I have heard the phrase a hundred million times: “ideas are nothing without someone to realize them”. Which is kinda true, I mean, we all have the most awesome ideas in history, and we all think we deserve to become the next billionaire thanks to them, but in the end we never find the guts and/or have the capacity to realize them, we keep dreaming and sighing.
Even from an entrepreneurial point of view, VCs do not fund simple “ideas” anymore, there’s too much at stake to risk on a simple yet awesome idea.
However, I believe there’s a lot of confusion around the topic.
There is Idea And Idea
The value of a simple abstract idea is very low.
One of my associates – who is surely going to kill me for mentioning it – has this awesome idea of a rotatory fridge: to avoid old food getting hidden by new food, a rotatory fridge can, well, rotate, and show all the food slowly, as it spins. Hey I’d love one of those, but that’s just an idea. No one would fund it (but if some of you wants to fund it however, let me know ok?).
First of all, the idea doesn’t take into consideration every possible problem. What kind of engine do I need for the rotation? Will it heat too much? Will it draw too much power? Is there enough space for the shelves to rotated without having the fridge be as big as a truck? Will the rotation make the food fall over? How about the noise?
These questions account for a good part of why no one would just pour money into it without a proper study on the actual possibility of making the idea real.
And then there are those ideas that are less ideas and more proto-projects, as I like to call them.
The fundamental difference lies in the person who has the idea, and its field of application.
My associate isn’t an industrial designer, and he doesn’t know much about fridges apart that they hold food and they are cold. He really couldn’t make up an idea to look like a proto-project, something less abstract and more along the lines of “wow, we can make this”.
Every person has a certain field of expertise they can operate in. My team can have awesome ideas about web applications or 3D products which are not just ideas, but real drafts of projects, something we can actively work on with the realistic expectation of realizing it within a certain deadline.
Idea as a Project
Let me make a real example to clarify things up a bit.
I can think of our 3D shopping mall, Virtuy.
Anyone not into technology could’ve ideated something like this:
“I don’t really trust this e-commerce thing. It doesn’t feel much safe to me, I mean, I would like for example, I dunno, to enter a shop like that Virtual Reality thing of the late 90s, and maybe see what I am about to buy, touch it, read instructions, talk to someone in this… ‘shop’, to help me out in my choice, something like this you know?”
That’s a cool idea. But no one is gonna bet on it, trust me.
A person with some expertise would come up with that very same idea in these terms:
“E-commerce can feel very impersonal and intimidating to new users. If we integrate the experience of something along the lines of Second Life into it, a virtual experience with your personal avatar walking through shops, browsing objects on shelves, either made in 3D or through photos, access a shopping cart directly from within the 3D experience, it would be possible to buy directly from it and you could use all the marketing ‘tricks’ used in real world, like products placement and so on”
Well this is more like it. Something realistic, omitting stuff that is perhaps too advanced (like “touching” a product) and focusing on more realistic things, something you can safely bet it’s doable.
Developing this kind of idea is about writing the draft of a project which will help you starting to work on it.
Not All Ideas Are Worth Nothing
As you see, there’s value in some ideas, a lot of value. Don’t get me wrong, many times, especially in the past, even a simple abstract idea was enough to make people rich. But don’t forget, it’s often the curated version of the story that gets to our ears. It’s awesome to read a poetic tale of how a simple student started to work on something with his friends in his house garage and ended up billionaire, but the tale forgets to mention how freaking hard it was to get to that, the nights spent not sleeping but working, the tons of “no” from venture capital funds, the banks wanting money back and so on.
My final encouragement is: have lots of ideas, nurture them, they move this world, but don’t think an idea is enough to be rich and successful. It’s lot of hard work to make that idea come true, and you really have to believe in it and be willing to sacrifice a lot for it. Is it worth it? To me, it is, but you have to answer that question on your own, remember.