Today's day two, we've had two amazing inventors we've heard from already and Joe Altieri is our honored guest today, it's a privilege to have him here. Before I formally introduce him and have him come on Jenny's our moderator if I'd like you to run a quick Well, let me let me do this. Let me get my PowerPoint first. This is of course, the slide for our whole virtual Summit. And here we have a little bit of about Joe Terry is the inventor of flex screen, he is going to demonstrate it today. He struck a deal with Laurie Grenier on Shark Tank, and his gym generated over $5 million in sales. So we'd love to hear more about his journey. But first, this short 32nd clip, Jenny, why don't you go ahead and start that
most of us would love more fresh air in our homes. But traditional Windows screens decrease our view of the outside world and make our windows look unattractive. They're hard to install and damage easily. Flex screen was designed to remove these frustrations and make things so much easier. First, their flex screen won't scratch or dent let traditional screens and they're so easy to put in and take out. And the best part, flex pretty disappears when installed, allowing a beautifully uninterrupted view of the outside.
Wow, it's it's amazing. I'm in. We're in South Florida where we get hurricanes and whether the storm does any real damage or not to your home. I mean, the wind and rain and everything like that all the screens are destroyed every single time. So just the ease of like how in that video how you can install them and take them in immediately afterwards. That's amazing. So folks that are I see, bunch of participants are coming in now. Flex screen has won multiple awards and in drawn multimillion dollar investment from venture capitalists. As I mentioned before, Joe has also gotten a deal from Lori Greiner from Shark Tank. And he's manufacturing it five different plants in the United States and Canada. So without further delay, Joe, welcome to the show.
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. It's an honor to share the virtual stage with you and your other guests. So thank you, I really appreciate it.
Oh, no, the honors, the honors mutual. And what I would like to start out with and we have so many inventors. And it's always intimidating to see the success that that that some of the vendors we've invited to the virtual summit, but I like to have them get a glimpse of where things were, and the early days of your invention, because that's somehow forgotten. And everyone only sees, you know, there's the Shark Tank episode and the investment in five manufacturing plants. And I had one comment on social media before Kevin Harrington, one of the original sharks from Shark Tank was was a guest yesterday at the virtual Summit. And one of the comments were, what am I going to learn from watching a bunch of privileged people talk about their success. And I think it was just so funny because Kevin's background, and he talked about it was he's one of six kids, his father was a bartender, he started work at 15. It's not the silver spoon that people imagine. And inventing. And when you become successful, and you have products that take off it's important that inventors see that there's there was a period of time when the success was not guaranteed. And there were obstacles. So let's start out just a little bit about your life before inventing and tell us about that. Sure.
Well, I What's really interesting to me and as I've gotten to know more business people and inventors and things like that, it almost seems like some some people that have gone through challenges in their childhood, and I'll share some of mine actually end up with the tenacity to take an invention from the garage and actually make it something real. I haven't met very many Silver Spoon type of business people that again, you know, bootstrap type of business people. You know, most most of the people that I've that I've come across have had some, you know, some challenges early on that have that have helped them to weather the storm that is being an inventor, so I was a my family I want to for children growing up. My father was an alcoholic and you know, recovering drug addict. So, you know, I learned really early on that, you know, if I wanted new shoes if I wanted something like that I was going to have to go out and sell papers and do the things that that you can Do at a young age, right? When I, when I got into junior high in high school, I was selling flowers for Mother's Day and Easter, you know, on the side of the road. So, you know, I'm kind of a serial entrepreneur by, by young education if that if that makes sense out of necessity, and, you know, flex screen, you know, was birthed out of my garage. And it wasn't a, you know, wasn't some some big aha moment, it was years of just, you know, nights and weekends, my family would bring, they would bring dinner out to me when my little workshop and, and things like that. And, and trust me through the early years, as you're bringing a new product, there's a lot of sleepless nights, there's a lot of especially when you do, maybe get somebody to invest and now you have the responsibility of not only your time and efforts, but you also have that that person that has put their faith in what you're trying to accomplish. And now you have this responsibility of managing their money well, as you're going forward. And, and so I mean, for the last several years, I mean, the stress of going through it, you know, is again, sleepless nights, even some health problems. So it's not it's not an easy road for for everybody. Now, I don't want to discourage anyone but but just to talk about that comment. Trust me, I am not a privileged person by any stretch of the imagination. What you know definitely luck involved with with anything, you know, any business successes, there's there's luck involved, but a lot of it is hard work, dedication and tenacity to make it happen.
