Most of us have been conditioned to believe that success is all about hard work and consistent action. And that is true! Don’t get me wrong, the best things in life are certainly worth working hard for. You don’t become insanely talented by accident, I wrote in a previous article how it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become world class in many fields. To become a professional athlete, artist, writer and many other occupations there really is no alternative to hard work and effort.
However, when it comes to business and marketing, a little creativity and novelty can go a long way. There are short cuts to fame and monetary success in areas when raw talent is secondary to creativity. Of course, often the first person to try something unique gets all the publicity. The follow up copycats don’t have anywhere near the same results. Being unique is not easy, but there is a lot to be said for being authentic and trying to find your voice and ideas rather than being the fiftieth copy of another idea.
Here are a few examples of some of the more notable people I have discovered:
One Red Paper Clip
Kyle MacDonald had the idea to trade and barter his way from a single red paperclip to a real livable house. It took him 14 trades and exactly one year to do it. Now he is interested in trading the house if you have something to offer?
Here is a video of the entire process.
One Million Dollar Homepage.
As a university student, Alex Tew was searching for a way to pay for his education. He had the idea to sell one million pixels of advertising on a website for one dollar each. His unique story caught the attention of the media, who then promoted the idea so that he could achieve millionaire status. He is still making money off the site by selling limited edition prints of the page. There were many variations of this idea tried, but none were as successful. An idea is unique only once.
Smash My Viper
23 year-old Jason Gunther was an imitator of the One Million Dollar Home Page. With the purchase of pixels on his website, buyers were also entitled to damage his Viper automobile. He doesn’t appear to have sold many advertisements but he definitely had a lot of press at the time.
Hot or Not
James Hong and Jim Young created and hosted the site HotorNot.com just for fun. The site allowed people to upload photos so that users could rate their attractiveness. They started by emailing 40 friends and ended up with 40,000 visits their first day. Since then they have added premium services and the site has made them tens of millions of dollars. The concept is so simple, yet brilliant.
This free online dating site has been basically a one man show by Markus Frind. He has been making more than $10,000 a day with Google Adsense. The site is very simple and easy to maintain with all the content being user-generated. Huge money for little work; you will be hard pressed to find a better business model than this.
Amanda Congdon became an Internet and TV celebrity after her video podcasts on rocketboom.com She has since been on various TV shows and has started her own ventures. And of course, a great personality “killing it” right now is Gary Vaynerchuk. These people are incredibly charismatic so their success cannot be attributed to a good idea, however they were some of the first movers in their respective fields.
Never underestimate the power of a great idea. Amazing success can be accomplished in a relatively short-time if you have the insight to create something new that will resonate with an online audience. A key component of a big idea is user-generated content, like HotorNot.com and PlentyofFish.com mentioned above. Some other relatively simple big ideas with user-generated content are delicious, twitter and stumbleupon. Often ideas like these are so simple that most people would never consider doing them. First mover advantage is huge, so start experimenting with some new ideas.
I would like to compile a comprehensive resource of big ideas, so if you know of any I am missing please leave them in the comments.