I spend most of my day asking “Why”. Why is the sky blue? Why do otherwise smart people believe in dumb ideas? Why did someone at work make the decision to go left when it was obvious to me and everyone else that “right” was the correct direction. You could assume that by asking so many questions, a number of sort-of Well, DUH! ideas fall out of this process.
Why hasn’t a material been developed and widely adopted that allows Milk, soda, and juices to be distributed in containers with hyper-fast biodegradability (say 6 months or less)? Recycling has been around for 30 or 40 years I imagine and the technology to make materials that biodegrade at a reasonably fast rate have been around even longer. So why is it when I go to the grocery store, I’m still buying my milk in containers that take 100 years to break down, if they break down at all?
The commercial internet is closing in on it’s 20 year anniversary. The 802 IEEE standard that defines wireless communications is even older. So why is it, when I snap a series of pictures with my camera, I’m still screwing around with memory cards and the inevitable inconsistency between different form factors and whether or not I have a card reader with the right socket? Really? How come my camera isn’t automatically connected to the Internet to upload my pictures to my favorite image sharing site the minute I snap the shutter?
There’s a better than good chance that many of you have in-ground irrigation systems for your lawn. It’s not a new concept. But, after how-ever many decades of installation and use, the enormous market of manufacturers of various plastic “pop-up” sprinkler heads haven’t devised a way to make changing out a broken sprinkler head easier? Certainly we’ve come to appreciate the out-of-sight benefits of in-ground systems as a substantial upgrade from the standard impact sprinkler. But do I really have to go into the yard with a shovel to “dig” out and around the sprinkler head — which, by the way, is a device that only lasts between 1 and 2 seasons. You’d think that the first guy to come back in the house with cuts and scraps from submerged brick edging / mortar would have cleaned up and driven straight for venture capital with his idea.
And speaking of Venture Capital
Did it ever strike anyone else as funny that seed funds, angels, and VC’s turn down 1000’s or tens-of-thousands of potential business ideas every year — ideas that are otherwise good or could possibly make life better if they were developed a bit more or communicated by someone who knows how to speak. There are many, many individuals from all over the world with good (and sometimes not so good) ideas. There’s a high percentage of those individuals who have more than one idea. Even more populace are the people who might not come up with the idea, but who buy into the concept and have tangible skills they would be more than willing to lend to the idea. What you end up with are 10’s of thousands if not millions of individuals who could drive an idea to a real product (free or otherwise), but only a finite collection of power-brokers and people with money can “green-light” a concept. What I’ve just described is probably a text-book definition of “open-source”. Fair enough. But take the next logical step… why is all open-source free? Why isn’t there an open-source-like environment where those who contribute to the product can make a bit of money if it takes off. I mean, success is measured by the depth of adoption in the general public anyway, right? If the product sucks, no one will pay for it or use it. But, if the idea were really *that* bad, no one would help develop it in the first place.
When you have an idea and can’t produce the product by yourself, what you have a shortage of is not MONEY, but TALENT or SKILL! Why does MONEY always have to be the middle man. Why can’t the idea jump into bed with the skill, the product of which could be money?
Let’s think about this from a different perspective. Let’s say you have an idea to build a “widget”. You don’t know if it’s commercially viable or if it’s something that no one on the planet except you would use. Put your idea into an environment where you can get feedback from others who may also contribute to the development of the idea. The entire process is community driven. Once the idea gels and centrifugal force throws off the “noisy” details, it moves into a stage where smart people with skills can “bid” on individual technical pieces they’d be willing to complete. No one can bid for more than 1% of the work and therefore can not reap more than 1% of the profit. The idea owner chooses those people with the best balance of skill and what they want in return (as a percentage of profit). Now… the idea owner, for any idea can not take more than 15 or 20% of the total profit. So if the system were built in such a way that the idea required as many as 100 or 200 people to contribute, any potential wealth would be spread around, good products that have weathered substantial community vetting would come to market without requiring funding or capital. Certainly every product needs a champion and an organizer, right? Why can’t people who have skills in this area contribute the same way that a programmer could for the same scale of payout.
I’m sure there’s an entire thesis waiting to be developed from this idea.