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My Billion Dollar Idea!

     What do you do when you get a billion dollar idea?

     When I get mine – and I’ve had a few – my course of action tends to be fairly predictable. I have a five-step strategy:

Step 1:     First, I lose sleep for a few weeks (or a few months, depending on how complex the idea is). I lay awake nights, mapping out which cogs of which gears turn which axles… When I’m not in bed, I do the same thing at work, during meals, when I’m driving… I research on the web, work out process details, buy new books, draw, write…
     Of course I tell few, if any, people. I will tell my wife and, once in a while, a trusted confidant or two. Otherwise I try to work and hammer out all the details myself.

Step 2:     Once I start to get a clear picture of what is possible and a vague idea of how it could be done, I start to daydream about the possibility of it. By the end of this week, I already have a core staff of employees who will grow with the company and get rich off my brilliant idea. I imagine what the TV commercials would be like. I’m refusing to ever take my company public, because I want to offer my employees unparalleled profit sharing. My administrative assistant bought herself that classic Porsche she has always wanted, with her holiday bonus.

Step 3:     Eventually, when my work begins to slip behind schedule and the suffering in my personal life becomes unbearable, I take stock of all I have accomplished. I try and pull back a bit from my dreams of wealthy janitors and try to face reality a bit. What skills are needed? How many people? Supplies? Office space? Marketing funds? The marketing funds is always the biggest hit – especially with web-based businesses. Yes, they are practically free to start and grass-roots efforts are all well and good, but the minute your site is found by someone who likes the idea and DOES have the money to spend on proper marketing, you’re gone. I try and guesstimate, as well as I could, how much cash I would need for five years funding. After all, I can’t afford to quit my job without the guarantee of at least five years of paychecks coming in.

Step 4:     Inevitably I come to the conclusion that I haven’t the time (nor often the skill) to do it ALL myself. Fortunately, I have a full-time job and a full-time life. I also can’t afford to pay anyone a salary, so I start to consider what options I may have of finding partners. If people are as excited about the idea as I am (which, of course they would be, because who wouldn’t want a handsome share of a billion dollar idea?) I will be bound to find people to partner with!
     People with ideas, but no resources, also have jobs keeping them busy. People with resources tend to have their own ideas – they don’t need mine. Yes, there are career venture capitalists, but they seem few and far-between these days. Besides, I used to know a bona fide career venture capitalist, many years ago... I would sooner sign a contract with Johnny No Knuckles than with her.

Step 5:     The final step is to file the idea in the back of my head and let it scratch and dig incessantly, but at least unobtrusively enough to sleep again, until the point that when I see someone else getting wealthy off a strikingly similar idea it’s actually a relief to let it go.

     All-in-all, my five-step business strategy hasn’t worked out too well for me so far.
     I say this every time, but maybe this time it will be different.
     I’m hoping those who read this can help me make it different this time. I have a lot of smart people reading my Blog.
     How does this work, damnit?

     Every since I read Great Expectations as a kid I’ve always wanted to find an unbearably wealthy benefactor. I would come up with the brilliant ideas (I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I have watched my ideas go successfully to market over and over again – they really ARE good ideas) my benefactor would bankroll them and I would make him richer so he could then fund my next idea.

     Where’s my Abel Magwitch?

     The idea that kept me up last night – and has me here at work an hour and a half early, writing this – started out several months back as an inkling about a Social Media search engine. I came up with an idea for a search interface that would actually be effective and usable for Social Media – but something just didn’t click. There was something there, but try as I might, I just couldn’t see it. It came to me in a flash, last night before bed, and I haven’t slept yet. Once I realized what I was looking at, the rest of it came to me in waves and floods all night.
     What I have been batting back and forth for the past few months wasn’t the interface for a new Social Media search engine – it was a new Social Media site – though I have found myself wanting to drop the “Social Media” moniker and call it a “Social Information” site.
     Of course I’m not going to go into too much detail, because someone reading this – someone with the resources they would need to run with the idea – may like the it, but I will say it addresses what I see as all the shortcomings of both Twitter and Facebook. It has integrated, comprehensive search capabilities – with an innovative, intuitive interface. The interface performs several different, highly customizable functions, but the customization is quite simple. It would work equally well: as a light, personal, social tool for casual users; a feature-packed professional networking & marketing tool; a brand research tool; and, given the data structure, search functionality & user interaction methodology, it could even function as a form of knowledge base. As the idea was taking shape in my mind, I kept getting excited over the possibilities it could present for the ITSM Practitioner Collaboration Tool & Knowledge Base I’ve been going on about.

     So… What now? I’ve done some web development in the past. I’ve done some database design. I’ve done some of most things – but I certainly can’t do this on my own. So, how do I do it? I’m no entrepreneur – I’m an idea man and a people leader, but not a money man. I’ve never been to business school. I don’t know how to ask for money (and actually get it). I don’t know how to do a business plan or even what to do with it once I have it. Even if I did have a stellar business plan to present to potential investors, the fact that I don’t have an MBA and all I know about forming an LLC I read in “The Portable MBA” years ago, will convince them they should not give me a dime – they might even want to call security to have me escorted out.

     So tell me... What’s an idea man to do? Aside from giving bread to an escaped convict I come across in a cemetery and waiting ten years, how do I find an Abel Magwitch of my own?

March 03, 2011, 04:14:09 am

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