The Story of Bette Nesmith Graham
I am fascinated by entrepreneurs who come up with one brilliant idea which makes them millions. One of my favourite entrepreneurs is the late great Bette Nesmith Graham. Most of you will be too young to remember her. In the 1950s she was a single mother who worked as a typist in Dallas. This is in the pre-computer days when firms employed pools of typists to produce official documents. If a typist made a small mistake on a letter or contract the typist had no option but to start typing the whole document again, however one day Bette had a brilliant idea. She put some water-based paint in a tiny bottle and bought it to work. She used a small brush to cover her mistakes – Liquid Paper was born! Of course Bette went on to set up her own company to manufacture Liquid Paper and in 1979 she sold her company to Gillette for $49 million. And Bette’s only child, Michael Nesmith, also achieved international success. He was the guitarist in the 1960s band, the Monkees!
How the Uber Idea was Born
Bette’s idea was so simple, yet it made her millions. Think about other simple ideas that have netted a squillion. Garrett Camp is the man behind the idea of the ride-sharing startup business Uber. Believe it or not, Uber is Camp’s second multi-million-dollar idea. Straight after he graduated from university in Canada he developed the search engine, StumbleUpon. It became hugely popular in the US because it offered users a personalised ‘recommendation’ search engine. Camp sold that company to eBay for $75 million. However he came up with the idea for Uber years earlier. One New Year’s Eve he and his friends decided to spend $800 on hiring a private driver for the night rather than trying to get cabs to parties. The idea of hiring an ordinary person as a driver stuck with him and after Camp sold StumbleUpon he got together with Travis Kalanick and founded Uber. Camp and Kalanick both now have personal fortunes of around $5 billion.
The Story of Facebook, ActivePipe and Mad Paws
A number of other American billionaires made their money from simple ideas that used emerging internet technology. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is meant to have come up with the idea for his site after creating a website at university to post photos of the prettiest girls. He launched Facemash while still. A Melbourne real-estate technology business, ActivePipe has just raised $1.8 million in a funding round that will help it break into the global market. ActivePipe software examines online data and then identifies people looking to either buy or sell their properties. This means that the real estate agents, who subscribe to the software, can get in touch with potential buyers and sellers before other agents. What a great idea, but not all lucrative ideas are high tech. I’ve written before about Alexis Soulopoulos. He started doing paid dog walking while studying for a Masters in International Management. He came up with the idea for a website matching dog owners to walkers – Mad Paws. Today he has 200 regular walkers. His dog walkers, often vet students and vet nurses, each earn more than a thousand a week. Mr Soulopoulo business grew so quickly he had to recruit five staff in the first 12 months of opening. In a 2015 funding round, Mad Paws raised $1.1 million in capital. And all this sprang from one brilliant and yet pretty simple idea!
How Great Ideas are Born
In this I want to look at how to generate and nurture great ideas. This year I’ve been encouraging you to pursue your passions. I’m sure many of you have already identified your heart’s passion, but often you just need one great idea and then you can build a business around that. But how do you come up with a brilliant idea?
Write your Ideas Down
The first step in coming up with a genius, money-making idea is to start writing all your ideas down. I like the advice of James Altucher, an American hedge fund manager, entrepreneur and author. He says that if you can’t write down 10 good ideas relating to your area of passion then you must make yourself write down 20 ideas! Altucher says hard work and commitment are the secret to having a break-through idea. It’s not down to luck or natural creativity. Altucher advises that to build your ‘idea muscle’ you should write down 10 ideas every morning on paper or your laptop. He also has a theory that most people are reluctant to come up with new ideas because they are afraid of making a fool of themselves or failing. Altucher believes that our brains are trying to protect us from coming up with ideas that could be seen as silly and foolish, so if you want to come up with creative, innovative new ideas you must override this protection impulse. Switch it off!
Don’t Be a Perfectionist
Altucher also says that perfectionists struggle to come up with creative ideas because they can’t accept anything that is less than perfect. Perfectionism is your enemy. Perfectionism will slow you down. Sometimes the best ideas seem crazy or too far-fetched to work and yet they do! Think about the concept behind Uber – people are asked to jump in a car with a stranger, and yet this business has taken off around the world like wild fire!
I want to continue looking at how to cultivate good ideas in my next blog, but I will leave you with this thought. Genius is 99 percent perspiration and only one percent inspiration! It’s true, coming up with a brilliant idea requires lots of hard work and only a tiny amount of creativity. The homework I’m setting you is this: every day write down 10 ideas that could turn your passion into profit. And if you can’t come up with 10 ideas, make yourself write down 20 ideas regardless of how crazy, wild or impractical they first appear. Good luck!
ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.