sketches and things that I you know, I love showing that off. So it’s something that people know, and I’m sure very few people would associate this and Bop It. They’re not like similar in any way. except they’re both industrial design II ergonomic key thing.
Tyler Jorgenson 14:39
Yeah. So let’s look at Let’s ask the one lesson life lesson from the sand digger. Right. So you invented that San Diego, you said you made a lot of mistakes along the way. Let’s say somebody wants to become an inventor. What’s the lesson you learned from doing San Diego that you could pass forward?
Dan Klitsner 14:53
It was that one? Well, the good lessons is I found a company that wanted to do it. It wasn’t but the bad Doesn’t unless it wasn’t a very good company, and they didn’t really follow through. Often, when you license an idea to someone, they’re often the one that’s supposed to apply for the right patents. Because your original concept, you might have some you might be named on the patent, but to actually protect it, it’s usually the internal team at a company that does that. And they had said they would do it or I can’t, you know, honestly, I probably didn’t have it in my agreement, I didn’t verify, and it never got patented correctly. And so then a few years later, it was just getting knocked off. So now what I learned is you just make sure when you’re signing an agreement, who’s gonna do the patent? Usually, you try to get the toy company to do that and assign it to you. Awesome,
Tyler Jorgenson 15:42
that’s a good lesson for other inventors to learn early on. I’m a big believer of the concept of learning from other people’s mistakes, and minimizing the ones we make ourselves, right, we’re gonna make plenty of our own, we don’t need to screw up, we can learn from others.
Dan Klitsner 15:55
But well, the other one, speaking of which is perplexus, which I co invented this thing with Michael McGinnis. This was a one that a lot of people recognize it was actually Michael, who’s now a great friend came to me with this little impossible looking balsa wood maze that had this really interesting feature, when you flip that over, you could play it on both sides. And so I said, you know, it won’t work the way it is there. But I have this idea of how we could maybe work together and change it. So it’s one of the only people have actually collaborated with, in a way that I just saw something really great with it. And he was really great at perfecting it. So we’ve this has been also now an evergreen that we eventually sold to Spin Master at the toy company. Very cool. And so that’s another one that but unfortunately, there were some it also had some issues with intellectual property that we had to learn a lot on. So it’s a tough one. I don’t say go out and patent things before you know if you have an audience, because it’s very expensive. But once you do have that license in place, it’s important to know whether you should patent or copyright
Tyler Jorgenson 17:06
very good advice. What is a product that you invented that you thought was gonna take off and just never did?
Dan Klitsner 17:12
Wow, like, there? There are a lot. I mean, I’d say that, yeah. What’s the biggest disappointment might be a sad way to say it, but yeah, sure. Well, no, I’ve got I’ve been looking around here at all these things. There’s probably, I’d say the boy, I probably just wipe out the appointments. But that’s good.
Tyler Jorgenson 17:37
I’m okay with that.
Dan Klitsner 17:37
There’s, you know, I’ll just find one, though. It’s fun to see. Yes. I
Tyler Jorgenson 17:43
think it’s important though, Dan, like that people who are trying to become entrepreneurs or inventors that they understand, like, everything you do isn’t gonna be a win. And that’s okay.
Dan Klitsner 17:52
Right? Literally, this is it. This is this is a, this is an electronic slinky. Okay? See, you actually have games you can play, see how there’s lights in it. Yeah. And it was a concept that we actually, that I with my partners designed this thing prototyped it and it was not just a slinky, you could play all these games at tilt switches, it was kind of like super high tech, and worked on it with spin mastered licensed it to them. And it is probably one of the biggest disappointments we’ve had or they’ve had just, it’s one of the lesson is, everything’s related to price, especially in toys. This product at $20 was great people bought it worked on TV, but it really needed to be 25 for them to make profit. And the difference between 20 and 25 is that 25 it just sat on the shelf was on clearance within a few months. And that was the end of it. So you know people often that’s probably you know, right.
