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I've written in this blog that good ideas have no economic value. It seems to me that the world has a glut of good ideas. The hard part is implementing. Patents are the exception that proves the rule; even those ideas would be worthless if the government didn't force a value on them.

So I take it as a challenge to see if I can sell a raw idea. I have a specific business idea in mind. It has the potential to change the world in a fundamental way and yet it is little more than a combination of existing ideas that are proven and successful. No inventions are necessary. This idea is in the Internet realm, broadly speaking.

Let's agree that the odds are high that someone is already pursuing this business idea. That's true with most of my ideas - at least the good ones. Whatever I noticed in the environment that triggered the idea in me is probably triggering a similar idea elsewhere. So I have to deal with that risk when I design a mechanism to sell my idea.

My model for selling my idea, while mitigating the risk for the buyer, is this: I'll accept 5% equity in the business once created. If no business is created, no money is owed.

I will limit my offer to experienced venture capital professionals. This idea probably requires a $10 million startup cost, and the buyer would have to assemble the team. The upside potential is probably similar to Amazon.com, just for sizing purposes.

If you have access to that amount of cash, and you're curious about the idea, there is no risk in asking for an explanation. Just send me a brief email explaining your interest and include a link to your firm's website that lists you as a partner. I won't ask for a non-disclosure agreement because credible players don't stay in business long if they steal ideas.

If you hear my idea and decide to pass, it costs you nothing and you will have satisfied your curiosity. I will explain my idea by email to interested and qualified parties in the same order as the requests come in. Each requestor will have two working days to accept or pass. After two days, or a decision to pass, I will move the offer to the next interested party.

I will not be involved in implementing the idea beyond describing it.

If you would like some background on the quality of my ideas in general, my blog has plenty of examples stretching back several years. At least 95% of my ideas are ill-conceived or impractical. But I usually know it. I think this particular idea falls into the inevitable category, similar to the way it was inevitable that goods would someday be sold online. There's a 100% chance that this idea will be implemented someday by someone. The value is in going first and locking in the market.

You can email me at dilbertcartoonist@gmail.com if you are interested and qualified. It is okay for you to be more curious than serious, as long as you are also qualified to invest.

I should explain my motives clearly. Obviously I wouldn't mind owning 5% of something big. That's a small part of my motivation. It wouldn't change my lifestyle.

Secondly, I'm curious how this experiment will play out. I genuinely wonder if it is possible to sell a business idea. My prediction is that it can't be done. This will be an interesting test.

Third, and most important, this idea would be deeply transformative to the entire world, in an enormously positive way. Governments would save gigantic amounts of money and economies would soar, although the economic impact could take several years to play out. One of my tricks for staying interested in life is that I like to have a few "change the world" ideas in play at any given time, no matter how unlikely they are. This fits that model perfectly. The odds of any startup working are tiny, but if this one worked, holy cow.

I'll update blog readers on whether I get any interest. I won't name names of people who respond.

If I get no responses, or no one is interested, I will describe my idea sometime next week just to get it out there.

How many of you think that qualified venture capitalists will ask to see the idea?

[Update 10/2/12: Ten people have asked via email to hear the idea. It looks as if most of them could legitimately raise $10 million for the right idea. The group is comprised of ex-VCs, current angels, rich geniuses, entrepreneurs, and a few investment-type firms. Not a crackpot in the bunch. I'll keep looking at incoming email today and start sharing the idea soon.]



 
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Oct 4, 2012
I won't ask for a non-disclosure agreement because credible players don't stay in business long if they steal ideas.


utterly completely 100% wrong. that's exactly what all big companies do. they just rely on having a large team of expensive lawyers to drag out any court cases until the little guy with the idea can't afford to sue them any longer. they'll even do it to other big companies as long as the potential upside is worth the risk and the cost, see microsoft vs everyone, apple vs samsung/motorola/google.
 
 
Oct 3, 2012
Phantom II
[Just remember, Scott. A famous man once said that if you have a successful business, you didn't build that. Someone else did.]

