For a Prayer of App Store Success, FOCUS is king!

In many if not most smartphone categories, there are already more than enough apps to go around. In recipes, for example, iTunes already boasts more than 900 apps…and adds about 75 more every six months.  So if you have a brilliant recipe app idea, think really hard. In all likelihood, if it’s not focused on something really special, your’re probably dead.  (How about “hit this button and a French chef will jump out of your iPhone!)

One of my best-ever MBA class students, Will Falcon, a stellar Columbia engineering student and entrepreneur, wrote a great treatise on the issue of focus, based on experience in his hot app development shop. It’s well worth a read, guaranteed…

How Focus Helped Flic Dominate the Apple App Store
My Co-founder and I met Brandon in a coffee shop outside the Meat Packing district in Manhattan. After a brief introduction, he jumped right into explaining the project he wanted to hire us to build, Flic. Within minutes it became clear why this app was going to succeed.

At our boutique mobile development shop — Harlem App Collective — my Co-Founder and I hear pitches from entrepreneurs every day. Over time, I’ve learned to identify apps that I want to build and entrepreneurs I want to work with. The biggest trait I look for in a potential project/client is focus.
Even if you’re not building photo apps, there’s nothing more important than a tight, narrow focus for your smartphone app…after all, there are already more than 900 “recipe management” apps on itunes. The world hardly needs another, and if it’s going to have a prayer of success, it needs to be truly focused and magical. Imagine an app where you hit a button and a french chef jumps out of your iphone and starts cooking the best meal you’ve ever eaten.

Here’s a good look at the reasons why this is so important at the start of your app development thinking, according to a fabulous former student who’s an even better app developer, Will Falcon of nyc’s hac studios. Learn more directly from him via hi@hacstudios.com

Flic’s value proposition is laser focused. Its mission is crystal clear — to help you delete photos from your camera roll. Flic is not crammed with 30 features. It isn’t 12 apps rolled into one (#sorryImNotSorryFacebook). Focused functionality translates into fast development — we built Flic in just 3 weeks.

“Fast development saves you tons of money and makes my job more enjoyable”

Fast development saves you tons of money and makes my job more enjoyable. I re-write less code and don’t build features that will go unused. It also means you can Fail Fast, as my Lean Launchpad professor Bob Dorfwould say. Thus, you can try your next idea or watch this one dominate the App Store.

Focus also makes apps intuitive. Most people will not use 80% of your features (pareto principle), so why build them? Your apps are too complicated if you have to rely on a tutorial to explain functionality. Flicuses a one-page welcome screen to improve the user experience and not to explain the app. Do not waste your money on apps that will confuse users.

If you take away one thing is to not spend ANY money on development until you have focused your idea and crystalized your vision. If a development shop is eager to onboard you without trying to poke holes in your idea, run away!

Download Flic at: http://getflic.com/

Harlem App Collective is a Design centered, mobile development shop in Manhattan, NY. Reach us at hi@hacstudios.com

William Falcon
William Falcon

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What is “net neutrality” and why is it critical for startups and small businesses?

For Startups(and most of us), SELL is not a four-letter word

I started my first of seven companies about 100 days after my 22nd birthday, and if there’s one thing I wish I knew back then, it’s what’s totally clear to me 40 years and more than 40 “venture adventures” later. It has been said thousands of times since, by thousands of pundits: “Entrepreneurs are always selling.”

I quit an amazing, lucrative job as a senior news editor at WINS Radio, New York’s all news station, to start “Bob Dorf Communications, Inc.,” a pr/marcomm agency. No investors, no board, and almost no idea what I was doing, other than launching a business that was totally mine to build and far more challenging (and perhaps rewarding) than the wonderful job in a high-rise newsroom in Midtown Manhattan.

But what I didn’t know really hurt, and took a while to learn — namely that the entrepreneur is always selling.

The day I gave my two weeks’ notice, I did one other thing: I prepared to put about 500 engraved “birth announcements” in the mail to every friend, colleague, interview subject and “prospect” I could conjure up, so that they’d arrive on “opening day.” It cost a fortune. And I still remember the morning of October 13, 1972 (my first day) vividly, almost as if it were yesterday. Got up extra early, showered, shaved, and put on my best suit. Why? To stare at the telephone, certain that it would ring with inquiry after inquiry, prospect after prospect. By noon, the phone had rung exactly once — my wonderful mom, calling to tell me how beautiful the announcement was!!

