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I talk to entrepreneurs who have ideas, and very often they ask what they should do first.
I've had the conversation enough now that I'm going to write a blog on it to give a much more detailed answer than I can in a 5 minute convo or a quick email.
The first thing I'd say is congrats, you have an idea. Not to be too crass here, but ideas are like sperm. They're required in order to bring your startup to life, but an idea alone isn't worth much. In fact, my first big piece of feedback is that your idea is for all intents and purposes valueless. Unseasoned entrepreneurs want to protect their ideas and not tell anyone about them. What I always say is this: If you really believe your idea is so valuable, then go try to sell it to someone. See how much anyone will pay you for it. Let the market tell you how valuable your idea is. If you can get $1MM for your idea, then you've just won the startup lottery and saved yourself from the really hard part: Executing on that idea. I'd sell ideas all day long if I could, but I've never been able to sell a single one -- not even for 1 cent (literally).
So just like sperm, ideas are bountiful and required for life, but they don't accomplish much on their own, and in fact from this point onward in this post I'm going to substitute the word 'sperm' for 'idea' just to drive my point home. And just like only a few dozen sperm reach their destination from millions initially, that's how it goes with ideas as you start to execute on them.
The second thing I'd suggest is you (life)hack together a prototype of your sperm. This doesn't mean the prototype has to be software based. For example, when I started a tech-based real estate brokerage in 2003, part of my model was to use technology to be more efficient, allowing me to give rebates to home buyers. My entire business model was based on establishing strong SEO, building a lead-gen CRM, getting a data feed of the MLS homes database, and lots of other things that would take tons of dev work.
A few months ago I blogged about mobile apps, and a startup in particular that was unlocking data from cars via its mobile app. Recently, my wife turned me on to another great example, a startup called Tile.
If you've ever lost anything -- your keys, your wallet, etc. -- then you'll love Tile, because it'll help you find them. Which means that all of us will love Tile. It's like Lojack... for anything.
Tile is unlocking the data about where your items are and giving our phones access to that data via a mobile app. It's sweet, and it's another incredible example of why I blogged two years ago that mobile is going to be way bigger than we'd imagined.
Check the video out, and pre-order your Tiles too, if you're as much of a fan as we are!
Barnes & Noble gave up on its color Nook reader today. From this NY Times article:
This is why it's critical for a company to clearly define and articulate (both internally to employees and externally to the world) what business it's in. Barnes & Noble was a retail chain book seller trying to make a tablet. That didn't work.
Contrast that with Amazon. Amazon, too, was in the business of selling books originally. But its goal is "To be earth’s most customer centric company." And mobile is extremely customer-centric. Therefore, the Kindle fire is an integral part of Amazon's core goal. It's not a division to be spun off, or a sub-unit of a larger company with an entirely different goal.
I don't know the details of what went on inside of Barnes & Noble. But I'd be willing to bet that the company wasn't willing to de-prioritize its legacy retail business enough to fully bet on the Nook. And because of that, the Nook never got the company's core focus. I imagine that Barnes & Noble wanted to keep the revenue from its legacy business while investing in what might come next. But that means that every decision made at the company didn't have the lens of the company's core focus guiding it.
I've always been a fan of audio APIs / mobile SDKs. For example, if you're watching the Conan O'Brien show and you have the Team Coco app open at the same time, it'll listen to the show and sync up with the show's content, showing the same content or ads on the app as on the TV. That kind of thing feels like magic to the end user, because there's mystery around how the app is staying sync.
But yesterday, Tim, the founder of ShareThis, showed me something that takes audio APIs to a new level, called Lisnr. Although it's marketed as a standalone app, my understanding from Tim is that it's also available as an SDK that app publishers can put into its app.
I'm at a Sheraton hotel in downtown NYC. The iPad Mini's LTE cellular data speed is a blazing fast 39.24 megabits per second. Compare that to the slow-as-molassas 0.26 mbps of the hotel wifi that my laptop is connected to. That means the iPad Mini is one hundred and fifty one times faster than the landline wifi.
This is why mobile wins. This is why the 4G service on the iPhone 5 was such a big deal. Soon the novelty will wear off, and we'll come to expect a constant, turbocharged connection to the digital world from our mobile devices. This is why every business is mobile, even if most don't realize it yet. Because all of us will be interacting with every business from connected mobile devices.