You know that could be turned into the lamest cop-out ever, which I guess fits his character.

Einstein didn't discover reactivity, someone else did that. Bell didn't invent the telephone, someone else did that. OBL didn't cause 9-11, someone else did that. Hitler didn't kill the jews, someone else did that. Is something wrong with the situation? Someone else did that. We're spending more now than during the Bush years? Someone else taught our elected officials horribad math and then other people put them in charge despite the fact they confuse deficits with surpluses.

I think that person's name (he who said we didn't build that) should just be wiped out of every record, 1984 style, and everything taken from him since he himself did not earn his fame, money, or his job; someone else did that by his own admission, so he doesn't deserve anything.
 
 
Oct 3, 2012
@chuck.milner

[Scott, after you pitch your idea to one of the serious venture capitalists, how do you stop them from simply taking your idea and running with it, and not bothering to give you 5%, or anything.

A non-disclosure agreement? I expect a serious venture capitalist has heard every idea imaginable. He's heard your idea 10 times already. Or maybe your idea has some unique implementation that no one has thought of - but the VC takes you idea anyway, and implements it a different (possibly better) way.

I'm asking, not to criticize - I'd like to know the process - how do you tell people about your idea without them stealing it? (remember an idea cannot be patented or copyrighted, you have to have an invention, or process to patent, and a "work product" to copyright).]

Scott has already indicated that he trust them on the grounds that 'credible players don't stay in business long if they steal ideas'. On top of that, while this may be a very big problem for you or me, Chuck, I imagine its not such a problem for a famous guy like Scott who has already famously put his idea up for sale and has the money to hire a small army of lawyers.
 
 
Oct 3, 2012
Scott, after you pitch your idea to one of the serious venture capitalists, how do you stop them from simply taking your idea and running with it, and not bothering to give you 5%, or anything.

A non-disclosure agreement? I expect a serious venture capitalist has heard every idea imaginable. He's heard your idea 10 times already. Or maybe your idea has some unique implementation that no one has thought of - but the VC takes you idea anyway, and implements it a different (possibly better) way.

I'm asking, not to criticize - I'd like to know the process - how do you tell people about your idea without them stealing it? (remember an idea cannot be patented or copyrighted, you have to have an invention, or process to patent, and a "work product" to copyright).
 
 
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 3, 2012
Phantom II, Isaac Newton said that he stood on the shoulders of giants. And he's worth any amount of your "successful" phonecall-making businessmen, who are so insecure that they refuse to admit they owe anything to anybody else.
 
 
Oct 3, 2012
A idea by a mini celebrity with hypnotic skills and a well subscribed blog is worth more than the same idea by someone else:

1. The Scott deal comes with built in marketing from his blog
2. Scott can use his hypnotism skills to manipulate us into buying whatever that he is selling
3. Scott can help the new company with the best sentences/stories to get media coverage
4. For such a profile who can sit on the board in an advisory capacity, and help the company along multiple dimensions (!), it is not unheard of to shell out 3% or even 5%
5. He might even be able to guide the company along a parallel universe path to success before we all fall in to the center of the donut hole :)

So yes, Scott will be able to sell his idea.
 
 
Oct 2, 2012
Just remember, Scott. A famous man once said that if you have a successful business, you didn't build that. Someone else did. So you should take all your money generated by this idea and give it to me. How else would you be able to look at yourself in the mirror? It is only in keeping with your basic liberal philosophy. You obviously have enough money - more than enough, in the words of the aforementioned famous man. So it's time for you to give back - to me. Please feel free to email me, and I will give you my bank account number so you may begin to assuage your guilt for being a 1%'er. You're welcome.
 
 
Oct 2, 2012
Scott, you have turned into quite the D*i*c*k* tease. Ideas are important, but while most people need serious financial backing to get there idea of the ground, passion is what really makes it a success. Just handing your idea off to someone with the financial means, but no real passion for it except making money means the idea will most likely fail.
 