It was the very first, excruciatingly painful lesson that selling is proactive, not benign, and that even seasoned professional journalists like me had to do more than mail a bunch of crap to get some attention for my value proposition! Selling was “beneath me,” I thought, the province of stockbrokers and car salesmen and the like, hardly the task for an entrepreneur or a marketing and journalism pro! Ha!

So what exactly did I learn along the way that I wish I’d known at 22?

1. Selling is a proactive, full-contact sport: Mail and voicemail don’t do it. It’s all about getting face-to-face with people, watching their body language and their reaction to you, your ideas, your “what ifs” and more.

2. Selling doesn’t happen in one visit: Sure it does, if you’re selling magazine subscriptions or Girl Scout cookies. But when you’re selling big-ticket stuff like professional services, it starts with a “getting to know you” phase that can often span multiple meetings and weeks or months, particularly in professional services where the product is really “you.” Selling demands investment, persistence, and patience — or it just doesn’t happen.

3. Sell the idea first, then the deal: Before you can get the order, you need to establish that the prospect has a need. Get the need to or near the top of his or her priority list. Then convince the prospect that your (or your product’s) solution — coupled with your reliability, wisdom and value — are the best possible solution to that problem in the customer’s eyes, not your biased view.

4. People buy from people they like, so make yourself likable if you can. Show a genuine interest in the person and their business, as well as the business opportunity. When all else fails, resort if you must to the old W. C. Fields line, “if you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.”

5. Selling ain’t just for customers, either. I had to sell Lisa Wanderman on why she’d want to work part-time in some guy’s apartment, and get her to share my vision about where the company was going. I had to sell two leasing companies on why they should trust me to pay the bills for office equipment in my fledgling business. And that selling later came to include other vendors, landlords, bankers and many other people who would take — not give —money to or from my business.

6. There’s nothing shameful or déclassé about selling at all, as long as you’re honestly selling and delivering a great product. After a few years, I actually found it to be the most fun, challenging part of each business I was in.

In closing, remember, though, that selling never ends. It’s what entrepreneurs do, all the time pretty much.

So if you’re not a salesperson, somehow, you’re not likely much of an entrepreneur, either!

Learn more about the importance of selling in the book i wrote with Steve Blank, “The Startup Owner’s Manual,” sold at Amazon and everywhere else.

Where are the hackers? Solving the Founder-Tech Gap

Owen Davis spoke at my Columbia B-School Lean LaunchPad class a few weeks ago, and his words to my students always hit home. Founder-turned investor, Owen is clearly one of the brightest lights on the NYC tech scene, and founded NYCSeed after launching and selling several companies.

Founder: “We know what to build. Give us the money and we’ll hire the tech team.” Owen’s simple two-word answer, “get out,” said as always with a smile while making a powerful point.  These words hit me like lightning: tech wisdom must be on the inside, not the outside, for a startup to succeed and prosper.

This reflects a very common problem for many startup founders. They may be the non-technical, “hustler” type of person. Know the domain well. Have a pretty good idea. But they lack their “hacker” partner. What are they supposed to do? Is there something they should do other than “get out of the building?”

I’ve been discussing the “tech gap” with Tony Karrer, a well-known startup CTO in Los Angeles. He’s been running the Los Angeles CTO Forum for more than 10 years. It’s a group of more than 300 CTOs – mostly from startups. So Tony knows quite a bit about the hacker side of things, and he regularly (like several times a week) talks to non-technical startup founders, most facing this dilemma.

First, we both agree that non-technical founders who go directly to outsource their technology will likely run into issues, as anyone would when “outsourcing” a vital organ. As I commonly tell startups, “No startup can ever outsource marketing to an agency. It’s like a human being outsourcing or renting his aorta.” Tony tells me he’s surprised how many times he talks to startup founders who have outsourced their technology without anyone helping them navigate the conversation with the firm. The founder doesn’t know how to look at code or have any real sense of what’s going on under the hood. And once things run into problems, the adversarial relationship between outsourcers or software shops and the startups paying their bills heighten startup risk to a great degree.

Even when the hustler has a hacker, there’s often still an issue. It’s rare to find a hacker who’s both able and willing to code 24×7 and is strategic about technology. A startup needs both, but a LOT of the coder. And if they have the coder, too often it leaves the team without critical advice on key questions including architecture, strategy, and team development. Who are the right hires, and in what order? Where is the hacker strong or weak, and how does the team compensate?