Yeah, it's funny I've had not a single inventor that spoken at this summit has not talked about, like being in the right place at the right time playing an important role like Wayne from talked about his the inventor of the selfie stick of how his sales were massively helped by the cell phones, having cameras, you know, in and that these days, I mean, it one time, believe it or not, it was innovation. You know, cell phones were for making phone calls and cameras were for taking pictures. And it was like the the chocolate and peanut butter combination to say, hey, let's take a camera, stick it in the phone. That was novel that was unique. But today, I would be hard pressed to have for my kids to get them to accept a phone that didn't take pictures and say, You know what, the phones for communicating, taking pictures with a camera. I didn't look at me. Like I was on Mars or something. But what's the as far as the luck? What was what would you consider the lucky breaks that helped you get get flyscreen to where it is today when we did the Shark Tank? Episode? Was that part of it? Are there other investors early on that that helped you until you even got there?
Yeah, I think well, you know, I think the luck goes back to even the time in the in the garage. So you know, our product is a series of fortunate accidents, if that makes sense. So you know, and I'm sure a lot of your, your, you know, the people that are that are watching. They're if they're going through this process, they know that you get into this mindset of experimentation, where you're walking down for me, I'm walking down the aisles of Lowe's and going whoa, I can I make window screens, right, I can make a window screen out of that I can make a window screen out of that. And so again, just to give you a quick example, there's a there's a little coating is a piece of our frame material for our screens. There's this black coating that's on the outside. And when I was trying to make some prototypes, I went to a local company that could could bend the frame materials hoping they could bend the frame material for our screens, went through with their design engineers all stuff and they couldn't help me. But they said you know what? It take these things are called Super clips, it was something that they made was a big paperclip. And they were different colors. And they were for again, it was kind of a novel thing said look, we can't help you. But here take a couple packs of these as almost like a parting gift sort of thing. So I went home in my workshop. And I'm like, wonder what this coating is that's that's on here because I I needed to figure out a way to stick the mesh material onto the frame and I was kind of stuck at that point. So I got my wife's iron out of you know where for ironing the clothes, said wonder if I can heat this coating up and stick that mesh in really, really quick Once it's melted. And that didn't work, but I set the iron down on top of the material and the frame and I let it sit there for a little bit too long. And when I took the iron off, the mesh was stuck. And that and I immediately I got back into car and I drove back to the it was like 45 minutes away. I drove back God you know, knocked on the engineers door the fifth. I said what is the coating on here and they're like it's it's PVC. It's plastic. And that's that is the coating that is now on our frame material. And again, it was just, it was just a fortunate accident. And trust me, I tried 100 Other ways for that to work. But that that's, again, that right place the right time, being being willing to try new things was just so important during those early early days, which then carry into the development portion. You know, once you get the prototype, once you figure out how you can somewhat make it, then you really have to get, you know, creative on how do I make this and scale? And how do I sell it? And how, you know, all of those types of things? Yeah,
I mean, it's funny, just hearing your, your story. And a lot of what happens with inventors, and it's, I think it's a it's a blessing, and it's a curse, is that you, you get so into the prototyping and the inventing that time just you lose track of time. I mean, I've had, like, even as a patent attorney, I'm drafting claims, and I've had my coffee continuously go cold, because I just don't have the time to pick up and take a sip, I'm in the midst of it. You mentioned your family bringing dinner and stuff out to your workshop or your garage. Because if they didn't do that, you wouldn't stop, you would just be out there tinkering, hungry until you know until you came up with the solution or you passed out. And that's that that's what happens. And it's, it's you're very humble and saying, you know, calling it a lucky break. But that expression that you know, you're going to find your last sock, the last place you look, and it doesn't mean it's the last place you look because you kept looking because you didn't give up. And that's why, you know, you're like, Oh, it's you know, but sometimes there is, you know, it's there's so many ideas that are accidental. I mean, one of the classic ones like silly putty. And I don't know if, you know, the younger people now even know what that is. But it was an accident. I mean, it was not made to put it on top of ink and newspaper and transfer images and bounce and it was all accidental toy. And there's, you know, the Frisbee was somebody just throwing around, you know, a pie can. And in realizing that, that, hey, they can make a go of this as an idea. So that's, that's a big part of where they're having their mistakes that you've made, that you know where mistakes now and you wish you knew about earlier in development of your idea. Yeah,
we so in our industry, window screen, so you know, that's, that's our industry, the technology is over 100 years old. So the screens that are probably on your house, the ones that get destroyed in the hurricane, yep, they were patented in the early 1900s. So metal window screen with a rubber spline in it. Very, very old technology that is still used today. That's, that's the majority of the screens that are that are being used. So when our product came out, and we made a splash in the industry, we had all kinds of number one, just because you have something better doesn't necessarily mean that people are going to adopt it very quickly. Because, you know, the slow Yes, and just about bankrupted us, right? You know, a lot of people are like, Yeah, that's great. We're so glad that somebody solved that problem. But, you know, but we don't want to be the first but we want to see who else is using it, but you haven't been around long enough, but, you know, etc, etc. So, so again, that, you know, me thinking that just because I had something better it was going to explode that that was a big mistake. But but the other, you know, the other side of it is, as we were struggling a little bit to get started, you know, to try to get it out there and and get it commercialized. Because our main, our main motive of sales is through the window manufacturer. So every window that gets sold has a screen on it. So that's where most of our, our sales come from. So we're approaching window manufacturers. So every time I would take, take our product, and even though we became kind of window famous, but I would take it in they go, you know, if you did this, we might consider doing it. If you did this, we might consider doing it. And suddenly, I was listening to everybody because I was doubting myself, like, you know, the product that I had was so simple was frame material and mesh. And that was it. There was no hardware, and suddenly they're like, You know what you need add hardware to it, add this, add that, and I'm trying to develop all these things. And then then eventually I just said, You know what, I'm done. This is our product, this is the way it's going to be it's going to remain simple. And then it took off after that that point. So getting too many voices in your head is it's a fine line. It's a balance where you go, I want to listen to feedback and I want to do the intelligent thing because I need to sell this thing you know, I need to sell this invention, but then also, you know, letting people take me down a path that I shouldn't be on and waste time and An effort on things that I just knew weren't right. But maybe they knew something that I didn't. So,
yeah, were any of them I have, I've speak to so many inventors who ended up hiring. And it's even tougher when it's somebody you're paying for advice. Let's say you go to a prototype manufacturer, and you're paying them consulting fees to tell you how to make your product better. When they give you advice, you're kind of it, I can see how you'd be like, Listen, if I'm, if I'm going to do what I want to do, why should I pay him for advice, and you get this, it's very easy to give into temptation and say, I'm going to follow their advice, because I'll get my money's worth, since I'm paying for it. But it takes a lot of courage to stick to your, your gut feel about the idea and say, You know what, I think that there's a need for something without all these extra elements, because think about I mean, every, every product that's out there, you can add additional features and gizmos and come up with the deluxe version. But you have, you know, in business, you've got to, you've got to survive on sales and revenues until you get there. And I think that's, that's where this, this burden comes in of taking advice and making changes at some point, you've got to launch and I think that's, that's an important realization that you've made. The other thing that you talk about, as far as the the investors and the long time period of 10 years or so, where did you get the courage to keep going at it again? Like it's hard. It was there any point where you thought, you know, what, I'm gonna throw in the towel and give up on this idea?
Do you mean this week? Or? No, you know, that is a it's a constant struggle, especially during the early years, right, where, you know, when So, so the, the invention, the prototype came out in my garage about eight years ago, and I showed it off to some some people in, in our industry, and, and we've been producing for a little over five years. So, you know, in between there that that, you know, about seven years ago, is when I took my first investment, you know, when I got some some local investors together. And almost immediately after that, I had that, what are you doing moment, that kind of thing, because I had what part of the part of the deal was I had to stop what I was doing so now. So now, you know, my income is completely dependent on this thing that I created my garage and, and there's one thing that I think is universal for, you know, business people, startups and inventors is a tremendous amount of self doubt. I mean, there just is because it's, again, you're creating something that has never been created for before. Right? So, you know, having that is this good enough? Am I am I going to make this work? You know, all of those types of things? Yeah, I mean, I've I've thought about giving up over and over and over again, and even you know, the other side of it, too, is I've gotten job offers that have happened, you know, again, as we're, as we're launching, and there's all this excitement, people are like, Hey, why don't you just get rid of that thing? Sell it off, do something come work for me. And that's a huge temptation. Have something like that happen? So but yeah, there is a it's less now, shark tank cap that helps with that sort of thing. You know, national national TV definitely helps with the validation, right,
you get validation from from chars that are looking at it. But it's funny, you talk about, you know, like getting a job offer is tempting, when you're struggling as an inventor, but another aspect is if you have a job, and it's a good job. And I can relate to that. I mean, I was I worked at a corporate law firm for years, and wanting to start my own practice. But when you have an amazing job that is prestigious and secure, it's one of the top patent firms in the world. It takes, you know, you got to have a lot of courage to leave that and try to make it on your own. So it would be easier. I think that's why there's so many ideas and patents and businesses that are started when because the founder was laid off or he got unemployed or he lost his job. Because then you you're not the you know, like well what else to do, it's it's easier to make that decision than to voluntarily resign and then start a position and you had a very similar situation where until you get a job offer, you can you can kind of fool yourself into thinking alright, I'm doing this and this is the best option for me. And now a nice job offer comes on the table and you're married right you might you've got now have other responsibilities. You've got kids and your spouse is going well, you know what, here's something with security and stability and normal hours versus continuing with with this venture that doesn't have security. There's no guarantees, then there is no, there's no guaranteed future either. And there's certainly not stability as an inventor. I mean, that's constantly things are in flux.
Yeah, it's funny, because I get asked a lot, what was the hardest part about creating flex screen, you know, the company, the product and all that stuff. The hardest part was that day, where I went to my wife and said, you know, that crazy thing that I was working on the garage, let's bet our financial security, our life savings, and you know, our house everything on this thing that I have no idea if it's going to make it. That was that was a tough, that was a really, really tough conversation. And luckily, for me, I've, uh, I've had an incredible wife, who has supported the entire, you know, had supported me through that the entire journey that is that that I'm on, and some of that comes from, you know, her, her family is a family of entrepreneurs, my family is a family of entrepreneurs, so we're not risk averse. I couldn't imagine trying to do this with having a spouse that was, you know, either not supportive, or actually against it, I think would be impossible, it would have been impossible for me to do. So. So yeah, it is. And, again, just for some of the listeners out there, some of your viewers, you know, my income before, you know, seven years ago was actually higher than it is now, you know, even though we have a an amount of success, and our product is going going great. I love what I'm doing. And that's why I continued doing it. It's not for a paycheck. And so that there's a little bit of a difference there. Because I think some people go, you know, hey, when you invent something, suddenly you're rich. Like now that's, that's really true.
Yeah. I mean, the overnight success is a is a myth. I have yet I mean, yeah, there are some exceptions to that. But it really is an exception, especially in inventing. I mean, it's, it's takes a long time. And particularly when you're educating and training an entire industry, you're creating a new industry that nobody has seen, and you hit the nail on the head, when you said just a better product by itself. There's still resistance to it, even if it's scientifically better, practically better. But people are tied into the old way of doing things. And the typewriter is a great example. I mean, the placement of keys on a typewriter are based on or sorry, on a keyboard today, or based on where the keys were on a typewriter and they're on their place where they are on a typewriter, not because that's the most efficient ways, but just so the keys that would swing in the original typewriters, they wouldn't hit against each other. So that's why we're sticking with this. So many people have come up with better scientifically better keyboards, where they have proven that your fingers have to move less distance using their keyboard arrangement versus a normal typewriter. And it's flopped every single time because the everyone has no one's willing to make that investment in learning to get to this better this new product which is a better product you know, it can be objectively shown to be an easier way to type less movement of your fingers less more efficient and the people that learn it could blow away the typing speed of someone on a regular typewriter but it just never takes off. So we're gonna say so what was the what was some of the resistance in that you found with Flex screen in terms of companies wanting was it the the hard cost of change? But it doesn't it to me at least if I understand it correctly, it doesn't require anybody to update their existing windows?
Yeah, not not typically some windows do but you know the biggest resistance was just the we have an old industry Yeah, so the window and door industry isn't is an old industry it takes a long time for for anything to change. And they just had this if it if it ain't broke, why fix it sort of sort of mentality even though you could go in and say look, you know, most of the damage that happens that you have to replace product out in the field is with your windows screens. It's a huge number. It was just a like I said it was just a they're so set in their ways that for them to to touch something different smell something different, whatever the case may be. It just it just took them a long time to get there. And we had some customers come on right away, which is fantastic. You know, some smaller guys and man my I tell them all the time anything that you want is yours, I don't care what it is you get the best pricing, anything that that, that those early customers want, you know, I'm not there at their service, because without them flexing wouldn't exist. But the you know, to get through to the majority of the of the, to get through to the majority of the window manufacturers and, you know, we had to, we had a market differently than I was used to. That was, that was the other thing too. I'm, I'm a sales guy, I was in the window and door industry, so knocking on doors showing off to the window manufacturers, to the purchasing people to the engineers, like the engineers love it, they're gonna like, Yeah, this is great, that solves all kinds of problems. Fantastic. You have to talk to our marketing people, our salespeople, and you go to them, they're like, you know, if you can get the homeowners to demand it, then then it'll pull through our dealers, and you know, those types of things. And so we had to, we had to change our strategy like it was, and that's how Shark Tank came about, we actually brought a digital marketing company in house and started doing digital marketing, not to the window manufacturers, who are ultimately my customers, but to the homeowners trying to, you know, trying to show why our product was so much better, which then got the attention of some really big window dealers, and then also some, the producers on Shark Tank, who eventually reached out to us say, Hey, will you be on the show? So we had to, we had to change, not just, you know, the perception of our product within our industry, but we had to change the way that we sold, which again, was a big, that was a big thing. Our industry does not do digital marketing. We're the biggest brand online in the entire window and door industry. Because no one else is doing it the bar set pretty low. But But yeah, when you have a video on Tik Tok, that for a screen company that gets a million and a half views, somebody start to wake up a little bit, you know, those types of things,
so and then. So it's kind of, I mean, I see a lot of similarities, even in the pharmaceutical industry, when they're starting to directly advertise to patients. And then you know, because they've tried to get the doctors to switch and doctors also have this, they're set in their ways. They don't want to go and try it, you know, and experiment with a new prescription. But when you have enough patients come in, and start asking for something directly, then, you know, then the doctors have to listen to same thing. My wife's a dentist, a lot of this has happened in the dental industry with products like Invisalign, which are invisible braces is, you know, someone might have a wedding coming up, and they don't want, you know, they've reached adulthood, they never got their teeth straightened. But the dentists are not pushing it, they see an ad somewhere. And certainly social media has changed the world, they'll see something on social media and realize, hey, well, I can have braces that are invisible. So they're going back and pushing their dentist and now the dentists realize we either adapt, or they're gonna go somewhere else, some other dentists is going to do it. That's that, I