Too Late

I think I’m suffering from entrepreneurial-wannabe syndrome.

What is entrepreneurial-wannabe syndrome?  It’s an affliction that targets people (mostly engineers, and engineers-at-heart) that starts with them getting a cool idea to solve a problem and ends with crushing psychological defeat.  The progression of the disease goes something like this:

  1. Identify a problem: “Gosh, it really would be nice if I could do X with widget Y”.
  2. Think of a solution: “Hey, you know, you could add Z to widget Y to do X, let me google and see if someone’s already done it.”. Healthy, normal people stop here.
  3. Start actually designing a solution: “Well, part Z could be crafted such that it fits into widget Y like so…”. Healthy engineers stop here.
  4. Image turning solution into a real business: “Hey, I could make Z. It wouldn’t be THAT hard, and maybe I can make a little money on the side.”. Danger zone.
  5. Actually researching patents: “Dude! no one’s patented Z yet!”.  Real danger.  Have a beer.  You just didn’t look hard enough.
  6. Start building your prototype: “Hey, hand me that wrench”.  See, now you’re wasting real time and resources on this, you need help.
  7. Think seriously about a business plan, and try and sell your friends on the idea: “..and you could sell it through a channel, the the total number of employees would stay low…”.  Stop. Just.. stop.
  8. Discover that company A already came up with your idea and it’s been on the market for B number of years, you just didn’t find it: “*thunk*, *thunk*, *thunk*”. That’s the sound of your head hitting the table over and over again because you realize your actually thought you had a unique idea that could make you a) a little bit or b) a lot of money (choose a) or b) depending on the severity of the affliction).  You realise you’ll be at your normal job, and not in some cushy CTO’s chair for the foreseeable future.

Why do I write about this?  Because it’s happened to me twice in the past three months.  I got it bad.  Best cure I’ve found?  Beer.  And I’m not even a big drinker.

Want to hear the ideas? Well, I could explain them all to you, but it would probably be easier to just link to the websites of the companies that already do pretty much exactly what I envisioned.  Congrats to them for having the ideas and executing on them.  I guess I could take some solace in the fact that both companies were founded in 2007, so I’m only a year behind the truly creative people.  But, well.. I think I need another beer.

Idea-Already-Done #1: Thinking about the Chevy Volt and the how I liked the idea of a plugin-hybrid in general, I realised my lack of a garage would mean I’d need some sort of safe and secure outside outlet next to my driveway or on my street.  Put it behind a cipher or RFID lock keyed to a fob on your key chain.  Add some monitoring to the outlet, and you can measure how much you’re spending.  Then scale the idea up, and sell charging stations with metered output to office and apartment buildings, where managers could charge their tenants for the amount used.  Hook it up to a charge card reader and sell it to parking garages to have people pay there.  Why hadn’t anyone thought of this already?  Would have to move fast though, because the Volt’s due on 2010…

…Of course, the Tesla Roadster’s here now, which is why a former employee of theirs got together with some silicon valley veterans and started CoulombTech, which does pretty much exactly what I just described. Founded 2007.

Idea-Already-Done #2: Much less ambitious. I wanted a simple way to play chess with my dad and/or friends online.  So why not a simple, chess focussed web site site with some AJAX boards and play-by-email options? Throw in some simple tournaments and peer rankings, some GNUChess-backed AI, and put a few simple ads, and you have a niche product that could attract a loyal following.  Keep the interface clean and simple so you don’t scare off older players. It could be fun to build. It would never make millions but might provide a bit of extra spending cash…

…for the makers of, Founded 2007

On the bright side, I now know a little more javascript then I did, and a lot more about 1960’s era patents on outdoor lockable power outlet covers, and ammeters.

Maybe, just maybe, one day I’ll come up with an idea that hasn’t already been thought of. And that, I think, it symptom #9: Not giving up. Maybe a social networking site of business plan ideas…. wait, someone pass me a beer.

Anyone have their own entrepreneurial-wannabe experiences to share?