Every good leader needs a mentor or several—and the mentor who can coach a strong hacker brings a dramatically different skill set than the mentors a hustler will need along the way. Recruiting both skill sets early in the game can dramatically enhance the startup’s chances for success. Tony refers to this as the “founder -developer gap.”

For the non-technical founder facing this gap, they have the responsibility to close the gap in two ways. First, they need to build some knowledge in three areas:

  1. Product design: This is much more than “I have an idea for a startup,” and includes features and functions, UX, wireframes, UI, interface design and more. Some of the least tech-savvy founders can’t even describe the difference between UI and UX, or think wire frames go on cool eyeglasses. There is no excuse for not getting up to speed on the basics of product design.
  1. Software architecture: Once you have a handle on #1, then you can tackle getting up to speed on some basics of software architecture. You should be familiar with the differences between native and mobile web. You should know what code is running server side vs. client-side. You should have a basic idea of some of the more popular web frameworks and third party technology services that apply. Tony has some sage advice, “You won’t know the details of any of these and you should never pretend you know more than you do with a technologist, but technical people hate discussions with non-technical founders who have not bothered to learn even the basics.”
  1. Development Process: You should be familiar with Agile development processes. You should also have an idea of what you will be getting in what timeframe and be wired into the specifics of what’s happening.

Even founders who have a fairly good understanding of the above three will likely still suffer from a founder-developer gap. You don’t know what questions to ask, can’t tell a bs answer from a brilliant one, and this often leads to horrible hiring decisions, let alone management and design decisions. So here’s the other aspect that both Tony and I preach: get help. You can’t afford and don’t want to hire a full-time CTO or architect. But, advisors, coaches, and mentors can often fill the bill. Getting someone who’s fully employed somewhere else to work with you on a limited basis to help close the gap is hugely important for the non-technical founder.

I’ve used consultants many times to augment competencies of internal techies when new challenges came up or we were about to spend a pile of money and I wanted a “gut check” on my internal person. These are relatively easy to recruit, and I’ve often asked either a friend or another techie I’ve worked with to do the final interviews of CIOs and CTOs for me, since they know the questions far better than I do. The key lies in a founder knowing exactly what he or she doesn’t know, and recruiting the talent and leadership necessary to assure that the core technology—the heart of the startup—is as strong and well-developed as all other elements of the business model.

Tony Karrer has a slightly different take on this issue.  Again, he runs the Los Angeles CTO Forum so his answer is to tap into groups like his(www.lactoforum.org) to find CTOs who can help on the side often as an advisory board member. “Many of our members take on advisory roles with startups. That said, you need to have done your homework and have a reasonable chance at success before you approach a CTO asking for their help.”

Bottom line, to avoid the “get out” kind of answer, you need to (a) get smart, (b) find the advisor and (c) find the coder. For non-technical founders who’ve not done these, “get out” is quite deserved.

Need help More to say? Contact www.lactoforum.org or akarrer@techempower.com

 

 

The New Iowa: Where Startups Are Growing Like Weeds

As I related a few times during my University of Iowa trip, last week marked my 31st or 41st trip to Iowa and my first to the “new” Iowa, which is growing startups like the weeds that afflict the state’s more traditional crops. (My first startup was a pr/marcomm shop that did massive work for Monsanto, Purina, Ford and other ag companies, which accounted for the first 30 or 40 visits!)

Hub of all the excitement is clearly the University of Iowa, which has erected (no, not silos and barns) an impressively near-complete entrepreneurial ecosystem albeit sadly without a serious VC in sight. At the hub of this fast-growing network is the U of Iowa in Iowa City, the onetime state capitol that is overrun by the University and its huge sister hospital. One disease they surely haven’t cured: entrepreneurship, which is reaching near-epidemic proportions in Iowa.

More important than any startup in particular was the energy and enthusiasm of the 60-plus educators I met with from all levels—all eager to forget the business plan and teach Steve Blank’s “get out of the building” approach and all the key life skills it teaches along the way. Teachers using Customer Development are reporting great results, including a foursome of interlopers from Kansas City who perhaps should be teaching other educators themselves since they’re so darn good.

Entrepreneurship starts and branches out from U of I’s Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, which has attracted an impressive range of teachers, coaches, and advisors including quite a few impressive cast members with real startup chops. Many have been recruited into adjunct roles, while others balance classroom teaching with coaching, incubator, and economic development roles, all headed by Dave Hensley, an Iowa born’n’bred who has moved from farm to startup to his clear favorite role as “startup fertilizer” (the more appropriate word might be “catalyst” in this state where fertilizer has a perhaps more pungent meaning).