 
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Oct 2, 2012
There's one born every minute
 
 
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 2, 2012
I think that for MOST people, an idea alone is worth no more than the napkin it's scrawled on. But if you have an audience (i.e. you're famous or have proven out with other ideas), then you have an inherent advantage that may catapult the idea into the realm of valuable.

Any celebrity can start a line of jewelry, cologne, clothing, or beauty products and have some sort of built-in customer base. Once you've become Oprah (who earned it the hard way, by the way), your word alone is golden. Look at all of the Hollywood actors who are influential in politics simply because they're famous; I doubt most of them could compete in a policy debate with the average reader of this blog, but they're getting the invitations to speak about it, not us.
 
 
Oct 2, 2012
@roccoernest, you wouldn't happen to be a good looking gal by chance? lol ;)
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 2, 2012
Interesting that several people so far have posted that an idea, no matter how original, isn't worth a 5% stake in a company.

So much for the claim that the business classes are innovators. Presumably you take for granted that they get ideas for free from other people, and get rich by making some phonecalls.

Nevertheless, it's good to hear that Scott has received emails and they appear to be taking him seriously. I'll be very impressed if it turns out that you can (albeit if you're already successful and have a wide enough readership) sell an idea.
 
 
Oct 2, 2012
[[Update 10/2/12: Ten people have asked via email to hear the idea. It looks as if most of them could legitimately raise $10 million for the right idea. The group is comprised of ex-VCs, current angels, rich geniuses, entrepreneurs, and a few investment-type firms. Not a crackpot in the bunch. I'll keep looking at incoming email today and start sharing the idea soon.]]

...Dang...I mean, good for you Scott, but it does kinda sting after my prediction that you wouldn't get any based on the assumption that this wouldn't sound like a good investment to anyone who read your blog AND has $10 million to spare.

I guess the lesson here is don't take business advice from cubicle dwellers who have never made any real business decisions.
 
 
Oct 2, 2012
@befuddled123

[Given the state of world affairs right now, I'd feel morally obliged to make sure this wonderful idea is realized as quickly as possible, whether I make any money from it or not. Especially if I already had enough money to live comfortably, and potentially fund the implementation myself.]

He DID say he was going to give us the idea if there were no offers. Then if enough of us decide its a good idea maybe we can find a way to finance it, make it work and become millionaires. If not enough of us decide its a good idea then we have no complaint coming right?
 
 
Oct 2, 2012
"...this idea would be deeply transformative to the entire world, in an enormously positive way. Governments would save gigantic amounts of money and economies would soar..."

Given the state of world affairs right now, I'd feel morally obliged to make sure this wonderful idea is realized as quickly as possible, whether I make any money from it or not. Especially if I already had enough money to live comfortably, and potentially fund the implementation myself.
 
 
Oct 2, 2012
I think someone with cash might nibble. It's a no-risk thing, and a multi-millionaire Dilbert fan (there's gotta be some) has no reason NOT to peek before the rest of us.

Of course... going against you is that we all expect that you have $10 Million in loose change in your sofa cushions. If the idea is so incredible, and all it takes is money to make it happen... why wouldn't you own 100% of it (or close to that), yourself?

I'll go with other posters and suggest you just find an ambitious young entrepreneur and an industrious and capable software guy, and hook them up with your idea and your money.
 
 
Oct 2, 2012
I don't think you will get anything, and here's why, and maybe you can save it for a future discussion.

"I've written in this blog that good ideas have no economic value. It seems to me that the world has a glut of good ideas. The hard part is implementing."

The hard part isn't implementing - the *only* part is implementing.

I took some TV/movie script pitching classes a while ago, and I remember being appalled when the teacher basically told me the following: no idea you have is original; somebody else is right now making your idea; the idea you think is original because it doesn't "exist" in the world has actually been pitched and rejected a dozen times already, and when you pitch and get rejected, you'll find out why.

