Comments: 459 • Responses: 91  • Date: 

-ClownPenisDotFart-472 karma

Did you ever start paying people competitive wages instead of complaining like a boomer?

SmellMyChocha-79 karma

Always have paid competitive wages. If we didn't no one would work with me.

All the context to that tweet is here:

EDIT: apparently the above link isn't working, so please see the link below from u/koopashell

koopashell20 karma

SmellMyChocha-6 karma

they're the same for me no?

koopashell9 karma

It might be how each person is viewing reddit. This is what I see:

SmellMyChocha-2 karma

ha, weird thanks for fixing that for me especially since it has all those downvotes :(

koopashell-54 karma

Reddit is full of haters. Your product is neat imo. I grew up playing with Lego and K'nex and eventually became a mechanical engineer. STEM kid's toys are good for society.

SmellMyChocha-7 karma

Thank you and agreed!

EdWoodSnowden167 karma

Aren't these a rebranding of that old 80s toy Octons?

SmellMyChocha-45 karma

Similar but not quite! Octons have a slightly different connection mechanism vs. Brain Flakes. Brain Flakes snap and click (patented!) whereas Octons just slide together using friction. See here and look carefully at the inner circle and the dents:\_AC\_SL1500\_.jpg

sulnibs92 karma

Always funny when people get excited about some minor patent like it’s what makes their business. Patented doesn’t mean it brings any additional value for a customer (or useful) just that you managed to get an on paper approval for some minor aspect of uniqueness that you could possibly sue someone for if they copy exactly. The HN comments cover this well, it looks a ton like an existing product from decades ago

chainsaw_monkey17 karma

While I have not used these flakes, I remember having the old ones as a kid and the main problem was that over time they kind of stretched out and the friction hold would not work so the structures became much more limited. Sounds like the snap and click idea could make this better as long as the plastic holds its form well. Innovation is often just improving on older products.

SmellMyChocha-4 karma

You got it!

SmellMyChocha14 karma

Hacker News approaches everything from a software perspective. They really do not understand patents for physical products. Patents are an incentives for inventors to create. Without them, there'd be no reason to go through the painstaking process of innovation because larger companies could copy without impunity.

sulnibs33 karma

Can you clarify what was innovative about your product then? The core product looks exactly like the old existing one that was discussed. It seems to me the main reason for any “innovation” was to patent it so you can sue others while basically selling a copy of a product that already existed. Why is “snap and click” innovative in any way that matters? I would bet you’d have the exact same sales numbers if you just sold the previous product.

SmellMyChocha7 karma

#44 here (from patent); see red arrow:

It's hugely important.

HEre is full patent link:

wowlmao-jenkins-17 karma

I'm glad that you've been able to use patents to your advantage, but they're anti-competitive. It's well known that patents are primarily used to bully small businesses out of the marketplace.

HN, and other tech hubs, know the extreme usefulness of open source. It's not 1-to-1, but patents of physical products don't gel well with the philosophy of open-source.

SmellMyChocha7 karma

Question for you, if you don't mind:

How would we do an open-source version of Brain Flakes discs?

Why would anyone buy them from us as opposed to manufacturers from China?

zardeh18 karma

Why do people buy Lego brand bricks instead of knockoff products?

SmellMyChocha-5 karma

Two reasons come to my mind (I say this as someone who doesn't buy a lot of Lego!):

  1. Lego is a luxury good. You can brag about buying a Lego brand Millenium Falcon ($800+ now), but you can't brag about the same from Sluban or the other Chinese brands
  2. There's a perception that the Chinese quality is lower, but in my experience Lego's quality has deteriorated while the Chinese's has gotten better and is as good.

True Lego people chime in and teach me!

ftnwo120 karma

Lego pieces from every generation fit pieces from today.

I have 100 sets or so, never have they shipped missing a piece. Never has a piece been broken or miscolored.

Lego ownership isn't about bragging, it's just a high quality product that is consistent.

