I’ve always been a sucker for new businesses and is always fiddling with a multitude of different ideas. It’s never on too serious a basis and rarely gets any further into development than a couple of friends and me talking about it over a jar of whiskey.
The point of my entrepreneurial practice isn’t to come up with a business idea that I need to carry out; it is all about practicing the skill of finding new businesses. When such a potential business is found, the goal is not to say “someone ought to make that”, but to find out how I can make it, and what it would take to launch it as a product – even if I have no intention of launching it.
This practice also helps me to stay on top of many different industries as the business ideas can be in any given market with all kinds of products.
Here’s a look into a number of ideas that have helped me to gain a variety of market and business insights.
Chapter I – The Electrified Bikes
The simplest idea often start with the thought of importing some goods and then re-sell them. Getting down to trading 101. As I live in Denmark where 36% of the people living in the Capital commute every single day by bike, the market for cyclists is obvious. My idea was to supply electricity to these bikes by super-efficient and cheap dynamos. When you spend so much time riding your bike, wouldn’t you want to be able to charge e.g. your phone as you go? I started to look into the market and quickly found the cheapest and most solid solutions from China and the States, and that I had close to zero competition in Denmark. It seemed like the stars were in aligned in a position to make this business succeed! And so, I could happily put down this idea and forget about it. My entrepreneurial practice was completed.
Chapter II – Webstar
The idea of WebStar was much more than a simple thought occurring in a sleazy bar late at night, but something that got much attention and work. The idea was far from my own, but put together with a small group of friends. We ended up having more than 80 pages of writing on this idea, which resembled a full-blown business plan. The concept was to provide an online platform that entirely would develop a musician from being nobody to becoming a star. The online site should provide an insight into the artist’s world through live broadcasts to all Webstar’s users who could vote for the artist and talk to other users via webcam and chat. The artist would be able to share his repertoire with the world and find other professionals, might it be an extra band member, producers, promoters etc. You might think that it sounds a lot like Soundcloud, Myspace, My stage or some of the many other online communities for musicians, and yes, it does. We were just convinced that our unique recipe would outrun all the others if we let it. Of course we will never know as the project was put down before it had its chance, but the entrepreneurial practice that we received from building the business plan from scratch with a product we thought promising, was very giving.
Chapter III – The Anti-Theft Alarm
I don’t know if I don’t take good enough care of my stuff, rely too much on the neighbor or if I’m just unlucky, but my things keep getting stolen. I’ve lost computers, phones, bikes and a countless number of wallets, and even though I got a brilliant insurance that covers all my losses, it’s still mighty annoying having to deal with the paperwork and being without whatever item I lose. For this reason, several years ago, I came up with the idea of making an anti-theft alarm small enough to carry in your wallet or attaching to your phone. It would work by two components that were linked together by radio signals or Bluetooth, and when the signal was lost, an alarm would go off. So if a thief ran off with your wallet, alarms in the component in your wallet and pocket would go off, making the thief throw your wallet for you to locate on the sound of the alarm. I started off by contacting My Precious Kid who were selling child locators (sounds frightening, doesn’t it?) and figuring out who was the manufacturer of their products. I got a hold on them and got their take on the possibilities in design, size and price. As I was a poor student back then and with no intentions of being too serious with this business idea, I wasn’t ready to pay the €10.000 a prototype would cost me. Nonetheless, I got the experience of working with foreign manufacturers. I later learned that several of these anti-theft alarms have entered the market (1), (2), but it gives some amount of satisfaction knowing that when first I got the idea, no other similar product seemed to exist.
Chapter IV – The IOU App
One of the easiest ways to make a product is making an app. I’m not saying it’s easy to sell, but if you keep it simple, the building of an app requires slightly less than the engineering of the phone running it. So of course I’ve thought of apps. No app with genius aspects or amazing business models, but one of those apps a group of people in a distant country in an even more distant village might download and enjoy. But out of seven billion people on the planet, “a group” can turn out to be quite the lot.
One of these app ideas was an app that could keep track on who owed you what. It came to life out of pettiness and the experience of rarely getting favors or outlays returned, thus, I started to write down when I did someone a favor or paid for someone. Though it was more a fun thing to keep track of rather than something I ever pinned on people, I soon came to realize that I needed some way to quickly update the list, and so the idea of the IOU-app was born. With this app you should quickly be able to keep track of any favors between you and others, notify people of the money that they owed, and make quick money transfers available. A further development of this app was the idea of an extensive “ban list” where you could keep track of deadbeats or who you for some reason wouldn’t want to work with or do any favors. Imagine how big that list would become throughout a lifetime. I am certain that the expanding size of personal and professional networks will call for such an app someday (if it isn’t here already, that is).
When was the last time you thought “someone ought to make that” and did you take any further steps towards being that someone?