For example: I had a great idea for a reality show following bouncers in a crazy New Orleans nightclub; I had the talent lined up and everything. When I started pitching it the teacher smiled on the first word of "Bouncers", let me finish, and then said "mop". Which sounds for "most often pitched", in the sense that everyone pitches it.He then explained why it wouldn't work (lighting issues, music rights issues, liability).

The same year I took some screenwriting classes and there was a student who was reluctant to discuss his "groundbreaking idea" in class. The teacher said the same thing: someone else had it already. Discuss it all you want! Nobody cares about your great idea; they care about the execution. In the script world, that means a treatment; it shows enough of the implementation to prove it isn't just an idea.

I've had a few world-changing internet website ideas I've taken to investors. The response for me was always the same - "cute idea, could be huge, call me when you have something to look at".

Selling books online wasn't something Amazon invented - they just did it best. Ditto Facebook.

So here's my question to you: if your idea is so great, why not slam together some code by hiring a few guys off of e-lance? One hotshot dev can probably throw a working wireframe together in a few weeks for a few thousand bucks. You've got the money, and then when you approach the vc's you'll have something to show, other than just a vague idea. If you feel like that's too much trouble, than yeah, this is strictly in the realm of a thought experiment to see if just the idea itself has value and you aren't serious about it at all.

I've got a bunch of awesome ideas but don't have the funds to wireframe/ alpha version them. Unless I learn to code them myself, start sleeping with a programmer, or save/scrounge the money someone else with resources will beat me to them.

If option one above isn't good enough, how about:

#2 instead of trying to change the world with your idea, why don't you run a contest where you take someone's idea and provide the level one funding to build the basic version, then approach vc's?

#3 if your idea is great, and you need someone to run it and build it and don't want to use your own money, why not start a kickstarter for the funding, then hire someone to manage it, and they can do all the work? I'm sure every one of your fans with $5 will chip in. Look at the Oatmeal guy and his Tesla museum. Closing on 2 million bucks!

[I agree with your "implementation is king" point of view, which is why this challenge interests me. While it might be true that even great ideas have no economic value, is it also true that the best idea in the world has none? My ideas isn't the best in the world, but it does strike me as unusually good. And I probably would implement this idea to a prototype stage if I weren't involved in other implementations. -- Scott]
 
 
Oct 2, 2012
Nice pitch Scott. So if the take-off succeeds you get 5% of a viable company. If it doesn't you lose absolutely nothing. All you contributed was an idea, and if we accept your own statement that idea has no value.

Ever considered writing a book on how to become a millionaire? That's pretty much the same type of scam.

[A buyer of the idea would have the same information I have. How's that a scam? -- Scott]
 
 
Oct 2, 2012
@swp

[I have the money, but then again so does Scott Adams. As creator of the Dilbert franchise, he is worth approximately $75,000,000. (source: http://www.celebritynetworth.com/richest-celebrities/scott-adams-net-worth/)

So, as a VC I have to ask: why does *he* need *my* money when he clearly has plenty of his own?]


I believe Scott made it clear enough in his post that this is an experiment, he's trying to see if he can sell nothing more than an idea. If it doesn't work maybe he should try your idea, swp, and put up part of the money himself (that is, if he'd be willing to do that and then let the other investor(s) do whatever they want; he did also say he didn't want to be involved in implementation).
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 2, 2012
**I won't ask for a non-disclosure agreement because credible players don't stay in business long if they steal ideas.**

I worked in a patent heavy industry and can testify this is absolutely not true. Many fortunes were made and lost with -me too- ; ideas that were just novel enough...and close enough in time... to satisfy a patent examiner who could not recognize the obvious. People got fired for working on their laptops in public where the competition might look over a shoulder.

In a related vein.....ask people who submit proposals to NIH...and who are turned down by reviewers for lack of novelty....if their research doesn't magically start up in another lab a few months later....a lab with obvious ties to one of the reviewers.

 
 
 
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