By Tom Polanski
Recently, my team discovered an area of the net which offers some of the best targeting on the net and it isn’t hasn’t been exploited yet. In other words we’ve discovered an audience of tens of millions that are not being marketed to while they participate in activities that reveal their interests, attitudes, opinions and ultimately, their life style.
My team developed an overview of the different ways that these people can be marketed to based on past and current behaviors. We could send HTML and text e-mail and attach ads to e-mail exchanges, and most importantly the data is available so that advertisers could target on a most granular level.
So here in summation is our situation…. we’ve done some preliminary research and we’re reasonably confident that there may be real opportunity in this discovery. However, we’re faced with a number of challenges which include but are not limited to:
1. We can’t really protect this idea until we develop a system for it. We can protect the system.
2. Our discovery is unique and there is no historical data. Although we feel certain there is tremendous value in this opportunity testing and intelligence gathering will have to be done to determine its actual market value. We have companies willing to participate in the tests.
3. We don’t have the resources to finance the programming, testing and other work that will need to be done to bring this service to market because our revenue stream is used to develop technologies and refine process that will enhance the relationships we already have in place.
4. We don’t have experience writing business plans as our core competancy is the successful launch and management of media campaigns created to drive revenue and market share gains while building brand equity.
5. We don’t know how to seek partners, investors and capital without giving away the idea and the work we’ve done to develop our marketing opportunity thus far. NDA/Non-circumvents can easily be circumvented.
Although I have been in online sales and marketing since 2000, I know next to nothing about how to bring something truly unique, with tremendous potential, to market from scratch. So I turned to my peers and I’d like to share a few of the helpful responses that we received –
Steve Dukree: This is a pretty common question, and the good news is that the government has a specific interest in trying to foster independent business ventures. I am sure that you and your friends are aware that, usually not for a lack of effort, most small businesses fail in a short amount of time after startup. That being said, it would be economic suicide if they provided grants to everyone who had a business idea; but there are a lot of no-cost resources that can assist in keeping the goal of a low-cost startup and minimized risk. First things first, get organized and find someone who can assist you with a strategic plan. I would recommend visiting a SBA office in your state (you can also take a free course in creating business plans on the SBA website). They can tie you in with S.C.O.R.E. which is a conglomerate of volunteer retired executives who can more than likely assist in answering most, if not all, of your questions. I would be cautious about seeking venture capital until you have a clearly written and documented business plan.
As far as programming (this is becoming a common barrier in the information age), the only low-cost solution I can foresee being feasible is to seek out your local university’s computer science department and post a notice for an internship opportunity for a talented programmer. I think it is still possible to start a successful business venture with little to no capital as long as you have the human investment covered, some creativity, and time invested in procurement of resources.
Most of all push forward and set a timeline to accomplish every step. I come from a family of innovators and the message I always try to instill is “There are millions of good ideas out there, but millionaires are the ones that put them into action.” I have listed the SBA site to help you get started, best of luck to you and your team!
Louis Rosas- Guyon: You are in the traditional Catch-22 of all start-ups. You have a concept but you don’t have the cash. To get the money you will have to tell people with money your idea, with the knowledge that they can steal your idea and cut you out. Sounds familiar.
My advice to you is to write a business plan and find some angel investors to get you started. I have included some business plan links for you to review. Once you have your plan together, make sure you get financials put together. Then go talk to friends, family and fools to raise as much capital as possible. Once you have some groundwork laid, you talk to local angel investors; they are a great source for capital.
Mathew Klein: Here are a few quick thoughts…people have written volumes on answering your question, but hopefully the following gets you started in the right direction.
First, you MUST write a business plan, for yourself and for your audience. The particular components that come from the exercise of business plan development will be critical to everything you do from here forward. Here are several links that may help you:
Who has time for this, how not to write a business plan:
Guy Kawasaki: The Zen of Business Plans
Business Planning Basics:
Business Plan Templates from SCORE:
And some books:
The Ernst & Young Business Plan Guide
The Ernst & Young Guide to Financing for Growth
Find and engage trusted legal and finance/accounting council immediately.
Network and talk to people about your idea. Don’t be afraid of vetting your idea in the right places with the right people. If it is a good idea, you will find that there are already people working on it or some form of it. If no one has had the idea, great, but it may have some flaws in places you haven’t explored. If your idea is too easy to steal, then you may have a low-barrier to entry business that would attract too much competition with more might than you can muster. Yes, NDA’s are easy to circumvent, but you MUST vet your idea with the right people to truly realize the potential. You can try to protect your idea through IP, such as trademarks and patents. Visit the USPTO office (www.uspto.gov). I suggest that you seek corporate legal council from a firm, not an individual. It will help you to be aligned not only with a good attorney in corporate law, but having the firm’s resources available for specialists in the area of patent law and the like.
Keep extensive records and tracking of the development of your idea. Use the USPTO database search to see if anyone else has this idea in some form or another. Keep extensive documentation on where, how and to whom you shared your idea.
Find your local chapter of S.C.O.R.E.
Find small communities of entrepreneurs, such as the MEF for networking, mentor seeking and business plan development
http://midwestentrepreneursforum.org/ (sorry for all the Midwest references, but that’s what I know – you should have something similar in your area)
Talk to your local chamber of commerce to find out how your area is supporting entrepreneurs. In Chicago, we have the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center (CEC) – I would imagine you have something similar where you are located
Find the entrepreneurship centers at colleges in your community.
Talk to potential buyers. What do they think of your idea? Would they buy what you are selling? Have they been approached with other similar situations? Who do they see as your competitors?
Use Meetup.com to find entrepreneur groups and events
Read all the material you can about starting, growing and operating sustainable businesses, entrepreneurship and successful entrepreneurs.
Think hard about developing the idea yourself or finding a partner for licensing or joint-venture opportunities. Again, I have no indication of how capital intensive the start-up phase is. Google was built in a dorm room, MySpace was built in a dorm room, YouTube was built in a basement, and HP got started in a garage. While those businesses get the most press exposure, they are rare. Make sure you project the proper amount of funding you will need to start and grow your business. The worst thing you can do is underfund your idea.
I hope the information provided by Mathew, Steve and Louis helps you to get that great idea of yours off the ground. If you’d like to learn more about what we’re creating, then please feel free to contact me through the “Contact” form.