It must have been the late summer of 1969, I was 12 years old and sitting a restaurant with my father. He was treating me before putting me on the train back to boarding school in the south of England.  A man at the next table was shaking Worcestershire sauce onto his steak.  “If you want to become rich in life, all you need to do is to find something that society needs and supply it at a price it can afford” he said. 

According to my father, the person that invented the top of the Worcestershire sauce bottle had earned as much money as the sauce company itself! Apparently the previous top was made of glass and often became blocked making it impossible to dispense the spicy sauce.

Looking back, it is a nice feeling knowing that I have discovered it, the thing that makes me rich. But perhaps it’s not quite what my father or I had in mind at that dinner table in the Sylvan restaurant, all those years ago.

For a long time after hearing my father’s wisdom, I tried in vain to search for things that society needed; the eureka invention that would change the world.  Over the years I gave up. Mostly because of a lack of original ideas and partly because I had heard so many stories of inventors being ripped off that I allowed them to become excuses for accepting that perhaps the easy money of an inventor’s life was not for me.

Last week however, I discovered an amazing video of a brilliantly simple invention that brings light into poor people’s homes without any running costs at all.  Like all ingenious discoveries there was an underlying need that could be met by simply combining a number of seemingly disconnected and unrelated materials, in this case: A disused Pepsi bottle, mineral water, household bleach, some silicone and a small piece of sheet aluminum. (Watch the video here)

And will the person who invented this great idea ever become rich?

Well it entirely depends on how you measure what rich means. The riches that come from knowing that your invention is transforming the quality of life of a countless number of very poor people must surely be enough in itself?  Just like the richness that comes from realizing that your contribution to the business community and society in general makes a real difference and that you are respected for it.  Can money ever compensate more than that?

Have a good week,