SmellMyChocha1 karma

The system!

Thanks for this, great point.

ArchCypher5 karma

Don't forget the extreme saturation and brand recognition of LEGO -- most people will never even think to go buy knockoffs on Amazon when every Walmart/Target/Best Buy in America has a shelf full of LEGO kits they can buy.

And even if they are searching for something specific, they'll search for "lego xxx."

SmellMyChocha2 karma

Yeah, that is a great point. Lego has awesome distribution; they are EVERYWHERE!

NightlyMuses-16 karma

I bought a set for my three year old! Love it, especially because they’re not as painful as blocks when underfoot. Them reminded me of tazoos? They’d come in chip packets late 90’s early 2000’s with loony toons characters I think.

Any plans to make chunkier versions?

SmellMyChocha-5 karma

No plans to make chunkier Brain Flakes discs at this time but we've got a bunch of cool connectors in the works :)

Happy to read that your 3 your old and your feet are enjoying them!

NightlyMuses-15 karma

Look forward to it! Hopefully we’ll have moved on from making hot-wheel car enclosures with ours by then. Thanks for a great product!

SmellMyChocha-2 karma

hahahaha. I have a son. I feel that :)

spencerdiniz138 karma

Brain Flakes is such a bad name… how did you come up with the name and who said it was a good idea?

SmellMyChocha-67 karma


I thought it was funny. It reminded me of the cereal bran flakes. I like names that make you smile, that are a bit ridiculous. Our racket game is named GOODminton (as opposed to BADminton).

honestFeedback97 karma

To be fair, you think Alex Jones is funny - so perhaps don't use that as a yardstick in the future?

SmellMyChocha-42 karma

Fwiw, you can laugh AT Alex Jones without laughing WITH Alex Jones.

spencerdiniz89 karma

Goodminton is actually clever and funny. Sorry, but for me “Brain Flakes” seems like the name of a disease.

SmellMyChocha-37 karma


Yeah kind of like dandruff or something right?

It's too late to change!!!

civodar-21 karma

For what it’s worth I thought it was funny and got it right away. Tbf bran flakes are one of my favourite cereals tho

Edit: Why am I being downvoted for this comment?

SmellMyChocha-7 karma


I"m more of a Brain Flakes guy myself. I don't even eat cereal anymore, spikes my blood sugar!

ARX776 karma

How did you get a patent when these toys existed in the '90s / tazos?

SmellMyChocha-8 karma

To get a patent you do not need THE ENTIRE PRODUCT to be new. You only need a feature to be new. When Lego got their patents, plastic building blocks already existed. They just added the circular tubes at the bottom and that was enough for a patent!

Lego patent:

You can read more about ip in this article I wrote here:

ARX7-21 karma

Thanks for the links 😀

SmellMyChocha1 karma

welcome :)

Tobotron41 karma

We had these back in the 80’s?

SmellMyChocha-16 karma

You are correct. The first evidence i've seen for interlocking plastic discs come from the 1950s!\_source=reddit&utm\_medium=web2x&context=3

Pormal_Nerson35 karma

I got a package of JINGQITOYS about 8 years ago that look identical to Brain Flakes.

Mr_Happy_8039 karma

I'm sure I had something similar in the 1980s. Plastic hexagons with slots that went together in the same way.

SmellMyChocha-3 karma

I didn't invent interlocking plastic discs; I invented Brain Flakes discs!
please see here:

SmellMyChocha-3 karma

It is possible! If my memory serves we sued that company and have a default judgment against them. We have 100s of judgments so I'd have to check to confirm.

Our discs are different though. See our logo debossed on the discs and the slightly different design (our dents is what gives us our patent):\_AC\_SL1500\_.jpg

could_use_a_snack42 karma

Umm. We had something like this when I was a kid. My sister is 8 years older than me and wouldn't let me play with them. How long have you been selling these? I'm in my 50s, so this had to be from the 1970s

SmellMyChocha-1 karma

I didn't invent interlocking plastic discs. I invented (with Dileep and Choon) Brain Flakes® Interlocking Discs which are a significant improvement over the interlocking discs you and I played with when we were younger.

