Young Upstarts

All about entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, ideas, innovation, and small business.

[Review] One Simple Idea

Inventor and entrepreneur Stephen Key is a man who’s spent most of his working life cooking up ideas for a living. With his new book “One Simple Idea: Turn Your Dreams into a Licensing Goldmine While Letting Others Do the Work“, the developer of products like Michael Jordan’s Wallball, the Spinformation rotating label and HotPicks guitar picks shares his blueprint of how you can also look for ways to turn your creativity into profit.

In the book, you’ll not only get advice on how to find your million dollar idea – whether you get creative and come up with one yourself, or become a product scout to find one – but also learn how to prove your idea in the market, protect it from intellectual property theft (hint: patents can be overrated) and even how to pitch your idea. But note that Key’s interpretation of entrepreneurship is not the typical one of starting out and running a startup around a certain idea; instead, he advocates coming up with and developing ideas that can be licensed to big companies. Key believes in passive income generation – renting your idea to others so you don’t have to bother about manufacturing, marketing, sales and distribution, but instead sit back and collect royalty checks. So while some of the advice is relevant for startups – like validating your idea in the market – the book is geared towards helping you understand the process of coming up with ideas and how you can license those ideas for profit.

The case studies and examples he includes of how various products came about make for really enjoyable reading. Key’s background as a toy designer means most of the examples given in the book are actual, physical products, but the concepts and processes he gives you can be easily adapted for building, for example, online sites or consumer mobile applications. My favorite story in the book was how an inventor looked to bring meaningful change to the old children’s game of tag, and how by incorporating infrared technology into the game – what we now call a mash-up – led the the creation of Laser Tag.

This book comes highly recommended to those who constantly have many ideas but don’t know how to make them reality. And if you’re a budding entrepreneur who thinks that the only way you to bring an idea to fruition is by starting a company, Key’s “One Simple Idea” would likely show you otherwise.


Daniel Goh is the founder and chief editor of Young | Upstarts, as well as an F&B entrepreneur. Daniel has a background in public relations, and is interested in issues in entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, public relations and the online space. He can be reached at daniel [at] youngupstarts [dot] com.

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