Ideas floating in the ether

Latest posts by Jonathan Hudson (see all)

It’s grey today in Michigan – someone owes me big for taking away a sunny summer day. In honor of a somewhat dour Sunday, I wanted to share a a somewhat dour (but hopefully moving) message once told to me by a bright young venture capitalist: an idea entitles you to very little.

Here are some ideas I’ve had or have discussed with friends prior to their existence. Some have gone on to do incredibly well (by people other than I), some have yet to be built (and I don’t have the time):
– A portable MP3 player w/ hard disk
– A social networking website
– An encryption tool for storing adult images on a family computer
– A laser printer in every Starbucks tied to their t-Mobile wifi billing system.
– A website that automates postcard design and mailing, for salespeople who want to easily keep in touch with contacts.
– An elegent voice-over-IP solution for soho (small office/home office)
– A call center that could forward your outbound call to a random number in a random state, for cold-callers who don’t want their same number appearing on a prospect’s caller-id.

Some of these ideas are better than others, but they represent only the tip of many of the ideas that have crossed my mind or path over the years. So let’s take one and analyze what it would take to make it work – how about the automated postcard delivery website?

I’d have to build a website, integrate it with a billing system, hire someone to write a custom web app for the postcard design itself, and make sure it was bug-free. Then, I would begin marketing it, first with google and overture ads, and then with free trials for some market segment, probably real-estate salespeople. I’d work hard to get a critical mass there, hoping that word of mouth would grow it. There would be inevitable support issues, and I would eventually want to grow it into signing up corporate accounts.

Now, that is a relatively small feat compared to engineering and marketing a portable MP3 player. But it still represents a lot of work, and that critical mass of customers is a world away from my idea here in the weblog.

There are so many other good ideas I’ve heard over the years, from simple on-campus cleaning services to complex frameworks for medical billing. But an idea is nothing more than a synapse burst until you take action. It entitles you to nothing more than its pursuit.

I believe this is more liberating than anything else. It levels the playing field, and rewards those who have the desire and commitment required to see an entrepreneurial venture off the ground. So what are you waiting for? Start it up!

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