Ideas are mostly worthless. This is something I find myself thinking every time I talk to a wannabe entrepreneur. Ideas gain value when they are applied. Entrepreneurs aren’t people with great ideas, they are people who apply the ideas they have. Or as Edison supposedly put it, so much more eloquently: genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration.
All that said, the application of an idea in this internet age can be apparently almost trivial. I’ve spent the last couple of hours with an entrepreneur who has a very simple idea, albeit one that he has had trouble articulating. Talking to him a couple of weeks ago I felt there was probably something in what he was saying. Two hours of thrashing the idea around today and I’m now convinced there’s something in it.
What he wants to do is relatively simple: take large volumes of publicly available data and manipulate them into a useful, appealing format. It’s an idea of its time, very much in keeping with the current ‘big data’ trend.
The ingredients of his innovation are neither new nor unique: they are available to anyone in the world with some basic development skills. It’s taken him eighteen months (without any development skills of his own) to get to this point and there’s no doubting he has worked hard. But the product itself when fully live is relatively simple.
And yet no-one has done what he’s doing.
Ideas unapplied are worthless. But the state of technology today means that some of the best, simplest, original ideas can be applied quickly and with limited effort. It still takes a lot of perspiration to make them a real success, but once the effort of application begins, the value of ideas can scale very quickly.