So maybe I was wrong…

I read a lot of startup, business, and entrepreneur blogs, magazines, and books. And almost all of them at some point or another will feature a post or a few pages stating the following:

You are not building the next Google or the next Apple, so get that out of your head.

I’ve written that post here as well and refer to the concept pretty regularly. The prevailing wisdom behind this idea is two-fold: First, the guys that started those companies didn’t know what they were building but it’s unlikely they said, “here’s an idea that will make us 10 Billion dollars!” More likely they were trying to start a business and not starve to death. Secondly, a fair amount of “luck” goes in to taking any business of any type from “small” to “wildly successful.” That luck comes in many forms such as being in the right place at the right time.

For example, I’m of the opinion that Twitter is as big as it is now because Evan Williams (one of the founders) spent a lot of time cultivating relationships in the web world. When he showed up to SXSW a few years ago with Twitter in his bag, the right people were already his friends and were happy to use the service. It’s easy to gain a zillion users if the right mavens (Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, for example) are on your side early on.

But what about Google? What was their “luck?” They launched a great product in a competitive space and in a couple short years they had taken over the sector. How? Why? I’m not aware of any incident of luck that caused the mass adoption of Google.


So where am I going with all of this, you ask? Well, I have three pretty good ideas right now. They are as follows:

1. A tangible product with 60% margins. I am CERTAIN that if I spent 10 hours a week on this project for 3 months it would be on a path to earn $100,000 in its first year. And I am certain that every additional 10 hours a week I spent on the project would add another $100,000. I wouldn’t need any help to start the business and the necessary startup capital would be less then $1,000. But, based on my cocktail-napkin math, it would be hard to grow the business past $10MM/year.
2. A website/mobile app with absolutely no business strategy that would be very useful to lots of people if done right. But done correctly it could be a multi-million dollar business. Websites that offer similar concepts routinely raise funds at nine-figure valuations.
3. A website/mobile app that would be astoundingly difficult to build and would likely not make a dime until I had a team of really smart people on board to help develop partnerships. But done correctly, it could be a multi-billion dollar business.

Guess which idea I’m most interested in starting? The third one. After that, I’m most interested in the second. And only after talking myself out of those do I find even the slightest motivation for idea #1 which could reasonably add $100,000 to my bankroll and could conceivably generate a few million a year in 5 or 6 years.

This brings me back around to the early part of this post. I owe everyone an apology, myself included. Why? Because somewhere, someone IS building the next Google and the next Facebook and the next Microsoft. In some garage or tiny office somewhere there is a team of dedicated folks with an idea that WILL become a zillion dollar business. And if they have made the mistake of believing blogs out there (this one included) then they are trying to talk themselves in to being satisfied with a successful small business instead of saying, “forget that. This idea/product/application/device is frigging awesome and it’s going to be HUGE.”

Any product that can be successful at X size can be Y times as successful at Y size. Markets can be created, expanded, penetrated, and developed. No, you are never going to have an IPO if you sell LA Lakers headbands on ebay. But there are huge markets out there that are ever changing. And their are huge markets out there that don’t exist yet (buggies > cars, the telegraph > the telephone, libraries > search engines, etc.) and someone, somewhere is going to create a fish so big that it barely fits in the ocean.

May as well be you.


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