Most people will tell you that the only way to be successful is to work really hard and really smart. Effective and focused effort towards specific goals is a fairly risk free way to achieve economic and personal success, just ask any doctor, dentist or lawyer. Riches are there for those willing to put in the time and work. However, we live in an age of ideas. This is the idea economy and the rules are changing.
Sure hard work toward high leverage activities will always bring results, but there are more and more examples of creative entrepreneurs bypassing the traditional routes to fame and fortune. A little luck, a lot of experimentation and a great idea are often all that is needed for extraordinary returns. This is the second installment of my big ideas topic. You can find the first here. I will soon create a specific page dedicated to these great ideas, so stay tuned.
Remember that you can’t copy a great idea verbatim because in talent oriented markets like showbiz, music and ideas only the absolute best get all the returns. There is not much left to share for all the people who are just good or mediocre. A Hollywood movie star can make more than $20 millions per movie, while hundreds of thousands of struggling actors require day jobs to fund their dreams of stardom. You are not going to out Twitter, Twitter. No one is going to do Facebook better than Facebook. Don’t expect an exact copy of another site to bring your riches. The reason popular sites got so much attention in the beginning is because they were unique. Newspapers aren’t going to write about the 15th Digg clone.
However, there are amazing opportunities to mix, modify, simplify, repackage, out-create, out-market and out-deliver with novel ideas. Phenomenal returns are available to those with a penchant for idea management. You just have to keep trying until you get it right. Find great ideas and repackage them with a new twist. Make something much easier to use. Take a simple concept and add more features. Copy ideas that are working in other countries. Take your ideas to other countries. There will never be a shortage of opportunities for creative thinkers.
Here are some more people who have earned disproportionate returns on their efforts for the shear quality of their ideas:
I Can Has Cheezburger
Try presenting this idea to venture capitalists: “Pictures of cats with funny captions.” Fortunately, this simple idea for a business never required much funding. Icanhascheezburger has had huge traffic with the corresponding advertising revenue. They have branched into many variations on the funny pictures theme and now have over 40 million page views per month. This is a fantastic example of a simple concept growing almost entirely on the basis of user-generated-content. Customers are creating the site.
Ashley Qualls started the free MySpace layouts website Whateverlife.com as a teenager and has since managed to turn it into a huge Internet property for teenage girls. More than 60 million pages views and $70,000 per month. How much did you make when you were in high school?
Images of people’s secrets on postcards. The site makes money by selling books of the images and has traveling exhibitions. This is a great example of an artist combining his passion with something commericially viable.
Beautifully designed and well organized list of tutorials and resources for designers and web developers. Great resource with more than 90,000 subscribers. Sites of this quality take a lot of time and money to develop and maintain, but the content is all developed by others.
Instead of hiring out your next design project, consider having artists from around the world compete to win your business. Artists submit designs and only the winner gets the pre-determined fee. Purchasers have the advantage of receiving many designs for their projects. Aspiring artists get a show case for their portfolio with the most talented quickly landing new projects. Here are two companies doing cool things in crowd sourced design, 99designs and crowdSPRING. Both earn their money by taking a percentage of each project. There are big opportunities in all types of industries for sites that bring buyers and sellers together in unique ways.
This is one of the granddaddy’s on the list. Started in 1995 as a free listing of events around the San Francisco area, Craiglist has grown to serve over 100 cities in countries all over the world. Craiglist has basically cornered the market on online classified ads. Most ads are still free, put the paid ads are estimated to bring in more than $10 million per year in revenue. The site still looks like it was designed in the nineties.
Get working on your big idea! The key is to keep trying many things. No one really knows what the big idea is in advance.
If you know I anymore I am missing, please mention them in the comments below and I will add them to the list.