Accidental Discoveries: Example

Invention of Hook and Loop Fasteners 'Velcro'


Open Mind




For centuries, man has walked through fields of weeds and arrived home with burrs stuck to his clothing. Yet, no one turned this problem to an opportunity until 1948.

George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, on a hiking trip through the woods. He found burrs clinging to his pants and also to his dog's fur. On closer inspection, he found that the burr's hooks would cling to anything loop-shaped. 

  Velcro invention accidental discovery example burrs

This accidental discovery led him to invention of hook and loop fasteners.


'What makes burrs so difficult to remove?' de Mestral wondered. When he returned home, de Mestral examined one under his microscope and ultimately invented a hook-and-loop fastener of his own. The principle was simple. The cocklebur is a maze of thin strands with burrs (or hooks) on the ends that cling to fabrics or animal fur. By the accident of the cockleburs sticking to his jacket, George de Mestral recognized the potential for a practical new fastener.


It took eight years to experiment, develop, and perfect the invention, which consists of two strips of nylon fabric.


One strip contains thousands of small hooks. The other strip contains small loops. When the two strips are pressed together, they form a strong bond. 

Today his invention – Velcro – can be found on everything from clothing and lunch bags to space suits and spacecraft. It is strong, easily separated, lightweight, durable, and washable, comes in a variety of colors, and won’t jam.

  Velcro invention story
Vadim Kotelnikov on innovation

Entrepreneurial serendipity is primarily about discovering entrepreneurial opportunities accidentally and pursuing them experimentally in an entrepreneurial way.


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