I get so many entrepreneurs telling me that their product isn't ready to be launched. While you definitely have to have something to launch, you almost surely don't need something as good as you think.
As a reminder, here's what the Amazon.com site looked like when it launched:
You might say, "but that was a long time ago. the world has changed." Oh yeah? Here's what Twitter's site looked like in 2006 when it launched:
Shai Agassi is an amazing guy. In this TED Talk from 2009 he outlined a vision for an electric car with swappable batteries -- a startup called Better Place, which raised $200MM but then filed for bankruptcy this year after ousting Agassi. Same for Henrik Fisker, designer of the timeless Aston Martin DB9 and founder of Fisker Automotive, another electric car company that recently burned out.
Then there's Elon Musk, founder of Tesla. It's no secret that I'm a huge fan -- I've written many posts over the past few years about Tesla. Where Better Place and Fisker have seen failure, Tesla has seen massive levels of success.
Here's Tesla's stock price since it went public:
I've always considered Microsoft's WindowsPhone a darkhorse competitor to iOS & Android. Microsoft has boatloads of cash but has never been able to get a meaningful market share in mobile against iOS & Android.
But when I saw the new iOS 7 screenshots on Matt Gemmell's blog, the first thing I thought to myself was "wow, iOS7 looks a lot like WindowsPhone8." So I dug a little deeper. Here's an example:
The new iOS7 as shown on Matt's blog:
Incoming video call on Skype (which MSFT owns) on WindowsPhone:
I judged the NFTE Quarter Final competition at a local San Francisco high school today. NFTE is an organization that teaches entrepreneurship to students in high school and younger. One of the pitches today was made by 9th grader Simran Pabla around a pilot program she's running at her school: A business called Ready4Rain, which offers umbrellas to students so they don't get wet when they're going from building to building between classes. You can see her full pitch to the judges here. I was so impressed with her that I later interviewed her in the school's cafeteria. Here's a 9th grader who's currently running a pilot program for a startup concept she had. And she's not alone. Jocelyn Hernandez has sold over 20 of her custom iPhone cases at $40 each via her company, Functional Couture. And Mariana Ponce has sold over 100 of her Corny Cups at $2.50 each. In the past, I've done talks with Stanford MBAs, UVA McIntire business school students, and Georgetown MBAs and I consistently find that many of them are terrified to take the leap to becoming an entrepreneur by actually doing something, and not just talking about it. Consistently, high school or younger age kids are willing to take more risks than college students. It's almost like some switch gets flipped at some point in college that causes many students to stop seeing opportunities to be entrepreneurial, and become afraid to try jumping into the ones they do see. The interview above with Simran is great, partly because she's so honest about her motivations. She simply saw an opportunity to solve a problem, and went for it. She has no mortgage to worry about. No kids to take care of. Nothing to keep her from simply jumping to solve the problem she saw in front of her. She just proves how simple it is to become an entrepreneur when it's what you really want to do. So, kudos to Simran, Jocelyn, Mariana and their NFTE colleagues. I hope they never lose that risk-taking spirit. What may just seem to be a high school competition is actually an opportunity to effect massive change through entrepreneurism. The great thing about "creating something from nothing" is that nobody cares how old you are when you do it. There's no reason any of these ideas couldn't morph into huge, real businesses. All these kids need is the will to do it, and the means to try. If you're interested in volunteering for NFTE (something I love to do), drop me a comment below and I'll introduce you to someone who can help you figure out how you can really add value to the program.
If I weren't so passionate about the ways that mobile devices are changing the world, I'd be spending my time in one of the following three areas: Crypto currencies like Bitcoin, the commercialization of drones, and the rise of 3D printing.
Oh, time is so our enemy. Even a long-lived life only amounts to 750,000 hours or so. And as per my recent keynote at the 2013 Mobile Outlook on a "Framework for Stupid Ideas," one of my guiding principles is to "focus on focus" to maximize the value of each of those hours. Since mobile is my deepest passion, I'm not willing to dedicate the time to dive into any of these other things.
Another of my framework points is to play in a "space that matters." And these three spaces really, really matter -- that much will be obvious to everyone in the span of a few years. So I'm hoping that some other entrepreneur will be as passionate about one of these three spaces as I am about mobile. I figured I'd present a few highlights from each of them to showcase why they're such a big deal.