Despite what you may think, John Pappajohn achieved great entrepreneurial success in the insurance industry, without a single slice of pepperoni. His generosity to Iowa’s entrepreneurs has truly been catalytic and I’m sad I didn’t get to meet him.

The program’s annual report reads like that of a hot company, citing achievements, year-over-increases, “customers” and more (www.iowajpec.org). A special Jacobson Institute focuses on youth entrepreneurship achievement, and on teaching entrepreneurship when they’re young — all about mitigating the “brain drain” and giving native young Iowans more incentives to start and grow their businesses at home. (Can’t finish this post without kudos to the trainer/coach leadership team driven relenetlessly by total “type a” Jennifer Ott , Dawn Bolus and colleagues, sorry!)

Nearly 4,000 students (roughly 5 percent grad students) are involved in entrepreneurship at U of I. And that doesn’t count at least as many secondary and even elementary students who are taught entrepreneurship as “life lessons” such as STEM subjects, looking people in the eye, life skills and more. In the last year alone, more than 175 startups received over 9,000 hours of one-on-one consulting and hundreds of thousands in seed funding—not much by Silicon Valley standards perhaps, but a number that’s increasing dramatically. Hundreds of students do hands-on entrepreneurship projects with established companies in town, and the flow of ideas and students from corporations to healthcare to academia is well-lubricated by programming and advisors from each of the three areas.

A few of the more exciting stops on my Iowa tour:

FarmManualsFast: At age 16, Tyler Finchum noticed his dad’s constant search for tractor and other equipment manuals when things broke down. The result: six-figure annual revenue that’s growing steadily and currently taking “a few hours a week” to maintain while Tyler finishes school and looks to expand his operation rather dramatically on graduation if not sooner.

Iowa Medical Innovation Group: Culled from the biomechanical and engineering schools, the hospital, and med and engineering schools, this group is cranking out several bold innovations a year. Think of it as a tech transfer office bolted to a medtech accelerator, with advisors and angel funders at the ready. More than a handful startups have been born in this “hospital” already, and four more are born to every class, until next year when they hope the number actually doubles.

Higher Learning Technologies is growing at a staggering pace and about to quadruple the number of smartphone-based advanced test prep offerings it sells in the appstore for nurses and other health professionals cramming for licensing exams. They’ve appropriately raised solid seed funding without getting on a single airplane, and corralled some top mentors, including the former CEO of ACT, the SAT and college testing company, to serve as chairman and investor.

Other than this rather departure from my trips of 20 and 30 years, ago, it was delightful to see that the people of Iowa generally remain unchanged: irrepressible work ethic, plain nice unpretentious and friendly, and — of course — corn fed.

Serial entrepreneur Bob Dorf co-authored The Startup Owner’s Manual with legendary Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur Steve Blank. Bob trains startup teams all over the world and at Columbia Business School, where he teaches full-semester Customer Development courses. He’s reached easily via LinkedIn or via bobdorf@gmail.com.

Photo: Kanea/Shutterstock; imubuddy/Flickr

My take: Way too many Startups, Nowhere near enough traction

It’s not exactly an “industry” per se, but from where I sit, the startup industry is in a bubble of epic 1999 proportions. Where do I sit? Across from literally several thousand entrepreneurs a year, usually in groups of 2, 5 or 25. In the past six months, I’ve been with startups in New York, Oklahoma, Moscow, France and Spain, to name a few. As I travel, I consistently see the same three problems: dispassionate entrepreneurs; startups that should but refuse to die; and startups that seem sexy, glamorous and “hot,” with no clear signs of product/market fit or a revenue model.

No doubt, there are plenty of bright, passionate, tireless, entrepreneurs out there with many startup successes ahead. The long-term future of this so-called industry, at least in my opinion, hinges on finding more of both.

The dispassionate entrepreneur

Clearly, there is a massive glut of startups in every city and town. And it saddens me that far too often, the startups are born for the wrong reasons. For example, it’s much more fun to say “I’m an entrepreneur” than “I’m between jobs,” and that has driven many thousands of mostly un- or under-employed people to start companies.

So what’s wrong with that, you ask?