See here for the details:

SmellMyChocha5 karma

Btw, Lego didn't invent building blocks. They sold what the discovered in the UK (a UK company was first) and then later, they patented an improvement. Same as us.

insaneintheblain13 karma

Pretty sure a brick company invented building blocks

SmellMyChocha5 karma

Plastic brick you mean right?

You're right, but it wasn't Lego. It was Kiddicraft from the UK:

could_use_a_snack-9 karma

Gotcha. Cool that these are doing so well.

SmellMyChocha2 karma

Thank you :)

Cmusil0527 karma

How did you learn that you sold more sets than lego?

SmellMyChocha-15 karma

Amazon has a best sellers page for a bunch of different categories. For about 2 weeks in August (back to school) Brain Flakes ranked ahead of Lego for building toys. Here's a screenshot for proof:

Right now we are #66 in building sets:

And we are #73 in building toys:\_bs\_pg\_2?\_encoding=UTF8&pg=2

acerbell8 karma

I noticed some brain flakes sets use more of the darker colors. Are they cheaper and easier to produce? I like the vibrant colors when I’m buying items and I’m curious if there is preferred color to use as a primary color and why?

SmellMyChocha7 karma

You're right that darker colors are cheaper to produce because darker colors can use recycled plastic (of different colors) whereas light colors cannot. We don't use recycled plastic in ours though (however, we do recycle our plastic waste). There is no preferred color to use as a primary color but we do sell grey discs separately as we felt they were needed, but did not come in the original 12 color Brain Flakes jar.

sk8thow83 karma

Why only disks?

Make semi-circles, 90°, long straight, and square pieces. And make couplers that will let you attach 2 pieces together without having to rotate the next one 90°; all it would need to be is like a tiny little H-beam. Then you can make flat walls and stuff, plus with different shapes you could design better looking things.

SmellMyChocha-4 karma

Awesome, I love where your head is at. We have a couple of cool new pieces in the works which I can't talk about yet!

We pay $100 for ideas like this if you want to submit some drawings:

sk8thow81 karma

Also, you did right by putting a hole in the middle of the connectors and I like how you have set that uses it with an axle for a vehicle.

Make rods that have cutouts that the disks can click into or clips that will go onto a rod and will accept a disk.

If you can give me some measurements (disk diameter, hole diameter, cut length, and disk thickness) I could mock up some stl's. Can't do whatever click-interlocking thing you got going on, but this post piqued my interest and remixing this type of toy seems like a fun idea.

SmellMyChocha0 karma

Thank you!

Our axles can accept the discs.

Just draw it and submit to the link above. Dims not necessary!

zero_nine_towel1 karma

Hi Molson! If you had to start all over again with marketing your product what would you do differently (if there's anything), and second.. what was your first clue when you knew 'okay this is going somewhere' ? Tnx

SmellMyChocha1 karma

For marketing? I'd start our website and release our content (free and paid) much earlier than I did.

As soon as the product dropped on Amazon it sold very fast! That was the moment I knew!

PeanutSalsa1 karma

What were some of the biggest and main challenges you faced in getting to this point?

chainsaw_monkey34 karma

This looks very familiar, did you copy an old toy and rename it?

SmellMyChocha-6 karma

To start I took a preexisting product and gave it a new name, branding, packaging, branding, and distribution. Slowly over time we made it truly our own with patented improvements and tons of building content and designs. See here:

SmellMyChocha33 karma

Whooo boy.

  1. First product was a failure
  2. I got shaken down by corrupt cops in China and I had to flee the country. I lost a bunch of money in the process and all my employees in China.
  3. I got counterfeited by two my employees in China
  4. I have a long 4 year litigation with a company called Creative Kids which is killing me slowly
  5. I had to work a ton on myself. I had to realize that I sucked and that I needed to get better to make this business work.

