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By J.D. Houvener
Patent Attorney and Founder

[Music]

First in the tank is a modern version of a traditional service business.

[Music]

Hi, sharks! My name is Mark.

Hi, my name is Michael. We started a knife sharpening service by mail called Knife Aid – a super simple idea disrupting an old trade by eCommerce. For the right shark, we’re offering the opportunity to invest $400,000 for 15% of our company.

That’s a lot of knives! A knife is something most Americans touch every day, yet knife sharpening – a beautiful, ancient craft – has almost been lost and has not been digitalized.

Pretty much everyone has dull knives at home. People love using a sharp knife, but very few people know how, where, or even have the time to get those knives sharpened. And that’s the very reason we started Knife Aid.

So this is how it simply works: Order online, receive our secure postage paid envelope that guarantees safe shipping. Take your dull knives, put them into the envelope, back in the mailbox, and off it goes! And our expert knife smith will work their magic – they will recreate that razor sharp edge and your knives will come back to you sharper than the day you bought them, all within about a week.

So, sharks, who wants a slice of our business?

I detect the accents. Alright, let’s start there. Um, Mark and I moved to the U.S. to start up this business. We have a history of building global brands and businesses. Where did you move here from?

We’re from Sweden, both. I’m originally from America, I grew up in Sweden and moved to America.

Okay, and what was your best product that you sold?

I founded Happy Socks.

I love those! Yeah, it was you?

Yeah, yeah.

You’re still involved with Happy Socks?

Yes, I am but I’m not operational anymore. I’m on the board and owner.

How did you come up with the knife idea itself?

We saw something back in our country that was similar but towards more towards the commercial side and we were thinking, why isn’t this done for a consumer? Simplify it – get an envelope, get the knives in, fixed price, just quick turnaround.

And how much do you charge? So walk us through – we would sharpen an average knife at $10 a knife for everything included. Minimum package is four knives, doesn’t matter the size, if they’re serrated, there’s the bread knife, you know. That’s what we simplified – the traditional knife sharpener at a farmer’s market, they’ll go by inch and they charge different. We’ve made it very simple: it’s per blade, doesn’t matter the size, doesn’t matter exactly. And even scissors – kitchen scissors, scissors too. Scissors goes in. Hunting knives, scissors too.

Guys, I’m a little confused. Something’s bugging me. Michael, you are clearly a successful entrepreneur so you’ve obviously made a fair bit of money. Why are you here seeking money if you’ve got a sort of pretty big stack already?

I have previously failed on the U.S. market. We had another brand going into the American market without having American people involved in the business, having the funds raising, and how you actually drive growth of the American market. I’m not going to do that mistake again. We put up two strategies: either we go to venture capital and get venture capital funded, deal on it; or we go all American on what we have seen is full on American show – how you reach out and the power of the tank.

Initial thoughts there, David. What are you thinking about Knife Aid?

Interestingly, I just had a few knives sharpened down at a hardware store and they were talking about the process not being digitalized. I mean, you just sort of had that little thing. Um, and so that’s not true because they just slapped on a new machine – sharp side up, you know, lasers following it – and spent several minutes just kind of polishing that thing. It came back super sharp. You know, I had four knives; they were wrapped up in a nice little package. I walked away with it. I think it was $7 a knife. Um, and it was super easy.

The problem though is that they’re gonna be pulling that machine out of this local hardware store because they’re making no money on it. So the part that from where it kind of falls down is that the average American wants a sharp knife. The average American does have no idea what a sharp knife is and, and how valuable a tool it is. They – the average American – gets their food handed to them through a window in a building.

I think you got a really good point. We have a knife sharpener but how often do I bring it out? You know there’s, you know, I have one that’s decent and it’s good enough and it just chops it but you’re right. Um, you know, the price point, you know, 60 bucks – I think that’s what it was. We didn’t have a whole lot of time to look at it but, um, you know, it’s, uh, it sounds like a decent amount of money so, you know, they’re kind of trying to address, you know, that definitely upper class, middle to upper class.

Yeah, Scott, are knives are already $10 a knife, 10 bucks a knife, four knife minimum and that includes everything, all the shipping. They send you the packaging. That’s really not that bad for me. That would work because, I mean, I put – put my knife, you know, every time I use it I put the knife on the steel, right? And then you start cutting tomatoes and it works great but every, every several months or so they really just kind of need to be sharpened. So that’s something I would use. I just, I’m not sure that there’s enough people.

Yeah, right. Yeah, I, I and to that point I agree.

Yeah, that’s one of the things I’m thinking about is just demand. Are, are there – is there enough demand? Because, I mean, obviously people in the upper class are going to buy this. I see that. Um, your proposition for them. But people middle class or lower – I mean they’d rather sharpen the knives themselves and not even sharpen them at all. When they’re like, they’re just not even cut any fruit or food and just go to the, uh, fast food restaurant and just have them give you the fluids themselves!

On the flip side though is the Ginsu knife, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, right? How many late night sales of “This knife is so sharp!” has just gone crazy and they’ve done it for years and years and years. So maybe there’s an opportunity instead of just saying “Oh we’ll sharpen your knives,” it’s like, “Well why?” It’s like, “Because you don’t want to throw it away and buy a new one. You don’t do that anymore, do you? You sharpen your knives, right?” So you can kind of make it an environmental play.

I think there’s plenty of opportunity for it but there’s going to have to be an education component to it that increases that demand, like Farm is mentioning. It’s like how do we make that demand exist? As a big part of our branding and marketing. And then sell the service.

I think there’s lots of opportunity there but there’s going to be some work involved too, just based on how their pitch right now. I’m not sold but I mean I think if they change the value proposition and add more, maybe…

Okay, let’s talk about this. We had to talk IP a bit here in the last couple of minutes or one minute if we can from a patent perspective. I didn’t see they had any filings or anything. You know it’s, it’s a lot of what’s been done before but they are perhaps putting a method in place. Um, if there’s something unique possibly about those steps – right? Putting it in an envelope maybe the packaging itself could be unique. It’s an area where they may be able to provide some leg up over competitors trying to come in and, you know, compete with them.

So I’m always curious about where they might fit in. So packaging and then the method of actually performing that are both options from patent protection. And then on the trademark side, I want to see if you guys had a thought. When I first saw it I kind of said “Oh knife aid – KitchenAid.” Okay, is there any concern there? What do you think about the mark itself?

Um, both words have a potential to have a likelihood of confusion just based off of other marks with “Aid” and “Knife Aid” – runs that Rite Aid, you have different type of aids, KitchenAid. So that’s a consideration but I don’t think it would be a full on rejection of their trademark – if they try to register that trademark – because there’s enough distinction there. Um, you know it’s not going to be… it’s not merely descriptive. You know they’re they’re talking about fixing, aiding, right – helping a knife. That’s probably enough. You’re thinking unless there’s any other prior user or prior…

Yeah it’s, it’s one of those. It’s one of those selections where a search is absolutely critical and what I usually tell people when it comes to picking a name for something, it’s like, yeah pick whatever you want just don’t spend any money on it until you talk to me!

There you go. Yeah, do it!

About the Author
J.D. Houvener is a Registered USPTO Patent Attorney who has a strong interest in helping entrepreneurs and businesses thrive. J.D. leverages his technical background in engineering and experience in the aerospace industry to provide businesses with a unique perspective on their patent needs. He works with clients who are serious about investing in their intellectual assets and provides counsel on how to capitalize their patents in the market. If you have any questions regarding this article or patents in general, consider contacting J.D. at https://boldip.com/contact/