Sense of entitlement: It’s usually unspoken, but too many founders believe that “If Mark Zuckerberg can do it, so can I,” and they enter their startup with the presumption of success. They feel entitled to a big victory, usually accompanied by a big payday, because they’ve “given up” the job they couldn’t find and taken on entrepreneurial risk. The challenges and demands of entrepreneurship are massive, and only the talented, passionate few — those with tenacity and breakthrough ideas — survive.

Race to the Finish: Everyone assumes entrepreneurs succeed by eating cold pizza, sleeping under their desk, and working ridiculous hours. Startups aren’t magic, and finding a startup with sustainable, repeatable, scalable profitability doesn’t happen quickly or easily (as outlined in excruciating detail in “The Startup Owner’s Manual” which I was proud to co-author with Silicon Valley legend Steve Blank). Founders race into production without asking such silly questions as “Who will buy this?” or “What will they pay?” or “What features do my customers want?” Most of those impatient entrepreneurs are far likelier to go broke than they are to get lucky.

“It’s a job.” Entrepreneurship is not a job; it’s a calling. It takes a determination, passion, and intense level of commitment that lasts years, not months or weeks. I want to throw up when I hear young people say they “want to be their own boss” and then tell me why: “Because I can work my own schedule, have weekends off, have lunch with my friends when I want to.” Good luck with that. I ran my first startup for 17 years, and worked the same 80+ hour weeks in year 17 when we were incredibly profitable as I did in years one through seven, when we weren’t.

Startups That Refuse to Die

A startup deserves to die if it has “flatlined,” a medical term for achieving no or negligible growth and just motoring down the road without radical changes (or pivots) to the product, the business model, or the team. Some of these startups are fortunate to be backed by (usually second- and third-tier) VCs who keep them going because they can’t afford to write them off. One such startup I sadly invested in for some years continues to operate, even though sales are now 20 percent of peak revenue and declining steadily and unprofitably. Why? The last investors standing can’t afford or acknowledge the write-off and sizeable loss that should rightly accompany this startup’s funeral.

In other cases, the founders have settled on “good enough,” often because they don’t have anything else to do. Mom will give us another three months of “investment,” or Uncle Fred will, or we’ll just stop paying some of our bills ‘til somebody notices. Nobody wants to confront the honest, ugly conversation that opens with “This isn’t working.” Easier to just keep pedaling downhill.

Where’s the revenue model?

My favorite examples of the “missing revenue model” are Twitter and Instagram, with others like Pinterest and 92.4 percent of all smartphone apps not far behind. It’s just wonderful to have millions of users, or tens of thousands of downloads… but how exactly will Twitter or Instagram ever convert that to sustainable, recurring revenue that investors ultimately need to see? Ninety-two percent of all app store downloads are free downloads — an astounding statistic in itself, especially with over 1 million startups actively engaged in making companies out of them.

In my view of the world, this is the pin that will prick the bubble. When Twitter’s next few quarterly statements come out, how good will that $50 share price look on the NASDAQ? And how many TWTR’s are “out there,” public or private? My fear is that there are dozens, if not many dozens, just pending this kind of realization.

What’s the answer?

Get serious, or get a “real” job with a W-2 and health insurance. Work your way up to Manager or Regional Manager at Starbucks if all else fails, or work up a sweat trying to make your startup great. To do that,

(a) get to work — harder than you’ve ever worked before

(b) get out of the building and get feedback on your idea from the only people whose feedback matters — the people you’re hoping will give your startup money, and (c) torture and iterate and pivot your idea until you see the “skid marks” on the highway as your company starts to get customer traction.

If only it were that easy.

Bob Dorf–a 7-time serial entrepreneur–is co-author with Steve Blank of “The Startup Owner’s Manual.”  He teaches, trains, coaches and speechifies about getting startups right and teaches Customer Development at Columbia Business School.

Can You Develop a Breakthrough Business Idea in 21 Days?? I’m not sure I can…

A Breakthrough Business Idea In 21 Days? How to Improve the Odds

By Bob Dorf and (mostly) Bryan Mattimore

Over breakfast last fall, I shared an increasingly gnawing concern with an innovation doctor I knew well from our hard pro bono work together expanding, improving and marketing the local homeless shelter.  No, not for-profit homeless shelters at all…but the need to have the ideas “entering” the customer development process enter with greater strength and uniqueness.  After all, shouldn’t a startup idea be as truly distinctive and exciting on its way into the customer development process to make it strong as possible coming out the “other end” of the process.

