Today’s guest blogger is Oskari Nokso-Koivisto, artistic director, FinderBase.
For last few days I have been in Urbania in Italy. Urbania is a town with 7000 inhabitants. Weather is nice, food and wine are excellent and people are relaxed. At least so far it seems that stereotypes about a small Italian town are a reality here.
My reason to be here is to study Italian opera. We have 18 singers rehearsing for example parts of Cosi fan Tutte, Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Simon Boccanegra. To sing Italian opera, you have to be familiar with the Italian culture as well.
An amazing quality in Urbania is, that even as I have walked quite lot, I haven’t seen a single lost item. My guess is that if a community is small enough to be able to communicate efficiently about lost items in traditional ways. Everyone basically knows everything important all the time. Of course taking advantage of that kind of communicaton is not easy for visitors who are not part of the community.
The problem of lost items must have begun at the same time when the idea of ownership came into existence. In the small communities the problem can be solved in the ways it seems to be done in Urbania. However, the world has changed and is still changing in a fast pace. Towns and cities are growing. Most of the world population is living in environments, where it is impossible to know everything. In those environments we need innovations to solve the communication problems.
In July I will be in Rome, home of 3.5 million people. My guess is, that the lost item problem in Rome is not solved as well as it is here in Urbania. There will be work for FinderBase to do, I presume.
It has been about 100 days since I first introduced the list of good ideas. Having the list has been an enormous asset. But it doesn’t work all the time.
Have you ever had the weird feeling of not understanding your own notes?
This is probably quite common when revisiting bad notes. My problem is that I think I only make notes that are relevant. The question is:
What on earth did I mean with these notes?
- “remember what Wili said“. Must have been something really important. Asking Wili himself what he might have said would be a bit awkward. If you recall something worth remembering he has told you, please let me know – it just might be it.
- “my ff is happy you“. I remember writing this down one evening as it was the clearest note ever. The following morning, I had absolutely no idea what ff meant. I’m quite sure it is something related to FinderBase or this blog or just generally a brilliant idea that needs to be implemented. Please help me out here. What could it be?
Which way is it?
Are the best ideas forgotten or are they best forgotten?
I just read a great article by Anthony Ha about the web startups and their need of venture capital. He quotes venture capitalist Randy Komisar who says his money is not for the web startups.
But doesn’t a startup need money to develop the next big thing?
I agree with Komisar. If you’re building something great on the web, money is one of the last things you need. Why would anyone trust a person/team who is incapable of developing a simple website with their own money?
Obviously no one should. The best part is that this really helps both parties enormously:
- The business angel avoids the huge unnecessary risk related to investing in an early-stage website idea. Websites do have about 99.9 % track record of not becoming business at all.
- The team would be stupid to sell a part of an idea that they believe in themselves. The later the stage of development the better terms they can negotiate with the angel.0 If the team can prove their idea works in smaller scale, there is a chance that someone believes it can be scaled up. Money works pretty well for that purpose.
So if you’ve concluded that money is the only thing stopping you from making a great new website, think again. Big corporations have truckloads of money and still they rarely achieve anything remarkable on the web. Just do something remarkable first and the money will follow.
A business idea is like a baby. It is at its most vulnerable right after it is born. Then it slowly starts to develop and learn from others. An idea cherished by loving parents is likely to grow strong and prosper.
Don’t expose your baby to the horrors of the world from the start.
For the first time during our project, our business idea was thoroughly studied this week by a new member in our team. He was able to point out that almost an exact copy of our idea had been tried out multiple times in several different countries. Without any remarkable success.
If you have a newborn business idea in your hands, such news can be fatal. You’ll easily end up seeing just the negative side of things. Even worse, if you continue, you could end up copying the points that have made others to fail. It’s difficult to say if I had acted differently if I had stumbled upon these ideas on the early stage of my project.
Raise your baby to success, don’t just teach it lessons.
The situation is completely different when your idea is already raised to be strong. With a dedicated team of people, you can put things in right perspective. It is important that several individuals have contributed to the idea to make it stronger and more versatile.
So teach your idea a lesson when it’s ready to take it. Before that it might be beneficial just to stay ignorant.
During Easter I stumbled upon a classified ad on the largest Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. The ad promotes a website:
www.ideatykki.fi (roughly translates to http://www.ideacannon.com)
Their business idea is to sell “business ideas”. This basically means founding a company and selling it to a new owner who avoids the “paperwork”. Filling in the paperwork yourself costs 350 € for a limited company in Finland. These guys should obviously add their margin and especially if they are not only selling the paperwork but a “business idea”.
And they do!
Their ideas cost between 7.500 € and 50.000 € and this price includes the newly established company and a few Internet domain names. What is even more interesting is that they don’t even have a single actual business idea, all they have is a set of B-grade names with a price tag.
Selling a real business idea is quite difficult since an idea is not worth anything before it has been turned into business. The cutting edge name that the guys at Ideatykki are selling for 50.000 € is NaturPower Finland that could be doing “applications with renewable energy sources”.
Here’s a better suggestion for the first taker
If you want to start a business in renewable energy, how about ViherPower Finland Oy (roughly translates to GreenPower)? With this name you could even get both the dot-com and dot-fi domain names unlike just the dot-fi for NaturPower.
