Mike Hirtle is a 36-year industry veteran who started his career at Mattel as an engineer in the Preliminary Design Department specializing in flying toys. Not surprisingly, since he has a degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland and a Masters in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford. Over the years, he also held key positions at Fisher-Price, Tyco and Hasbro. In 2011, he became a Game Industry Consultant for his own company, Paladin LLC. Hirtle is in a unique position, traveling the world looking for products for several companies.
An event that I proudly co-chair is the International Summit for Professional Inventors, I-SPI, (www.inventorsummit.com) a part of November’s great week of Toy and Game events sponsored by the Chicago Toy and Game Group. Established inventors from all over the world will gather to hear pitches from and meet with international companies, big and small. I-SPI was a resounding success in its 2011 debut; so much so that we are expanding the program this year to an extra day. I-SPI brings inventor relations executives from dozens of companies and gives them a chance to present their top-secret wishlists to the professional inventor community. The inventors are then able meet with the manufacturers in private meeting rooms to pitch concepts. There are also information-packed workshops and seminars relating to many aspects of the inventing business. For established professional inventors only, attendance at I-SPI is by invitation only and if you have not been invited previously, there is information on the website.
Here's what a sample of past presenting companies and inventors had to say:
“Last year, Ohio Art had the opportunity to meet new inventors at the Inventor Summit and we were extremely impressed with the quality of their ideas. This event is a great opportunity to connect with the best and brightest thinkers in the toy business" – Martin Killgallon, senior vp marketing and product development, The Ohio Art Company.
“I-SPI is a unique chance to meet with both the publishers and other game and toy inventors from around the world. It was especially nice to have the publishers make sales pitches to us inventors for once. And then the following days it was a pleasure to be able to meet with them in a focused and relaxed atmosphere where everybody was sincerely interested in seeing the concepts shown to them. So even though the Toy Fairs in both Nuremburg and New York are much bigger, I'm definitely not going to miss the chance to go to ChiTAG again and again and again." – Martin Nedergaard Andersen, inventor and owner of CAMP Games, Denmark.
Attending I-SPI gives you access to the other events of the Chicago Toy & Game Week. www.chitag.com Here is an outline of the other things going on that week:
TAGIE Awards – The Toy and Game Inventor of the Year Awards (www.tagieawards.com). In just four years, I have watched this Friday evening event grow from four awards and 185 people to nine awards and a sold out crowd of 450 last year at the Museum of Science and Industry. We expect an even bigger crowd this year hence the move to the larger Field Museum. The TAGIEs are an elegant and celebratory event honoring inventors of both the latest and hottest toys and games as well as the classics. The media is increasingly taking note with coverage last November on Conan O’Brien, NY Daily News, London Telegraph, MommyTV and many others.
T&GCon – International Toy and Game Inventor and Industry Conference at Navy Pier in Chicago (www.tandgcon.com). This program, running concurrently with I-SPI, is designed for new or aspiring inventors/developers. I’ve watched it grow to over 150 attendees with 69 speakers. There are several tracks to choose from with topics ranging from using Social Media, doing business overseas, dealing with brokers, patent trademark and other legal issues, keys to good design and presentation and a lot more.
The Chicago Toy and Game Fair (www.chitagfair.com). The only major toy and game fair in the U.S. designed to allow for companies to show their products to the public. A giant focus group on the eve of the holiday buying season and getting bigger every year, ChiTAG is an important date on the industry calendar. Inventors have always been featured prominently at ChiTAG with many available to sign copies of their products.
Young Inventor Challenge (http://www.chitag.com/yic.htm). A part of ChiTAG that I have helped with from the beginning is the YIC. Kids in two age divisions bring their toy and game inventions and exhibit them at ChiTAG. The fair attendees vote and the winners get some great prizes including a chance to attend New York Toy Fair and to be presenters at the TOTY awards dinner. Last year’s senior winner also got his game published by PlaSmart.
And finally, a service offered by the Chicago Toy and Game Group is DiscoverGames (www.DiscoverGames.com). An incubator organization to help new inventors with free advice with an opportunity to join thereby getting a chance to have their creations shown at various shows and fairs.