The other night I approached a buddy of mine with a new business idea. I respect his opinion and know that when I come up with anything tech related, he’s the go to guy for insight and information. This time, though, he totally called me out. “Nick, every time I see you, you’ve got a new business idea. You gotta stick to one and go for it man.”
His comment really made me consider how my mind has been working lately. I guess I do come across experiences in life, think of how to improve upon that situation, and attempt to envision how that improvement would look like as a business model.
In light of this all, I thought I’d share some of my more recent business ideas. If you’ve seen The Social Network, be warned, taking any of these ideas may complicate and potentially ruin our friendship. That is, of course, if Justin Timberlake sees potential in them, you move out to Palo Alto, and in doing so, you fundamentally alter the means of social interaction. But I digress. Here they are, the Top 4 business ideas in my head for the past week (starting with the most abstract and ending with something I could start today.)
The Internet has changed the way information is spread and so we should move the educational system online. Okay, we’ve done that. And it works, kinda. You can get a degree through the University of Phoenix and come out with a skill set comparable to what most traditional universities would have provided. But what’s missing? The network. The prestige.
Why not allow professors to post their classes to a social media platform? Prestige wouldn’t be based on a university brand name like it is today. But rather, an aura would be created by publically showcasing the courses one has completed. “Look at all the classes, Jim has taken. Anthropology, History, Psychology- he’s an interesting dude.”
The network aspect is obvious. You would be able to see who has taken your classes, and connect with them given the technology of the day. In a world where one’s online personality is becoming increasingly important, representing one’s educational achievements in the Web 2.0 world will likely shift our existing ideas of the proper university.
2) The Silent Philanthropist
Despite the “recession”, the richest of the rich still have plenty of money. AND they’re willing to give it away! Just recently, Warren Buffet petitioned the Forbe’s 400 richest men and women to pledge half of their wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (donors may give money to other foundations as well). It’s called the $600 Billion Challenge. (http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2010/06/16/gates-buffett-600-billion-dollar-philanthropy-challenge/) What I find most interesting here is that in the largest scale philanthropic attempt in human history, publicity for the challenge has been very minimal. I would wager that most of you hadn’t heard of it until reading this article. Also, most of the money donated will be given to existing charities that were not necessary founded by the donor himself.
In the past, when money was donated it had been associated with enhancing the image of the donor. It was to build his own foundation or to put his name on a building. I would argue, however, that in a world of over-exposure and over-hype, the “low key philanthropist” will become increasingly trendy.
My idea would to create a non-profit that would go into a local community, collect money from that community’s richest, and implement projects that focus on infrastructural and aesthetic improvement. I’m picturing a parking lot being repaved, a new jungle gym being set up, and a mural being painted- all in one night, with all of its donors being completely unknown. It would become a secret society of underground philanthropists.
Of course, one might argue that these types of projects are for the government to handle. But as we know, the government isn’t doing much to handle them lately. Arguments could also be made that aesthetic and recreational improvements should come secondary to so much more. Though I would point to this years TED Award winner (a discrete street artist from Paris), (http://www.tedprize.org/congratulations-to-the-2011-ted-prize-winner-jr/ ) and offer up the idea that in a world of competition, exploitation, and distress, beauty can be a powerful means towards improving one’s life.
3) Tipping Tea
The tea movement in America is about to tip. I (along with many other hopefuls in the tea community) predict that in 5 years, tea in America will be as commonly consumed as coffee. In the world, tea is the second most consumed beverage behind pure water. In America, tea ranks fifth behind the likes of coffee and Coca-Cola. I believe that in this health-conscious, green-minded world we are trending towards, many will reconnect with this ancient drink to find a much slower pace to their lives. And so this increased demand must be met with the importation of higher quality loose-leaf tea from Asia. But people will need a way to brew. Rather than these online stores that are going to Chinatowns, buying up tea wares, and reselling the stuff for double the price, I envision a company that keeps the traditional styles of the GongFu ceremony, while infusing a California twist into their products. I believe that by making quality products accessible to this growing culture, Californians will embrace this new way of experiencing tea.
4) Bring Back the Burn
It’s sad to think, but burning CD’s has become an almost extinct phenomenon. When’s the last time your buddy asked you to burn him that new CD. I guess this is less of a business idea, and more of a “pay it forward” type of project.
Buy a CD. Yes, spend ten dollars for a new album. Go home and burn 9 copies for 9 of your friends you think would be into that band. Get colored sharpies and write all over it like its 2004. Think about how stoked you would be if you got a new CD in the mail from someone who knows your music interests most. Bring back the burn and spread some musical joy.
So, there you have it: my top 4 ideas of the week. However, I don’t fully believe that the ideas we come up with are entirely original. We paint Zuckerburg as the guy who created Facebook, Edison who invented the light bulb, and Columbus who “discovered” America. Yet, we form ideas by the people converse with, situations we encounter, and articles we read. Therefore, an idea is more of a network of many ideas coming into one. (http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/09/mf_kellyjohnson/) And in order to take that idea and make it into something substantial, not only do you have to be at the right place, at the right time, you have to work harder than anyone else around.
But we will never know if we are at the right place or at the right time unless we start somewhere. And so my plan is to start with the tea idea, and who knows, maybe it will lead me to opportunities that will allow me to bring education to a social media platform. Or someone might beat me too it. That’s not to say, if you’re name doesn’t go down in history, you won’t have an epic time along the way.