All you need to do now is to think of what you really want to do. Without any searching of potential competitors, here’s a bunch of ideas you could do with that name (even with rather limited previous knowledge in the area):
- Import and retail of solar cell powered battery chargers
- Import and retail of bicycle powered battery chargers
- Consulting on small-scale solar cell power system choices
- Website for comparing renewable energy power system alternatives
- Website for comparing and rating subcontractors that install renewable energy power systems
- Website that makes it easier for people to show their friends how they have saved energy
If someone finds the name ViherPower or any of these ideas a least bit interesting, I’m happy to help you in founding the company completely free of charge.
Let me start giving you a quote presented by Mårten Mickos on his Twitter account.
In business, too much naiveté makes you fail – but complete lack of it prevents you from winning big.
Now, think of the biggest possible goals and place them on the naivety axis. Here are some examples:
- World peace
- Racial equality
- Ecological awareness.
The really big thoughts have undeniable advantages for the whole humanity. The only obstacle in reaching these goals is the humanity itself.
Setting aside the fact that any big idea needs to be naive enough to become popular, I’ve collected here some vague themes that we will be addressing with our project:
- Our idea will be an ethical way to helping the fellow-man
- Our idea will be an ecological choice against the consumer society
- Our idea will be a game that everyone is already playing but just not counting their score in it
- Our idea will motivate people to exercise more
- Our idea will offer people the chance to make some extra money completely legally and without any obligations.
Our idea is still pretty far from the top of the naivety axis. Still, even touching a single one of these goals could change the world for the better.
This was again a day to remember!
In the morning I met with a group of great people who shared my passion for the project we’re working with. Two possible alternatives were discussed:
- Playing it safe
- Doing it big
Surprisingly we chose to pursue the latter strategy. The exact details are still open but I can already say that we will have a nationwide impact in the Finnish people during the spring.
Later in the day I contacted two people whom I know to be true professionals in their respective fields. I got really good feedback. The strategic decision we made in the morning makes our project just too awesome to ignore.
In the evening I participated in an event called the Aalto Social Impact. The project we’re working with is strongly social, ethical and ecological so it was well suited to be presented in this event. Although it clearly wasn’t the point of this particular event, I asked a permission to pitch my idea to the public and I have to say it became my best pitch so far.
All this takes our idea forward.
Having worked towards a single goal for over a month, it is increasingly easier to answer the obvious questions that our pitch raises in people. If our idea was easy to implement someone would obviously have done it a long time ago.
It all comes down to getting the users realize the awesomeness of helping each other.
Allow me to generalize a bit
The Finnish people are probably one of the best R&D people in the world. We are persistent, trustworthy and loyal.
The American people are probably the best salesmen in the world. They are extrovert and audacious.
The Finnish mentality creates a number of technology startups every year. With a few years of government subsidized R&D we usually have a product at hand. Then we start selling our products.
The American mentality creates startups with a dream. They decide what they want to do and then sell their idea to investors to make it happen:
The startup: We can generate a million per year cash flow with this new solution.
The investor: But it will take you years to develop that technology and it is very risky and could cost millions.
The startup: Don’t worry, we’ve found a Finnish company that will do it for $10,000.
Don’t be the engineer. Be the salesman.
There just isn’t an idea that would be good from the start
Almost all people come up with ideas with some business potential sometime in their life. Most never do anything about it.
I’m sure even a bad idea can be turned into a brilliant one if enough people are thinking it through. Thinking and discussing an idea is the development that any idea needs to become any good in the first place.
You mean, I should share my idea with as many people as possible?
Actually I think sharing an idea is the only way to develop it further but I still wouldn’t recommend sharing your good ideas with everybody. However, most people overestimate the power of their idea and are scared that someone might steal it, so they don’t share it with anyone. Start by sharing your idea with a few friends and see where it gets from there. But don’t give up on it on the first negative feedback you get.
What about your ideas and their development?
I’m looking for one to three people to join me and submit a business plan to VentureCup. If you’re a business planning guru, that’s great. It you’re a great presenter, even better but you don’t need to be either. If you think you can positively affect the success of our team in the competition, you’re probably the person we’re looking for!
The deadline for the submission is March 10, 2010 12 noon. So you should have some free time in your hands until the deadline to participate.
What’s in it for me?
That’s up to you. The first prize in the contest is 25,000 € and if we win you can be sure to get at least your fair share. If we don’t win anything then you’ve only lost a bit of your time but might have a whole new future ahead of you.
People often make lists of things they have to remember. To-do lists and shopping lists are probably the most common examples. After I started my project I’ve carried with me small pieces of paper I call the List of Good Ideas.
I don’t get any good ideas
Everyone gets good ideas. Most people just forget them because they refuse to write them down. Not all ideas are brilliant but if you have enough of them, they can’t all be bad either.
If I only got a dollar every time I had a good idea
Now you can. Take a piece of paper or a notebook and start carrying it around. Whenever you get a good idea write it to your list. Try to write down at least the best idea every day and you’ll end up with a list that is extremely valuable.
I promise to buy their list for $100 from anyone who manages to keep filling it for 100 days during my project. There are still 127 days left so you don’t even have to do it every day. To claim your $100 we’ll just arrange a meeting and go through your list. If you wish to keep the list yourself, I’d love to help you develop your ideas further.
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