In a word, too many of the ideas were just plain ordinary, obvious, or done and done and done again, just like a shoeleather steak.  As I told Bryan over breakfast, “If I see one more idea for a new iPhone cuisine app from my students, I’m gonna burst.  There are 850 or more already, and this category is growing at a rate of 12 to 15 new apps a month, very few of which are selling.”  I personally interact with about 750 startup teams all over the world each year, and if five or eight percent of the ideas in any group are really exciting on day one, that group is at the top of the heap. “It’s gotta get better on the way in,” I said.

This led to a challenge for my friend: “Can you create a workshop that teaches aspiring entrepreneurs how to generate truly big/breakthrough ideas for new businesses?” I knew well Bryan Mattimore’s  ideation and innovation consulting work with hundreds of major brands in corporate America, as well as his new book, Idea Stormers, How to Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs.  Shouldn’t the same powerful ideation techniques apply to startups, even before you put the pencil to the business model canvas for the very first time?

Bryan said “Creating a Breakthrough Business Concept in 21 Days” was the workshop, thinking program, and new book (once I write it) that came out of breakfast that morning with Bob.  He continues…

To develop the course content for this workshop, and “walk my own talk,” I conducted an interesting experiment:  I set a goal for myself of generating an original, “big idea” for a new business every day for 21 consecutive days. There were dozens of insights, learnings, creative thinking methodologies, and yes, big ideas that came out of this experiment. Here are four.

1) Focus is important.

To prepare for the 21-day experiment, I identified seventy possible arenas/frames for the new business “big idea.” These frames varied widely, but were also specific enough to potentially inspire a new idea. For instance, creating a new:  1) beverage, 2) health services concept, 3)social media idea for Millennials, 4) clothing/fashion idea, 5) sports/exercise program, 6) service for retirees, and 7) transportation invention.  All were all on the list.

By having these specific arenas to in which to think creatively, it both focused and freed my mind. I knew my list would also help aspiring entrepreneurs identify the kinds of businesses they might have a passion for creating; and even more importantly, those they wouldn’t.

2) New/Provocative Stimuli are Critical

One of the keys to a successful corporate ideation session is to have the right stimuli that will trigger new connections. I quickly realized that if I were going to succeed generating 21 big ideas daily, I would need to dramatically expand my own creative stimuli: specifically, what I was reading. So, to discover creative thinking nuggets in the world of fashion, I read Seventeen Magazine and Vogue. To find exciting new technologies, I read Popular Science, and New Scientist. To inspire new service ideas, I read everything from AARP magazine to The New York Times, Cassandra Daily (on-line trend newsletter) to the Futurist.

3) Reading with a Entrepreneurial Mindset

Besides reading more broadly, I also realized that HOW I read needed to change dramatically. No more reading like a passive sponge, simply absorbing provocative, entertaining or fun information. Rather, I consciously and consistently set my mind to proactively identifying creative building blocks that could inspire a new product or service concept. A good example of this creative shift was my reading of an article in the NY Times entitled, “For Medical Tourists, Simple Math,” on the trend for US patients to travel abroad for low-cost surgical procedures. Reading this article with an active, entrepreneurial mindset, I created I-MONE (International – Medical Option Network): a referral service from US Hospitals that would form alliances with, vet, arrange travel for – and take a cut of – medical operations for US patients in overseas hospitals.

4) The First Idea is Only a Starting Point  

Finally, I confirmed what I knew from facilitating ideation sessions for corporate America: the initial idea is frequently only a starting point in the creative thinking process. To create a big idea, you have to evolve and develop the idea by adding increased specificity, uniqueness, and/or consumer benefits.

A good example of evolving a preliminary idea into a bigger one: From my reading in technology, I discovered that an Israeli inventor had invented a $12 water-resistant bicycle constructed almost entirely of recycled cardboard. I set a goal of creating 20 products that could use this new cardboard technology: everything from wheelbarrows to sand sculpture molds, flip flops to baby strollers. Fine, but these were only preliminary ideas. Pushing to develop the stroller idea, for instance, led to the concept of a “Fun Stroller”: a low cost, baby stroller that could be used as a creative activity center, complete with stickers, crayons and paints that would enable kids to create their own, unique moving works of art.

So, what was most important learning from my 21-day “big idea” experiment? A quote I created for Bob’s next crop of entrepreneurial students at Moscow’s School of Management “Startup Academy,” “Richard Dyson is the only person I know who can create new ideas in a vacuum.” I’m pretty sure Bob would agree.

 What do you think? Either post your comment here or write Bryan directly…BMattimore@growth-engine.com.