Missed Opportunities

The conventional wisdom in VC circles is that you fund good teams and worry about the idea later.  I still think this is silly, but I am starting to see the logic, at least as far as accelerators are concerned.  Given what is coming to be known as the YC Bubble, this is clearly the foundation for what I would estimate as a plurality of the startup world.  Who cares about the idea when you have a team that will live on Ramen and work 20 hour days steering a company pretty much wherever a bunch of ‘mentors’ and ‘advisors’ tell them to go.  A “pivot” in an accelerator is a nice way of saying, “yeah that’s nice kid, but why don’t you build the product around…”

I used to wonder how this can be considered a rational strategy but then I started to think about studios, and the notion of funding a captive group to build your own ideas.  Accelerators are a nice variation on that theme, letting you act like a VC, create incentives for the founder, but build products as they would in a studio (it’s not really the founder’s idea if they change it as a result of interactions in the accelerator program).

Ever wonder why the rich keep getting richer?  Because it is really easy to make money when you already have it.

On my computer I have a series of folders with product ideas.  I am working through probably 5-7 right now, plus a few ideas for work-work because I might have a better chance at getting those moving.  All I really want to do is build something meaningful.  I still dream of the 8FE (8 Figure Exit), but a little pride, recognition and the feeling that I actually contribute something to society, would be nice.

This is college graduation month and I like hearing who the commencement speakers are.  I try to catch a few of the speeches on YouTube when I can.  This year Princeton is having author and alum Michael Lewis speak.  He was on Meet the Press this past Sunday and talked about how he decided to be an author at a young age, but that it was a costly decision that he would not have made 10 years later.  I am turning 40 and that realization is more poignant than ever.  Some of my greatest hits for roads not taken…

I quit IBT in 1995 to start a business called The Stofler System (named after a crater on the moon).  The idea was a wiring product for home theater rear channel speakers.  Sounds silly now, but no one was doing home theater 17 years ago.

There were the dark ages of my career in higher ed, we prefer to skip over that time.

In 2007, Joe and I talked about doing a data management analytics start up to manage data on our platform.  No one even used the word “cloud” back then.  Today there are at least 20 vendors.  I still think my marketing strategy of targeting banks, creditors and equity holders is better than selling the altruism of managing by metrics.  But it seems no one that I share that with agrees.  Bizlytic, I still think that’s a great name, I have other ideas for it.

A few years ago I read Global Trends 2025 published by the office of the Director of National Intelligence.  It talked about a future where micro-NGO’s would be operating in third world nations more than any other single entity.  I had a great idea to build a web platform to allow fundraising, organization, info-sharing, etc for what I thought would be a wave of college graduate PeaceCorps wanna-be’s.  Not to mention I would be adding value in the world.  Too late on that one too…

About 5-6 years ago I had a great idea to create a healthcare payments clearing house through Fido that would enable liquidity and enhanced efficiency.  I talked with Tom Sager one night at Peddlers and he thought it was a great idea.   Just the other day, the leading provider raised $14M in a follow-on round, wonder what that pre-money number was.  And they can’t even provide the money management component.

Just last month I had a great idea to do crowd sourced video that would let people produce entire movies filming on green screen with editing software.  Bunch of those already exist, though not the same model and definitely not to support green screen movie production.  Given what Suster says, I think this is the best way to lower per-minute production costs on high quality video to monetize on YouTube/Vimeo.

Chances are I am missing a great opportunity in Rockledge, FL right now.  Like everything else, I just can’t seem to find a way to make it happen.

If only I had some money and a studio full of developers.  Wouldn’t that be cool.  Those VC guys are right, it’s not the idea, it’s the execution.  What makes things happen, what gets things done?  The same as everything else in this world, MONEY.  For those that don’t get it (Mr. President) this is why capital markets are so important, it is also why finance is a product that has value in the US and what makes our export of financial services so critical.  Everyone has ideas.  I’m sure my readers right now have a few.  What makes them useful is the capital to make them reality.  Capital creates opportunity, opportunity creates jobs, jobs create wealth, wealth creates growth, growth creates more capital.  Fascinating, the economy is, hmmph?

Last fall, I interviewed a college senior for an entry level position at Fido.  This kid was unbelievably smart.  During a break I told them to hire him right now for a different career track.  Big companies don’t work that way and I was unsuccessful in persuading him to join and be a peon.  But I think I was successful in encouraging him to strike out on his own and take some risks, especially while he is young.  I haven’t heard from him in a few months, but I like to think that our little talk was like my commencement address to him.  Hopefully I was more inspiring than Roger W. Ferguson Jr. (president and CEO of TIAA-CREF).  Maybe Jaymin is taking the tough road, and not missing HIS opportunity.  Does that count as an opportunity I realized?

About Josh Rutstein

I am an aspiring entrepreneur and hopeful political candidate. Father of 2 very special girls, husband to an amazing woman, and passionate American. I snowboard whenever possible and follow a 20x mentality for exercise. I also play golf and ultimate frisbee and am a die hard New England Patriots fan and season ticket holder. Everyday I wake up wanting to make this country a better place, someday I hope to actually succeed.
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