AlanEntrepreneurshipInnovationProduct ManagementStartupsWily Technology

If only we had …

This is personal.

When you think back over your life, how many product ideas have slipped through your fingers? For me the number isn’t huge, but it’s not small either. Any one of those ideas could have been a huge success. In 2003, I remember starting a business plan about a product that would suggest new music to me based on things that I like, and better yet, things that others like me, like. Earlier this week, Apple introduced Genius, which is really a Genius, but it’s very similar to the idea I was toying with 5 years ago. My idea was focused on independent bands, and of course I would have struggled to get critical mass, which Apple has out of the gate.

And that’s just one of them. There are probably between 5 and 10 other really good ones.

I’m not bitter exactly. I know why I didn’t go for it. I was offered a great job, for which I moved to California, and I’m glad I did. The experience was awesome, and there was some great upside when Wily was acquired in 2006. I wouldn’t trade the experience living in the bay area.

And neither can I be certain that any of my ideas – especially my execution of the ideas – would have been successful.

But. But. But. I didn’t go for it. At the end of my life, am I going to look back and be glad I was safe? I know, I’ll be thinking about my kids, and their kids, and so on, but I’ll also be thinking about my career. And I think I’ll be disappointed if I hadn’t gone for it … at least once. Maybe more than once.

So right now I am stepping out. We’ll soon be launching some new consulting offerings from Eigen Partners. And we hope to develop products too. It won’t be easy, and it’ll be scary, and all that … but at least we’re going for it.

What about you? What’s holding you back? Share some of the product ideas you’ve had that could have been somthing, if you had gone for it. OR, better yet, if you went for it, how’s it going? Or how did it go?


  1. Kevin Donaldson

    A lot of it has to do with timing. If you don’t have your ‘pitch’ down and/or the market is not ready for the idea, it can stall. A few years back I was working on a startup that focused on companies partnering with consumers to co-innovate products, but couldn’t get traction. The premise was wisdom of crowds, brand loyalty etc could outdo internal R&D… We spent months trying to refine our message and building a prototype but it was just too early. Now these types of applications are starting to appear in many companies.

    By the way – Genius is not the first to do this. Check Pandora.

  2. Dr. Jim Anderson

    Coulda, woulda, shoulda. We’ve all been there – had a great idea and then discovered later on that someone else ran with it and (hopfully) made a mint off of it. But wait. More often than not we look back at such things with rose colored glasses. There were a lot of PDAs that just didn’t make it because the time was not right (remember the Newton?). For that matter, remember laserdisks – they were a great way to watch movies back in the day, but they just didn’t catch on.
    If it makes you feel any better, do what I do. When I see that one of “my” ideas has just been commercialized, I stop for a moment, smile, and relish the fact that I thought of it before it was economically feasiable to bring it to the market and then I move on…

    – Dr. Jim Anderson
    Blue Elephant ConsultingThe Accidental PM Blog

  3. Steve Johnson

    I’m an idea man Chuck, I get ideas, sometimes I get so many ideas that I can’t even fight them off! What if you mix the mayonnaise in the can, WITH the tunafish? Or… hold it! Chuck! I got it! Take LIVE tuna fish, and FEED ’em mayonnaise! Oh this is great. — Billy Blaze, “Night Shift”

  4. Stan

    I and two partners make up a team of one product developer and two sales and marketing guys.

    We are in progress of developing a web based staff scheduling software program. A common user type would be restaurant owners and managers. There are opportunities with other verticals as well.

    The basic concept is, the manager is able to publish the staff schedule on line, distribute notifications via email and/or text messaging. Staff is able to view the schedule and request shift swaps on line with managers on line sign off approval. HR/Payroll integration has not been developed yet.

    The PM has finalized the “shell” and we are in progress of lining up beta test sites for feedback.

    We have come a long way, but momentum is sliding as the realities of the marketing and competitive challenges are sinking in.

    A real commitment must be made in both time and dollars. All three of us have careers and growing families.

    We believe in the idea and feedback from the market surveys conducted is positive. Yet, the cost to follow through is very high.

    Interestingly enough, I discovered through an interview with three of Moxies managers that two ex X-Box developers had the same idea two years ago. Their first client was Moxies. They currently have 50 customers. By my guess and calculations, their pricing model is yielding about $1,000,000 per year in revenue.

    Not a bad income for two guys in a basement start up!

    I’m not sure if we have the “Moxie” to take our idea to the next level. I too may be looking back one day in my rocking chair wondering “What if”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *