Steve Greenberg proclaims himself to be “an invention groupie,” but that is only half the story. Prior to getting involved with the innovation industry Steve was a full-time news reporter and won 12 Emmy Awards for his news reporting. Steve has been seen on national television shows such as ABC’s World News This Morning and World News Now, Fox & Friends, and others. For three years Steve could be seen nationally every weeknight demonstrating innovative products on the Discovery Channel’s Your New House. For six years Steve was on HGTV’s very popular Dream Builders.
Most recently, Steve has received acclaim for his popular book — Gadget Nation — which takes you behind the scenes featuring more than 100 quirky innovations from garage inventors across the nation. I met Steve through the United Inventors Association (we are both on the Board of Directors), and convinced him to participate in an interview, which follows below.
Thanks for agreeing to this interview and sharing your thoughts on innovation and inventing.
Thanks for inviting me. I always enjoy talking about innovation.
How did a multiple Emmy Award winning journalist like you get involved in the invention industry?
As a little kid, I loved “show-n-tell.” And the skills I learned in the first grade have stayed with me.
Even as a CBS TV News Reporter, I was always a “show-n-tell” reporter. I never did those stiff stand-ups in front of the hospital or police station. Instead I would find some element of the story to pick up and show viewers. It’s the same skill I used on HGTV’s Dream Builders and then on the Discovery Channel’s Your New House. For the show, Your New House, I showcased 4-6 innovative new products every day Monday-Friday. That exposure caused inventors around the country to contact me. They wanted their products in the segment and I was looking for new products that viewers wouldn’t find at Sears, so it was a wonderful relationship. The more inventors I met the more I liked them. It also clicked with my upbringing. My Dad and his brother were patent filers. My Dad was always trying to figure how everything worked, and how to make it better. He taught me to respect ingenuity, creativity and invention.
How did you manage to get such a cool nickname — “The Innovation Insider”?
In today’s world you need a brand. I found that names such as Gadget Guru, Dr. Gadget, etc were all taken. I wanted alliteration, and I’ve always found that my segments were not about technology or even gadgets; they were about “innovation.” So “The Innovation Insider” seemed like a perfect fit. And yes, I did trademark the name. Before the book, I was always introduced on television as “The Innovation Insider” but these days I’m getting more traction with “the author of Gadget Nation.”
When you were doing Discovery Channel’s “Your New House,” what were some of the best innovations that you saw?
YIKES! That’s like picking your favorite child. I have affection for all of the products and I appreciate the tough road they all had to take to get their products to market. Now keep in mind on The Discovery Channel, I showcased more than 500 products, so much of it is a blur. Most of the tech products now seem like museum pieces, but products like the under cabinet organizer and the laser parker still work like a charm.
I’m a television reporter and producer first and foremost, so Gadget Nation was actually a television show proposal. When I couldn’t get sponsorship, someone at one of my many network meetings suggested I turn it into a book. I first rejected the idea, but after a few days, I decided to give it a try. Very few things in my life have gone as quickly or as smoothly as writing Gadget Nation. I signed with a literary agent using just the TV show pitch, and he landed a book deal in just a few weeks. Then I had to write it. That was the tough part. If your visitors want to check out my book, have them go to www.gadgetnation.net.
I see you will be doing a book signing on Saturday, March 28, 2009, from 1pm to 3pm at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. I would think that has to be the coolest location to do a book signing for Gadget Nation.
I totally agree. I’ve done a bunch of book signings, including at Hammacher-Schlemmer in New York City and at the New York City Library, but the Smithsonian, I’m really thrilled about this opportunity. It’s at the start of Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., so it should be a beautiful day. I hope I get a decent turn out.
I know you just finished taping a 10 part min-series for independent inventors that was sponsored by the United Inventors Association. How did you get involved with the UIA and why did you undertake this project?
I’ve been a speaker at many local inventor groups. It’s a great way to meet and learn from inventors. One of the groups I spoke at was the Invention Association of Manhattan. Patrick Raymond is the President of that group, and the Executive Director of the UIA. He suggested I run for the board of the UIA. We both agreed that UIA needed to become more relevant and a video series about the invention process seemed like the perfect first step. I interviewed about 15 incredible invention experts (including you, Gene) and I truly believe viewers will find the information in this video series very valuable. It really takes you through the process. And as anyone who has been through the invention process will tell you, it’s a bumpy uphill journey. This video series should make that journey much easier.
In your experience, what is the biggest mistake inventors make?
This might be controversial, but I think too many inventors keep their idea a secret. Their fear of having the idea stolen, keeps the creative process behind closed doors, and that’s where mistakes happen.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to inventing what would it be?
Join an inventors group in your area. Learn from others who have been down this road. Learn from their mistakes. It will save you time and money.
And that’s a wrap. Thanks again for taking some time out of your busy schedule.
Thanks. It was a pleasure.