think, because you're ahead of your time, it's certainly in the window and screen industry to be going on tick tock and social media, I still haven't really adapted to tick tock, but I've, you know, other social media, I've gone to. But again, I'm also fortunate in that the bar is extremely low for patent attorneys on social media. So you don't really have to be all that creative to do well there. Any, we're almost out of time. But let me ask you for any parting advice for inventors that you would have? And just before you do that, there's there's a few questions on here. I Jenny, if you can take Ed's question, it's really a detailed patenting question. And put it on the inventors mastermind. And I can address it there. Let's see what else we have. Oh, so Ken is asking one question. That's product specific. Oh, he's asking if you have to if you want to talk about the patenting and how you've protected the idea itself. Yeah, so
we actually have multiple patents, we've we've actually found international as well. And one of the things that, for us has been very, very important, is having that protection. I mean, our IP is our biggest asset. So we've spent a tremendous amount of time and money on protecting that. You know, we recently signed a big licensing deal with with Saint Gobain, who's a $63 billion international company, they're, they're enormous. When we were going through when we were going through the licensing deal with them. I mean, they looked at our patents because flat out they said, Look, if this is not protected, well, we have no interest in doing a licensing deal with you. We're simply going to develop it ourselves. And they were very open and they weren't saying that to be mean or anything like that. It's just just business. So, you know, my biggest competitor in our industry is a is a public company that that is over there over a billion dollar company, they own a screen company that that I compete with on a daily basis, trust me, if our patents were not strong, they would have already copied our product and got it out in the market, because we're so much better than their product in our industry. So it is vital for us it was vital, we would be dead already, if we didn't have good patent protection. I mean,
the expression that's in the patenting field, it's when we hear all the time from potential licensees is why should we pay for this idea if we can do it for free? Yeah, so they very likely have looked at the patent tried to figure out a way around your patent. And that's why having a portfolio of more than one and actually having a drafted with broad coverages is important. So that's it's good. You've done that any any parting advice, for inventors that are in the early stages, because you've been there? Or in that, that long journey, where you say, you know, what you feel like you're about to quit, and job offers are coming in, and other opportunities that are more stable and traditional competing with your invention? What would your advice be?
Well, the first is to have thick skin. I mean, that's the that's, that's one thing, you know, even early on, you know, it was when I was in my garage, people were like, What are you doing? Like, I'm becoming a millionaire. And I was teasing it, you know, it's just just laughing about it. But but, you know, you have to be able to put yourself out there and say, you know, I'm inventing something, I'm doing something. And and so having this thick skin was really important, because I people tease me family members, when when I made the jump and quit a great, you know, when my income went away from my previous my previous life, friends, family, everybody thought I was insane. I thought I was insane, most of the most nights, so definitely having thick skin. But then having the tenacity to keep driving forward is just so important. Because, you know, there's so many times where I believe that businesses stop, they they close up shop and vendor stop whatever the case may be, right before, right before the big break happens right before that thing that was going to change, you know, the selfie stick, you know, going from, you know, oh, there's something out of my control that's going to happen here that's going to make this, you know, a multimillion dollar business. So yeah, having the tenacity and then of course, just loving what you're doing. Because you know, if you're, if you're doing it just for money just for that wears thin very, very quickly, so you have to have a passion for what you're doing. I legitimately love coming into work, even when it was bad, even when it was stressful. You know, even when I was doubting myself, I still loved what I was doing. So having that that passion and be able to rekindle that passion often is really important that that is what kept us going for sure that
that expression of an entrepreneur is somebody that happily works 80 hours a week for himself, because he can't lose his track of time than put in 40 hours that are at a job and there's a lot of truth to that. Joe, it's been such a pleasure having you part of this you're an inspiration to a lot of inventors brought back a lot of memories who went in I got my start in my my patent firm because it's it's tough. I mean, the early years and I was just like yourself, I mean, my I had young kids, my wife would weird quit, we moved to South Florida, and where they think there's no inventors in South Florida. But also talking about not knowing where that lucky break is going to come in the internet has made is just completely exploded my practice because now I can help inventors all over the country through zoom calls and telephone and that's something that didn't exist. So you never know when technology's going to make that slight pivot and allow an idea to just be revisited again. Yeah, absolutely. So with that, thank you and enjoy the rest of your day.
Thank you. Thank you so much. All right.
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