Tyler Jorgenson 18:58
That small difference of 25% of price can make or break an entire product right? And the challenge is is that sometimes when you get more manufacturing you can get your cost down but you have to have an you know, that’s a long play most companies aren’t going to put a lot of cash into something until they know it’s gonna work
Dan Klitsner 19:14
well even at high volume because the companies that I deal with are usually are the high volumes have a nice that’s when every little penny counts. You know every penny and you people their biggest thing I have a million dollar idea of this great idea and they have absolutely no idea about the cost and that makes or breaks most of the toy ideas that and game ideas that I’ve seen.
Tyler Jorgenson 19:36
Yeah, I totally agree. I was a you know Bop Bop it you’re kind of your main one right and you’ve got Bob it for good as your website where Bob is having its 25th anniversary and you really have a goal to for it to continue to benefit people and to do good in the world which I think is so cool. Tell us a little bit about bobbitt for good and what your your big vision is
Dan Klitsner 20:00
Thank you for Yeah, for mentioning that. Well, it is after 25 years, I am grateful, not just you know, it wasn’t just Buffett’s original success, as you can see behind me, I think I’ve, you know, been involved in every bar. But since then, and now all the characters, you know, really pushing spending much of my time nursing and nurturing that line. So, but it’s given me the ability to do what I love to do, which is I say, I invent more annoying games and toys even more annoying than bobbit. And so I really wanted to give back not just to fans to just whoever was involved, even even back to Hasbro in a way for being such a great publisher is to create something that associated bobbitt with doing good. And so I just started this buffet for good, where it’s a not for profit store, where I’m going to start putting a lot of sometimes just testing out weird inventions that are maybe somewhat boppard related, or launching some special, you know, fundraising type of things that are there, but it should be a store to give back to fans too. So trying to design some really quirky things that only a bop lover would love. And that they know that if they buy something there, whether it’s a shirt, or a weird hat, or a bop belt buckle that you can bop, you know, like some stuff that might not sell a huge volume, but all the profit will go to children’s causes, mainly children in the arts, and design things that to give advantages to that kid that was like me, but didn’t have the advantage of having being able to be supported or go to a great school and all that kind of stuff. So it’s that’s really the vision and there’s an amazing product, I’ll call the mother of all bop. It’s that if this succeeds in about a year, I’m going to be launching hopefully on that site. Well, man, people need to check out Bob it for good. And keep an eye out over the next year. Now.
Tyler Jorgenson 21:49
I know that along with along with the toy companies, right, you guys have some really cool bobbins coming out that over this last little while and coming up for the 25th anniversary. What are some of the most unique and craziest ones coming out?
Dan Klitsner 22:03
Well, it’s possible that the hammer, this is a possibility, it’s almost, if we get enough support for it, I’ll probably be above it for good. You may see the original Bop it hammer concept come out this year. But it’s going to take just being honest, it’ll take a lot of fans saying they want it and so on Tick Tock and Instagram, I’m going to be starting to put that out there kind of like a Kickstarter thing. Awesome. There is going to be a mini replica of the original with a little 25th anniversary stands. So for those from the 90s that want to have the original, they can get a mini of that that we’re going to be supporting. And I think there’s a couple other other entertainment licenses that are being launched as well.
Tyler Jorgenson 22:46
Yeah, you guys have done a lot with licenses what I think I see a couple behind you. What are some of the ones you guys have done?
Dan Klitsner 22:51
Well, this is the RTD to you know, they’re basically their ideas, you can pop a fi any character, that’s what we call it, you know, and that that is a vision of it actually, early on, I knew that you could do that, or wanted to but it took a while for the brand to sort of develop. And so these are these concepts where you can take a character and twist pull Bob and so there’s been a lot of
Tyler Jorgenson 23:19
the Star Wars character those listening in that may not be able to see Dan just showed he’s got an r two D two you make and I’m guessing if you if you’re a Star Wars fan, you recognize the sound. And then I see chewy back there behind him as well.
