The million dollar ideaSun, Mar 8, 2015
Recently I had a discussion with some guy that was wondering what do with his “algorithm”.
He talked about how for now three years he has been working on perfectioning his algorithm and now he was ready to monetize it, that is, before even telling me what it is and what it does.
The first mistake that can easily be pointed out here is that nobody should ever cave in for three years and never get any feedback during that time. The first thing you want to do, as soon as you have an idea you want to work on is ask yourself two questions to avoid wasting your time:
Is this problem you are about to try solving already answered (well enough) by somebody else?
Is this problem one other people are facing and is the solution you wish to build in line with the market’s needs and wants?
Those two question can and must be answered before starting to build anything or it might just be a waste of your time.
Then it goes on, I ask him what exactly his algorithm is solving, or even, what does it do? Straight away he’s reluctant, he doesn’t want to tell me! After turning around the pot for a while end up giving me something: ”It’s an algorithm that is aimed at saving people driving to work everyday for significant distances (more than 10km) time”, by what, finding the fastest route?, like better than Google Maps which has tons of talented engineers doing just that? It’s difficult imagining this being a million dollar idea. Except, he really thought he had hit the jackpot he simply needed to pass Go collect it.
The second mistake, is protecting your idea like it’s worth something. Ideas a great but you are often not the only one to have the same. However unique you think you are, innovation by inventing something completely new is really rare nowadays. Most startups are either; a mix of two existing concepts that put together makes something novel or; a new spin on an existing idea. You need to let people know about your idea, their feedback is invaluable, talk about it to everyone and keep in mind: Nobody will steal your specific idea because only you are passionate about it enough to take the plunge and work on it full time. You could argue plenty of good idea were stolen, I would argue those stealer had a similar idea on their own, that’s it.
The third mistake, is thinking the idea is where the money. The road ahead is long and is the only thing that creates actual value. What you are selling when you IPO or get acquired is mostly the name you’ve build, the clients you amassed, the recurring revenue, the team you have put together over the years.
Finally I asked him how would that benefit the end user, concretely? He promptly answered with a ”I can’t tell you that, that would be telling you too much!”. That leaves me wondering he he will market his solution. Here, I am selling you this cardboard box, I will do you great good, it’s priced at 100$, but sadly I can’t tell you what’s in there, that’s my secret sauce! I could just buy one in front of him and display it in front of everybody wondering what it actually is!
I any case, I hope this was interesting and helpful.