Sunday, September 20, 2009

Are you looking for the right things?

Bill Gates left Harvard in his junior year, Paul Allen dropped out of the University of Washington. Steve Ballmer graduated from Harvard with a bachelor’s in math and economics.

These three started with an idea and turned it into a major corporation.

If someone with the credentials of any of these three (two college dropouts and and a math major with no practical experience) came to you with the idea for Microsoft would you have bankrolled them? More importantly will you recognize the next Gates, Allen, or Ballmer?

I promise you that the Steves (Wozniak and Jobs) started in their garage because they had to, not because working in a garage was the “best” place to start. They believed, rightly or wrongly, that they couldn’t get any investor to give them the money to do what they wanted to do. Not because what they wanted to do was all that risky, but because the investors they could find had a lack of vision and were much more interested in the creator’s presentation skills than the fundamental idea.

What process do you have for the janitor to tell you about some hip, slick and cool new thing he found? Do you restrict your pool of new ideas to a select few managers at your staff meetings? And most importantly of all, will you remember that it’s your staff’s job to find the ideas, it's your job to pick the winner and figure out how to make money from it?

One of the problems with the economy today is the understandable urge to reduce risk. While managing and reducing risk seems like something any business should be doing, when you forget that without risk there is no growth, your business and the whole economy stop growing! One of the reasons Silicon Valley has had so many startups is the collection of people willing to take risks in that one small area.

The biggest blockage to a new idea is that a great idea is useless without someone else with money and a willingness to risk that money supporting the new idea.

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