Wondering What To Do With Your Million Dollar Idea?

dollar-sign-in-lightbulbYou know you’ve had at least one, maybe twenty, those ideas that could change the world for thousands of people, and subsequently put a ton of cash in your pocket.
Every time I hear of a new ‘disruptive’ tech start-up earning a $20m valuation out of the box I’m like “Are You SERIOUS?” I thought of that 5 years ago!” Okay, so maybe that’s not always the case, but you know the feeling.  We get these great ideas, and we hold on to them, chat about them with our friends, etc. We literally have a cache of millions of dollars in our cerebral storage that we’re hobby-ing.
A couple weeks ago, a good friend of mine, whom I love chatting about ideas with, shared with me his GoDaddy account with me. It was filled with dozens of domains for business concepts and ideas he’s had over the last few years. While he works for a dynamic start-up, he hasn’t had the opportunity to develop any of his brilliance.  (My personal favourite idea of his was a solar powered lawn mower that operated similar to an iRobot Roomba vacuum, which was already invented by Husqvarna. While the idea was already out there, his originally sourced concept was incredible).
Having attended and competed in several ‘business concept’ competitions at the University of Toronto, and having the opportunity to consult and work with some incredible start-ups, I’ve discovered a few key points that have helped me figure out what I need to do with my good ideas, and hopefully they’ll help you figure out what to do with yours!
1. A Good Idea Solves a Problem
It can even be a trivial problem, but make sure your idea solves a ‘problem’ or else you will run out of audience very quickly.
You took the train downtown but need a car to get to x asap and there are no cabs on your street; Uber, Zip, RideShare, Lyft…
You take frequent business trips and fly United who constantly lose your luggage (or you just hate packing): hello DUFL (love this one)
You want to unwind on your commute home and just want to mind numb a bit while crushing candies…
It doesn’t matter what problem is solves, just solve something, for someone.
(Also referred to as ‘pain points’ – thanks Dr. Chattoe, I was listening)
2. Good Ideas Need a TEAM
Unless you’re a developer, marketing genius, networking professional, patent lawyer, accountant and a few other roles, your idea is going to need a team to make millions. Working in teams can be great fun and stressful. The success of any start-up genuinely starts with the idea, but it’s the team that makes it happen.  In a team environment, concepts have the opportunity to grow as each person adds their skills, expertise and ideas to the base concept creating something even more amazing than you initially envisioned. However, a development team can cost upwards of $1million / year, so building the team can be a stumbling block or a great reason to pitch for funding.
3. Good Ideas Need to Be Shared
Sharing your idea can give it the greatest possibility of it becoming a reality.  If you think you may have the capacity to develop your idea, this could be sharing it with a group of colleagues who may have the connections to make it happen, or sharing your idea with a development group like MarsDD or other incubator. Or, you could just give your idea away to see if someone can make your idea a reality (yikes!).
Being honest – this is one I’m jumping into for the first time  today. I’ve been sitting on what I feel is my best idea to date for almost a year. It earned an “A” in my Technological Entrepreneurship class and a $19m hypothetical valuation at a recent business competition from a TED speaker, however I don’t have the team or capacity right now to develop it. So this afternoon I reached out to a local start-up CEO in the field who has the potential to make it a reality as an extension of their current business and am excited to hear their feedback.
4. Keep Creating Good Ideas
Now that you’ve either built a team for your idea, or shared it with someone who can, it’s time to double down on that idea by either thinking of new iteration for your concept, or develop a new creative idea with the motivation that you just gave away a million dollars.  If creativity breeds creativity, don’t get stuck on an ‘old’ idea, keep pushing forward for the billion dollar concept.
If you hold on to your ideas; I’d love to hear your plans on ‘getting them out!’ Of if you want to be bold and share an idea in the comments section you haven’t shared out loud before… maybe you can start building your team right here!

Innovate Summer! #CoolestCooler

It’s Friday, and I am beyond ready for the weekend!  In fact, I was ready for the weekend on Monday when I had the idea for this post.

Yesterday the “Forbes Thought of the Day” came from Charles M. Schwab,
“the best place to succeed is where you are with what you have.”

Coolest Cooler
The Coolest Cooler (Kickstarter Photo)

It’s very likely a thought like that which inspired Ryan Grepper to innovate summer and come up with the “Coolest Cooler.”  That’s what I thought, a Cooler cooler?  If you haven’t seen it yet; this cooler comes with a blender, bluetooth speaker and USB charging station and is built for an awesome summer day out.  Grepper took we he had, an sunny summer day, a sucky cooler and an innovative idea and put it all together to make the coolest cooler.

