I have an idea (yeah, I know, don't we all) that seems like it might be worth turning into a product. I built a prototype and it works nicely. I did a first pass patent search and there were patents in the same arena but none that would block patenting this idea. So far so good, but here's the rub. I'm not very interested in the long hard path from idea to product and I'm not very interested in being a business person. I believe this product is useful, I found online discussions where people sought a solution to the problem my ideas sets out to solve. That said, the market is not huge, however that could be reflected in my expecations for royalties, i.e. expect little. So, my questions:
1. What is the probability that I can find someone with an interest in starting a business but needs a product?
2. What "back of the envelope" calculations for sales, market size, costs etc. would be most worth doing to decide on what path to take?
3. Assuming it makes any sense to pursue turning this idea into a product, how to find candidates? Is CoFounders Networking the right place for this situation?
4. Are there any good options for extracting value from an idea/prototype other than patenting/productizing or open-sourcing?
First, congratulations on being honest with yourself and the rest of the people by saying you're not interested in the "long hard path".
Once this is said, it seems that the best way for you to profit in anyway is to sell your idea to somebody who'll walk that long hard path instead of you.
So here's what I'd like to suggest:
1) If this is what you want, you need to accept that the value of the idea is very low compared to the rest of the "path", especially if it's not patented.
So, talking to a patent specialist could be a good thing to do, under NDA. At least, you'll know what the chances are to get it patented, how long will it take and how much will it cost.
2) There several organizations/companies that offer their services to people like you. They take your idea (or patent) and they try to turn it into a business, while you will be offered some compensation. The latter can come in several forms or in some combination thereof - cash (not likely, or not much), percentage of future sales otherwise called royalties, shares in the future company etc.
I know about one such organization: www.intellectualventures.com, but there many others too.
You can search the web for others, but watch out for "patent trolls".