Put on your thinking cap and dream up something new

Hoping to join the ranks of the Post-It note creator and the coffee cup cozy inventor, Fritz Braunberger, of Sequim, is beginning to bring two products he devised to market.

Braunberger said it may take years and a little help from cohorts, but taking an idea through the inventive process to commercialization is possible, even if it all starts in a garage or spare room.

“The thing about innovation is people aren’t thinking about your idea and possibly haven’t used a product like the one you have devised,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean it will not be successful. It means it’s new, fresh and something to look into.”

Nearly seven years ago while living in Southern California, Braunberger began tinkering with two projects. Both ideas turned into reality after he moved to Sequim, especially after joining a club for innovators and inventors called the Olympic Peninsula Entrepreneurs Network or OPEN group.

Tim Riley, of Port Angeles, is a local real estate agent and leader of the OPEN group.

“The objective is to get people motivated and show them goals can be accomplished with dedication and with help from experienced people,” Riley said. “We have such a wealth of experience on the North Peninsula that the club has really begun to reach out and utilize resources we have in our own back yards, be that patent experts, financiers, entrepreneurs, engineers or electricians.”

Riley said the group is about matching ideas with resources. The group has no formal membership but those showing up must sign a nondisclosure agreement.

“We want to protect ideas and help them grow, not steal them,” Riley said. “But the degree of innovation is amazing in the area and if we match that with the expertise we have, the club will grow and the economy will grow.”

Washington state recognized the Sequim to Port Angeles area in 2007 for its successes in innovation with the title of Innovative Partnership Zone.

The zone, which is administered by the Clallam County Economic Development Council, includes Battelle Laboratories, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Peninsula College as a team bringing innovation and ideas to market by pairing research with higher education.

“There are a huge number of patents out there that are originating from Clallam County,” Riley said. “Once the area makes a name for itself in innovation, we will have the eyes and ears of financiers and research-and-development-based professionals, which could be a huge asset to the area and to individuals with ideas or inventions.”

Braunberger said determination and cooperation helped get his projects off the ground.

“One thing we talk about in our meetings is the need to network, which is really what the group is all about,” Braunberger said. “It’s helped me line up possible investor group contacts for StrobeWise and a gentleman who has helped me construct a prototype of TimeDot.”

StrobeWise and TimeDot are two of Braunberger’s inventions he has taken from ideas to patents. Next is taking the products to market.

StrobeWise is a lighting system that attaches to the inside of the back window of a vehicle. It flashes an amber light when the vehicle decelerates.

Washington State Patrol representatives have requested units from Braunberger in order to test their effectiveness on their own patrol vehicles. Also, the inventor has worked with Port Angeles car dealership owner Howie Ruddell to see how he can best market to new car dealerships.

“I’m trying to go through a similar process that the inventor of the center, high-mounted brake light went through,” Braunberger said, indicating the invention became the standard in new vehicles. “I look forward to StrobeWise having that kind of success.”

Braunberger also has been tinkering with a sticker label that changes color after a predetermined amount of time. Called TimeDot, the sticker could be used for vehicle registration or breast milk.

“You are supposed to throw breast milk out after five days, but if you are putting bottles in the fridge at different times and different days, you can lose track of which is old and which is new,” he said. “The TimeDot would change colors after five days, and the mother would know not to give the child spoiled milk.”

He said other time-sensitive stickers are on the market already but that his is temperature independent.

“The group really gave me some resources to take these ideas to the next step,” he said.

The group not only calls upon the resources of those in attendance, but since the meeting place is the Lincoln Center in Port Angeles, they are steps away from the Business Incubator, which carries a variety of resources and connections to align clients with resources.

“I’d encourage anyone with an interest in helping projects progress or those with an idea of their own to show up and try to bounce it off other people,” Riley said. “It’s amazing what can happen for innovation with networking.”

The Olympic Peninsula Entrepreneurs Network, or OPEN group, meets from 7-9 p.m. the third Thursday of each month at the Lincoln Center, 905 W. Ninth St., Port Angeles. The group is available online at

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