There are many more I'm not thinking of but entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart.

draculamilktoast18 karma

I had to work a ton on myself. I had to realize that I sucked and that I needed to get better to make this business work.

Would you mind expanding on that a bit?

SmellMyChocha4 karma

I had to learn to sell. I had to learn to work with people. I had to learn to be a good manager. I had to learn patience. I had to learn hard work and to never give up. I had to learn to keep my emotions in check. I had to learn to regulate stress.

Many things!

I was arrogant!

cgibsong00259 karma

At what point did you learn to be an insufferable bigot?

SmellMyChocha-11 karma

I'm not a bigot, might be insufferable though!

Thanks for the question!

[deleted]0 karma


BellyButton2146 karma

Are you paying for these ads?

SmellMyChocha5 karma

I don't know what that was. It says removed by moderator.

pattyG80-1 karma

How does one come to be named Molson? Please tell me us it is after the beer as I am from Montreal and that would be cool AF.

SmellMyChocha9 karma

My brother's named Hilton.

He's where he was conceived and I am why

SmellMyChocha2 karma

Actually, my dad worked for the brewery in Montreal

fistingdonkeys-8 karma

Upvoted for a good gag.

My kids have interlocking discs. But I don’t know if they're yours. If they are not, moshiwake arimasen.

Thanks for the AMA, and best of luck with your ongoing journeys of entrepreneurship and patent litigation against thieving assholes.

SmellMyChocha4 karma

moshiwake arimasen

arigato and apology accepted

THanks very much! We sell a lot in Japan actually!

PS Check if they are here:\_AC\_SX679\_.jpg

Hot----------Dog-2 karma

What is your opinion on UFOs/UAPs?

SmellMyChocha4 karma

I think there are aliens. I just don't think they care about us enough to let us know that they exist. We're like a tribe in an isolated part of papua new guinea. The rest of humanity knows they're there but because, besides general curiosity, there isn't a reason for us to let them know that we exist.

We have an awesome alien Brain Flakes build somewhere here, which I cannot find presently:\_flakes\_official/?hl=en

Hot----------Dog0 karma

Thanks! Yeah I am similar in thinking, but more so we are their science experiment and don't want to overtly interfere.

SmellMyChocha1 karma

haha i feel you — do I know you?

Hot----------Dog-3 karma

Nope. But great timing on the AMA I'm thinking this will make a great Xmas gift for my nieces and nephews.

SmellMyChocha3 karma

Rock on!

I know someone who I feel would say something like that!

Hope they enjoy it :)

ergonaut-2 karma

What is your favorite beer?

SmellMyChocha13 karma

I have to say Molson right?

My dad actually worked for the brewery in Montreal but to be honest, I never drink the stuff.

Bgrngod13 karma

Wait.. were you named after a beer?

Bgrngod-2 karma

This is great!

I'm glad my parents didn't do something similar. I don't know where I'd be now with the first name Pabst. Which is just their favorite beer when I was born, not where either of them worked.

SmellMyChocha7 karma

my parents when my little brother was born:

"this bud's for you"

beefrog12 karma

Gross lol. Anything but

SmellMyChocha-3 karma

I will buy the brewery and fix that.

shittysportsscience28 karma

Sounds like you would just repackage Miller Light and patent the way you made the can and sue everyone that you think infringes.

SmellMyChocha2 karma

If I made a better can and people/companies adopted it, there would be nothing wrong with that.

As I said in other replies, without patents there is no incentive to innovate because Miller can copy you new innovative can and you can't compete! That's the point of patents!

PugsandTacos-2 karma

Can you go through the journey so far in terms of idea to production to lawsuits to leaving China to today?

