You have aspirations of being an entrepreneur. You’ve seen the movie, “The Social Network,” sixteen times. You daydream of being the boss while stuck sitting in a cube, held hostage by your employer at your dead-end job. You think to yourself, “All I need is the right idea… a million-dollar idea.”
FACT: Million-Dollar Ideas Share Similar Anatomy
Meet Greg Isenberg. At just 25 years of age, he has already sold three businesses. His latest start-up is Webby-winning video curation app, 5by, which he founded in October of 2012 and eleven months later sold to StumbleUpon for an undisclosed amount. Isenberg understands the difference between and idea, and a million-dollar idea. In fact, he says they all share the same structure:
There’s an anatomy to ideas that have the potential to become venture-backed, large-scale successful businesses.
Isenberg says the following three traits are consistent across all successful million-dollar ideas. Why not see if your idea possesses all three?
Trait #1: You Can’t Imagine A World Without It
According to Isenberg, there are ideas, and then there are ideas that will change the world as we know it. He states:
You need to believe so much in your idea that you don’t want to live in a world that doesn’t have it.
For example, the idea for Isenberg’s latest venture, 5by, came out of his frustration around not being able to easily peruse video content online. He explains, “I was trying to find an app that would serve me content based on my mood and preferences. Similar to music apps like Pandora or Spotify, I wanted to be able to sit on my iPad and have short videos queued up instead of having to watch TV or manually search for them on the web. When I realized no such app existed, I immediately got started on the project to create one.” Which leads to the next trait…
Trait #2: From Conception to Birth – Your Idea Must Mature
The evolution of an idea into a project and then into a company is similar to going from conception to pregnancy to birth. When you dive into your idea and take it on as a project, Isenberg says it becomes apparent quickly whether it has the potential to evolve into a company. “Before you even have a working prototype you should be testing the market and finding potential clients.” Isenberg makes it clear that while you need to be passionate about your idea, just because you’d pay for it, doesn’t mean someone else will:
Ask enough people and you’ll start to identify the right customers – if they exist.
Isenberg says if you can’t clearly monetize your idea in some way, you won’t get funding – which most million-dollar ideas need to survive. This leads to the final trait…
Trait #3: Your Idea Must Show Signs of “Venture Scalable” Greatness
Isenberg says while some ideas mature into solid, profitable businesses, only a select few get funded and go on to million-dollar greatness. Isenberg says:
A million-dollar idea has to be venture scalable. Right now, VCs are focused on funding companies that have $1B or more in market potential. The reality is, most companies don’t.
Isenberg says that shouldn’t deter aspiring entrepreneurs from pursuing their ideas. “Running a business you care about is more important than trying to be the next Facebook.” He says true entrepreneurs don’t do it for the money. It’s the ability to work on something they care about that drives them to success. Isenberg was inspired to become an entrepreneur after hearing stories from his grandfather that scared him, “I didn’t want to be held hostage by employers, working on projects I didn’t believe in.” Thus, at 13 years old, he set out to learn how to start and run his own companies so he could be in control of how and what he devoted his time to. He hasn’t looked back since.
Takeaway: Stop Daydreaming & Start Doing
The one thing that’s clear when you talk to Greg Isenberg is he’s no slacker. Instead of daydreaming about being a successful entrepreneur with a million-dollar idea, he went out and taught himself how to identify and leverage ideas into something valuable. When I asked him what advice he’d give those reading this article who want to get their own entrepreneurial aspirations in gear, he said:
Learning is cheap. Get on the internet, do your homework, then start a project around an idea you care about. Keep at it long enough, and you’ll find your million-dollar idea.
He’s right. You’ll never find that million-dollar idea and turn it into something great until you start engaging in the right activities – and daydreaming isn’t one of them! Now that you’re done reading this post, and understand the anatomy, it’s time to get in gear. Your million-dollar idea is waiting for you to bring it to life!