Allan Isfan is a co-founder of FaveQuest, a young start-up. This blog covers start-up topics.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


ideas aren't worth much but people are

Back from 20 minutes in the hot-tub with a glass of Drambuie (oh sweet nectar of the Scottish Gods), the synapses are well greased for another blog. This one will be shorter than the last one ... the fingers kinda went a little crazy on the last one.

I'm preparing for pitch of some of my ideas at the end of this week and thought it would be an opportune time to discuss the value of ideas as a follow up to my previous post on the subject. I'll also toss out a little idea that I won't be chasing myself but think it may have legs ... with the right body on top.

So what is the value of a good idea? It seems that an idea by itself is nearly worthless. What if someone else has the same idea or finds out about your idea? Unless you have more to go on, relying just on the idea, you're could be pretty well screwed unless you have other things under your sleeve. However, an idea than spawns the next idea and the next has a different twist. Although this is not exactly vision, it has value because it gives you the ability to stay ahead.

The RIM/Blackberry guys didn't have any real secret sauce per se. Based on the premise they started with ... basically an advanced pager ... anyone could have done the same thing from a technical point of view. What they had was a vision around a service and associated device that others and their passion for this vision together with appropriate adjustment and execution on this vision is what I believe got them to where they are. Continuous incremental improvements kept them ahead of the game and made their device indispensable to many professionals.

The interesting thing though is that RIM didn't really start out as the "blackberry" company. They toyed around with other things in the mid 80's before. I have seen this time and again with Catena being a great example of this. The original idea associated with building a POTS+DSL chipset was certainly a powerful one but the magic really started when this was applied to the Lucent SLC-5 digital loop carrier. The low density and cost that the integrated chipset provided enabled us to build a card that would fit physically, thermally and financially. There would be many more challenges ahead of us though. How were we going to get the traffic across the backplane?, how about the extra heat in the cabinet?,regulatory challenges that prevented some major RBOCs from deploying integrated solutions (thanks Doug for your work in DC) until regulations allowed it ...

Yikes ... had we really know all the challenges ahead of us, we might have quit or never even received the funding in the first place.

Fortunately, the real magic came in the form of people. Not much of a secret sauce really. The people that were brought on to build the company were absolutely the best, not just technically super strong but agile and resourceful. When VCs invest, the team is often one of the most critical factors. It would be nice if you could just build a team first, get a bunch of money ... say $2M, then figure something out. I know exactly who would be on that team ... you are probably reading this post.

Back to reality. I get to pitch some of my ideas at the end of the week and am very excited to see what happens. Couple the roughly right idea at the right time with the right team, figure out some secret-sauce that will give everyone a false sense of security and things should be a go. When we narrow things down, the team will be critical ... I know that for sure and that will turn out to be the most important factor.

Darn, I rambling again and I promised you an idea so here goes. I'll keep it fairly brief and you can fill in the blanks.

Netcreds (TM)

Google and much of the free internet economy is driven by advertising dollars (as is entertainment in general). Many billions of dollars actually just for google. This is a dance between getting eyeballs and monetizing those eyeballs .... the more people see your ad the better and if they click on a google ad (often know as "Ads by google" or "sponsored links" just as I've included in my blog). It may be time to stop beating around the bush reward the consumers directly.

The idea is that people earn Netcreds(tm) ... basically new currency for the internet economy ... for intentionally watching ads. The more engaged you get, the more Netcreds you get. For example, you go to (made it up ... don't click on it). You watch ads and answer a couple of questions to prove you actually paid attention and that you are a human. If you choose to fill in a survey, you get even more creds and so on. You pile up Netcreds (tm) and get to trade them in for goodies ... music, videos ... Hopefully, the government doesn't figure out how to tax you on that.

Anyway, blog is too long again ... sorry ... I guess I just can't be brief.

BTW, here are some of the music channels I've created on I suspect you may have to register before you can use these though ... not sure.

Stevie Ray Vaughan channel

Andre Boccelli channel

Pink Floyd channel

Jean Michel Jarre channel (old new age)

Eminem Radio (not censored ... be careful)

Basic Rock (Tragically Hip ...)

Check back Monday morning ... should be a good one.


Blogger Victor said...

Right: there's a huge potential of human energy that's largely untapped. It's us, "homo cubicus" that spend 40+ hours a week in or around a cubicle, connected all this time. Homo cubicus has dead time; he has a big honking "System Idle Process" while waiting for a code review to finish, or a compile to execute etc.
Just think at all that wasted bandwidth that's filled right now with online shopping, banking, chatting, commenting blogs (!), etc.

Also, a comment for last blog entry: consumer devices? Tough unless there's a truly original idea; and that's more than tough since everbody age 12 to 99 is consciently or not thinking on this subject. Media distribution and DRM? There are countless established business as well as startups with both money and experience. Without the magic ingredient of that doh-what-an-obvious-and-brilliant-idea, I don't see a breakthrough.
On the backend or in the middleware there might be a different story...

9:55 AM


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