When I went back to university to do my Ph.D. in 1978, it was by default. I wanted to write children’s books.
I wanted to be a famous jazz musician.
I ended up becoming a bad breath expert. I smelled thousands of people’s mouth, underarms, shoes, etc. Some of my clients were famous and successful. I wasn’t. But how famous and successful can you become from a career in halitosis? And what do you say at parties when people ask you what you do for a living?
When I became a lecturer in 1982, I knew there was a 40-40-20 deal for inventions. Inventors split 40% of the profits, the laboratory got an additional 20% and the university got 40%.
It was a good deal. The university did not take the profits from one invention to cover the losses of other inventions. And I had a lot of inventions that went belly-up. Lots of them.
I co-invented a mouthwash that became successful in Europe. That was my one success. It’s more fun to start with the failures, though.
My first manufactured invention, together with Prof. Ervin Weiss, was the QuadLoop. It is a disposable plastic device for plating bacterial samples on agar plates. It is still in use after thirty years. You might think that this is a success, but when you share two percent royalties on a product that costs two cents, you think otherwise.
My second invention was the Diaslide. The Diaslide helps you plate directly on the agars within the device. It’s still in the marketplace (thirty years!).
This time I didn’t have to share the two percent royalties. On the other hand, my patent was not clever and someone circumvented it.
In 1996, together with the University, we established a start-up, Innoscent Ltd. as part of the RAD-RAMOT incubator. It was a prolonged and unsuccessful journey, although we raised money, had patents, etc.
One of the reasons we failed is that big companies didn’t play fair. We did not have the clout of the university behind us.
At InnoScent I invented a deodorant soap. But the manufacturer closed the factory and with it their know how. And the Japanese importer sadly died.
I invented an upside-down shoe spray that worked better than the world’s leading product. But it was too difficult to produce commercially.
And some of them blew a lid during air shipment.
We developed an anti-microbial flavor that found its way into toothpaste and chewing gum. We received $10,000 a year in royalties!! But it cost about $500,000 to develop.
My late friend, the super-talented designer Ami Drach helped me invent a give away gizmo for hanging toothbrushes in a hygienic way. But it was a give away and 2% of nothing ain’t much.
My student Dr. Nir Sterer and I invented a test for enzymes in saliva that are linked to bad breath. But you had to spit on the device.
The mouthwash, on the other hand, was successful. It was launched in 1992 in Israel. It became popular only after a local TV personality gargled with it on screen. In 1994 Dr. Phil Stemmer visited Israel, fell in love with the mouthwash and licenced it in the UK.
The invention brought several million dollars to Tel Aviv University. Somewhat ironically, my relationship with the university suffered as a result.
Today I am co-founder of www.Ourboox.com and have a new job at Shenkar College as Advisor to the President (Professor Yuli Tamir) on student affairs. I teach creativity and innovation. I’m a happy camper. And who knows? Maybe the mouthwash will appear in the US soon. That would be splendid indeed!