According to Kickstarter with over $7 MILLION in pledges, the Coolest Cooler is the third most funded Kickstarter campaign ever, and it still has over a month to go!  But it was no picnic for Grepper to get to this stage.  As a self proclaimed “professional inventor,” in his first attempt at kickstarting the cooler, Grepper staked his reputation on The Coolest Cooler 1.0 (video Coolest Cooler 1.0). His plan was to use his model and success as an example to other inventors he was training. But then he got the Kickstarter grey line of death… Coolest Cooler Fail 2

I guess that’s what happens when you try to launch a cooler in the middle of winter.   After being a backer of 23 projects, including six that had to do with summer, Grepper felt he had his pitch ready to go.  If you check out Coolest Cooler 1.0 ( #failedattempt ), you’ll notice that it has a lot in common with the latest iteration of the Coolest Cooler, except yCoolest Cooler Failou had to order in November / December 2013, for delivery in August 2014.  In December I’m thinking about Christmas presents, not summer planning.  This round you order in summer, for delivery next winter…  “Timing” will likely be the most popular chapter in Grepper’s Ted Talk and book (as that’s where most Kickstarter rockstars end up).  Stonemaier Games blog has actually given this some thought in their “Kickstarter Lesson #109: Seasonal Timing” post – worth a read.

Kicktraq estimates that the Coolest Cooler will be the MOST funded Kickstarter campaign with $21 million in sales, based on current volumes.  With the long weekend coming up, who knows.  To double pledges of the #1 Pebble, and #2 OUYA, would be quite a feat, but we did see both of their sales take dips after fast launches and huge finishes.  Timing may not ALL be on Grepper’s side as he goes for the record.

The full version of this blog, including some interesting points on Bunch O Balloons and an extended version of “Reality Check” can be found on my Linkedin Profile or check out my other posts here on innovation (warning – one’s a rant).


Reality Check: I used to think of myself as an “ideas guy” until I discovered most of my amazing ideas were already taken! Crowdfunding has really helped people get their ideas to market, like with the Coolest Cooler and Bunch O Balloons.  While we aren’t all inventors, we all have different areas of skill and expertise that are ripe for innovation, just like summer, and summer has been around FOREVER!   Never stop believing, never. stop. innovating.


Contribution Breeds Intrapreneurship

Disclaimer: This blog starts out as a bit of a rant but can hopefully lead to some successful results in every area of your life by contributing!

If you were given the opportunity to choose which industry you worked in – would you take it? What if you were given the resources to build a product to showcase to a perspective client or employer and you could select which industry you wanted to target?  Do you think you would have a better chance creating something where you get to choose your audience, or when someone else chooses for you?

That’s exactly what I thought!  Well at least I thought everyone would jump at that opportunity to choose what industry to work for, but apparently I was wrong; I mean, 23 – 1 wrong.

This week the second half of the ‘summer semester’ at University of Toronto began and my first class was “Advanced Web Design (CCT460),” held at Sheridan College.   I began to get excited as the instructor listed off the semester’s team projects: build a widget, build a theme, build a plugin, build and present a website.  What a great opportunity!  As a marketing manager, these were all things I had contracted out in the past and I was now going to learn pieces of the process of what it was really like to build these tools.  And the best part, we got to choose which industry we wanted to create these tools for, giving us the opportunity to add something to our creative portfolio we could showcase to future prospective employers.  At least that’s how I thought it was going to go when the instructor said that for our team projects we could:

A. Choose our own industry to develop projects for.
B. Choose from a list of industries the instructor would provide.
C. Be assigned an industry by the instructor.4% Chose To Contribute

Out of 24 in the class, 23 chose B and I was the only one to choose A!  To say I was flabbergasted was an understatement.  How could / Why would you not take the opportunity to choose your own adventure?

Being fair I understand that it is an academic environment, but this is the best time to practice life; when the stakes are controllable.  My theory is to never pass up an opportunity to contribute.   Dan Schwabel, in his Forbes article Why Companies Want You To Be An Intrapreneur, writes about how contribution leads to innovation and intrepreneurship.  Some of his examples are pretty big deals; 3M Post-It Notes, Google Mail, and aircraft designs at Lockheed Martin, all came from employees contributing ideas, fuelling a culture of innovation.  Thinking on my past ten years of work experience, it’s amazing how many times I’ve sat in meetings and the question “does anyone have any ideas” was responded to with crickets.

Harvard’s MBA website states, “in every case, class, event, and activity, you are asked not only to study leadership, but to demonstrate it.”  So I’m taking that as a personal challenge, and encourage you to do the same.  In every case, class, event and activity, how are you leading, contributing and innovating?

My activation for the day: putting together six industry sectors and a couple of sub-sectors that the six groups in my CCT460 group can choose from (to potentially be added to the list our instructor puts together).

    1. Entertainment
      Music / Concerts
      Movies / Television
      Professional Sports (league / team) *
    2. Government
      Municipal / Provincial / Federal
      (sub categories are literally endless)
    3. Transportation
      Commercial Travel (vacation / airline / train / bus) *
      Commuter Travel
    4. Technology
      Data Management
    5. Medical
      Home Care
      Independent Dr / Dentist Office
    6. Financial
      Investment Firms