SmellMyChocha6 karma

Sure, here's the quick version:

  1. 2010 Think of selling jianzi in america
  2. 2011-2012 product fails
  3. 2013 launch goodminton
  4. 2013 product succeeds
  5. 2014 realize that i can look at sales info on taobao, china's biggest ecommerce marketplace. I decide to launch products that are selling well there but not well in the USA.
  6. 2014 launch a bunch of products based on that, including interlocking plastic discs with brand Brain Flakes
  7. 2014 product takes off
  8. 2015 2 of my employees counterfeit it
  9. 2015 can't do anything until we get a trademark
  10. 2016 sue my chinese employees after getting trademark
  11. 2014 until present continuously improve brain flakes
  12. 2018 chinese employees do it again
  13. 2018 open warehouse in texas
  14. 2018 Send cease and desist to creative kids for selling Creative Kids Brain Flakes
  15. 2019 file lawsuit against Creative Kids
  16. 2020 find that my chinese employees are infringing on our ip again, sue them again and finish them for good
  17. 2021 get patent for an improvement on interlocking plastic discs
  18. 2021 launch and go all in on Brain Flakes
  19. 2022 get rekt by inflation

insaneintheblain0 karma

In hindsight is there a way you could've prevented the counterfeiting, by asking them to sign a non-compete thing or something else?

SmellMyChocha2 karma

They signed a non-compete. The only thing I could've done better was higher better people and trademarked earlier than I did!

PugsandTacos-2 karma

Wow thanks a lot! And good luck on dealing w the counterfeiters!

Out of curiosity what brought you to China in the first place?

SmellMyChocha2 karma

I told the richest person I knew I had an idea for a product and he told me "Molson, the Chinese like face to face. Go to China." He didn't think I'd do it but I just flew to China and lived there :)

Helpful-Priority8745-6 karma

Any recommendation for investment? Postscript: congrats for the achievements of your company!

SmellMyChocha2 karma

You mean like stocks that you can buy in public markets? Nah, not really. I can give advice on how to run a company, but I can't recommend any stocks. The only one I ever bought was Berkshire Hathaway, so maybe look at that one!

russyellow92-7 karma

Greetings from Turgistan for Monsieur Molson.

You are in the kids industry,advertising your product as something to help nurturing future engineers and creatives.

If you have a kid,what essential skills would you teach him/her to get ready to weather all kind of storms in life ?

p.s. Checked out your BrainFlakes,pretty solid to be honest.

SmellMyChocha5 karma


I'm still working that out, but I'm going to focus on the importance of picking yourself up when you fall.

I want to give him lots of confidence, but confidence that is based on effort and achievement, not birthright.

Thank you!

RLClover-15 karma

My soon to be 8 year old son absolutely loves brain flakes. He is home sick today and would like to know how you decided on the perfect size for them?

SmellMyChocha-1 karma

Very happy to read that!

Well RLClover, we tried many different shapes and even discs that had a different number of slots and we found this one to be the perfect shape and size.

Feel better and post your best builds on social media!

KTBFFHCFC-16 karma

As a dad whose kids love your product, thanks for sticking with it despite the hardships you seem to have had. My children and I’m sure thousands like them have enjoyed the creative playtime that your toy brings.

If you could go back to the start of brain flakes, what would you do differently?

SmellMyChocha0 karma

Wow, thanks for the kind words :)

I needed to trademark much earlier than I did to prevent counterfeiting.

I needed to spend more time learning moldmaking and molding.

I should've doubled down on Brain Flakes much earlier than we did. I wasted a lot of time on other brands which don't have the same upside potential as Brain Flakes, which can be the #1 building toy brand in the world.

Insurgentx-16 karma

Hey! Was great to see you do an AMA, I link your blog posts to my team frequently because they add a lot of value in understanding the role of marketplaces in e-commerce.

Do you forecast any change to the Amazon revenue dominance in your sales, such as through other marketplaces?

SmellMyChocha3 karma

Honored by that!

In the short-term, no. We've been trying for years and we went from 98% amazon to maybe around 90%, but some of that non-amazon revenue is int'l distributors who then sell on AMazon!

SmellMyChocha3 karma

I'm bearish on other marketplaces. We're going to focus on as much as possible.