Dan Klitsner 23:32
Which is actually Anthony Daniels is actually doing the narration. When he did this he he was the actual voice on it. So yeah, that’s and so every year there’s probably one or two of those that are being coming out coincided with movies that’s really be a Hasbro’s, you know, entertainment division.
Tyler Jorgenson 23:49
What is your advice to young entrepreneurs, young artists who are thinking this may be one of the past they want to do?
Dan Klitsner 23:55
Well, the one thing I’d say is like when I got started was I had a day job. I was doing design I was actually designing besides toys, liquor bottles, the Woodford Reserve bottle sauza, tequila and Corbett Canyon are still bottles that are out today. But I was I was doing bottle design. I had other design jobs. So it was in a related field. But I was almost in my off time I was speculating on toy invention. So it allowed me to sort of not put all my eggs in this basket because it’s very, very speculative. It’s, you know, you really don’t know. And so I think the best advice is, you know, do it within your means and be realistic about doing your research really understanding what companies are looking for. There’s inventor relations, divisions of most major toy companies. And if you can kind of prove yourself that you’re serious about it. They’ll even give you a wish list eventually of what their categories they’re looking for. But it’s just hard work to If you really love it and you’re passionate about it and you can afford to speculate a little bit you can you eventually build the relationships and start pitching ideas and what you know, generally speaking the industry what
Tyler Jorgenson 25:03
kind what are the revenue or royalty trends? Like what what should What Can somebody expect? Let’s say they created the next, you know, amazing toy? What’s a realistic thing like how what’s how’s the industry work?
Dan Klitsner 25:15
Like the success? Well, it’s getting harder because it’s still a $20 ceiling it seems on most games and toys and and remember Bob at 25 years ago it was $20. And with inflation, you know, it’s actually getting to be a worse profession to be honest, because you know, basic rate of royalty for most toys they’re licensed is around 5% of wholesale. So of wholesale, so if something sells for $12, you know, you’re getting 5% of that, minus all sorts of other deductions they take off,
Tyler Jorgenson 25:46
say, Mark, no credits, and all right things and negotiate like,
Dan Klitsner 25:50
you might get 50 cents on something that sold for $20 in a store, you know, because by the time it’s so the business model is, that’s why you need pretty high volume. So if people sell 10,000 of something, and all you’re getting is 50 cents each well, so it’s $5,000 but did you work all year on it? Did you you know, people got to do the math because that’s why you need a lot of little hits or one or two big hits. And why if they only last a year, you know, you’re just constantly trying to come up with new things. So I’d say it’s sure if you hit a homerun you know, like I got a Bop It allowed me to stay up keep the doors open and keep it trying to invent other stuff it probably paid for a lot of mistakes. Sure, but it’s still it’s still business if you love if you want to keep doing it you have to really be active and and keep pitching.
Tyler Jorgenson 26:38
I love that I think that’s the same I don’t care what industry people are in right if you if you want to keep doing it you got to stay active and keep pitching and I think that was a great way to wrap up. Really appreciate having Dan out on the show please check out Bob it for good calm and buy as many benefits as you can because Dan needs those just piling up
Dan Klitsner 26:57
and the bob an inventor if you want to see some funny to Bob if you’re a bob bit obsessed person and you want to look at some tic tocs with me embarrassing myself, Bob an inventor.
Tyler Jorgenson 27:07
Now you crush it on tik tok absolutely check out Danny bobbitt inventor on Tick Tock all i busy ninjas wherever you are listening in, it’s your turn to go out and do something. Thank you for tuning in to biz ninja entrepreneur radio. What you didn’t hear was one more very important question that Tyler asks each guest if you want to be a fly on the wall when the real secrets are shared, go to biz ninja.com slash VIP and get your access today. Remember to subscribe so that you don’t miss any future episodes. And our one last favor. If this episode was meaningful to you, please share this podcast with a fellow entrepreneur so they can grow along with us is ninjas. It’s your turn to go out and do something