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 2, 2012
I used to be in the VC industry and although never a partner back then, I'd write to you this very instant. In my present position, I would urge you to send it out to Stephen Wolfram who is part of a venture fund for exactly such ideas (or so I read in Super Freakanomics).
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 2, 2012
Serious offers from VC with $10 million to invest? Probably none.

But let's see if it works the other way, though.

Scott, I have an idea for a SF-action movie that has the potential to earn mega-bucks and change the world a bit. What I don't have is time to write it - which would take two to three months - and I would like to offer you the idea of working together on it. It wouldn't change your lifestyle a bit, but you would have to invest a little money in me (mainly to satisfy my spouse for "losing time on such a long-shot" when you could be working to pay the bills).

I know it's not the same (as just sending an e-mail and reading the idea) as your offer, but I believe it's a small amount of money for you. If we converse via e-mail, I would not need a disclosure agreement (since I would keep all e-mails as evidence). Of course, you can read my idea in detail and then decide if you're willing to invest in it, as well as how much and under what conditions.

What do you say?
Oct 2, 2012
There is a good Russian saying about this, which goes:
- A rouble to the one who conjured the idea, ten to the one who implemented it, and a hundred to the one who sold it.

[Sound like a Russian salesman came up with that saying. -- Scott]
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 1, 2012
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?

[How could someone with no access to my personal information estimate my net worth? I wouldn't put much stock in their estimate. Anyway, your hypothetical cartoonist with $75 million probably wouldn't invest $10 million of his own money on any one idea. But he might invest $1 million each on several different ideas. -- Scott]
Oct 1, 2012
I have a hunch that you have already described your idea in this post, Scott ...

[I like how you think. Are you a cartoon dog with glasses by any chance? But no, my idea is not the idea of selling ideas. -- Scott]
Oct 1, 2012
A more serious obstacle to this working did just occur to me though; you suggested potential VCs read your past blogs. Yes, you also acknowledged that 95 % of your past ideas have probs and you knew it, but I don't see that inspiring confidence in this being an idea worth $10 million.
Oct 1, 2012

[an MBA with motivation and needs funds to protect the idea or implement it quickly, yes someone will invest (watch dragon's den or something)]

Funny, in the Dragons Dens I recall watching the investors typically demanded that the guys with ideas built them into some kind of working business before they invested. Or else that some asset of value already be dedicated to the business. Don't recall them investing in nothing more than an idea.

That would almost qualify as another reason to expect no serious offers to come Scotts way, except in The Den folks typically demanded a lot of money for less than 50 percent of the business. Scott wants no money up front, just 5 percent. So not really comparable.
Oct 1, 2012
an MBA with motivation and needs funds to protect the idea or implement it quickly, yes someone will invest (watch dragon's den or something)

Hands off, no value is my prediction. I have hundreds of ideas, most of them get built by someone else within the next 5-10 years so far. Most people think I'm crazy when I try and explain why it's a good idea at the time of course.
Oct 1, 2012
I think someone will ask to see the idea - because there is basically zero risk involved. I doubt you'll be able to sell it.

VC's usually won't start up and run a new business - especially not with their own money. They probably know people who are looking to start the "next big thing" and can sort of act as an agent to bring your idea to someone who has been successful with internet startups and then fund it. I don't think they'd be able to do this in 2 days, so be patient and consider !$%*!$%*! those terms with someone who may be interested.
Oct 1, 2012
I think an easier route is to find a broke all-star engineer in college that will be more than willing to work on a working prototype, which would then be able to seek funding to more fully develop it.

Somebody like the next Shawn Fanning or Mark Zuckerberg needs to take the idea and make something out of it before people get excited about it.
Oct 1, 2012
I have 2 comments:

1. You said "The value is in going first and locking in the market." - If I had $10 million to invest, I would avoid anything where this (going first) is a requirement. Going first is sometimes an advantage. But going 2nd or 3rd or even 27th is sometimes a bigger advantage. Apple didn't invent the mp3 player. And they didn't invent the cell-phone. And I don't think going first means you will lock in the market. Nokia, Blackberry and Motorola all had "locked" in the market. Now they are struggling.

2. I don't have $10 million. If I did, why would I invest all of it in a risky venture? $10 million pays for a very comfortable lifestyle. Why risk it all? To make $20 million? or $100 million? Why bother when you've already got the $10 million.

What you're looking for is a venture capitalist who doesn't have $10 million, but runs an investment pool (and maybe includes some of his own money). They might want to invest in your idea. But if they invest, they will own the idea. The only way you will make money is if you structure your company so that your share (probably 5% of the company) is still worth something.
Oct 1, 2012
If you get no interest from a VC, you can always try kickstarter. That might get the idea to the point where a VC would be willing to come in and take over.
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Oct 1, 2012
Scott, I know you probably don't want to do the heavy lifting of starting & running a company...but have you considered (if you get no takers) setting the company up as a non-profit and channeling the revenue into a cause you're passionate about?
Oct 1, 2012
"There's a 100% chance that this idea will be implemented someday by someone... 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...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."

So, it's inevitable, will make somebody a ton of money, and will transform the entire world. That's a pretty big ego there Scott, but I like your confidence. Personally I like to dream up billion dollar ideas then sit back passively as others get rich from them. I'm not even bitter about it. I agree with you that it's actually making the idea work where the value lies.

It'll be interesting to see if you can make this work. You might just be able to pull it off, but I can't see the practice becoming widespread.
Oct 1, 2012
I'm just trying to work out the Dogbert angle on this one.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 1, 2012
>>How many of you think that qualified venture capitalists will ask to see the idea?

Zero, but I hope I'm wrong. I'm full of great ideas, or something.
Oct 1, 2012
My prediction, based on the intellectual and moral callibre of people with money, is that you won't be able to sell your idea.

I wish you the best of luck, though. If anyone is a "wealth creator", it's the guy with an original idea.
Oct 1, 2012
Scott - what VC's (or anyone with millions to invest) do for a living is have people come to them and pitch their proposals for the next big thing. They bring business plans, recommendations from common acquaintances, powerpoint packs, and, of course, the claim that their idea will be the next Amazon. You are setting the bar higher in that the VCs have to come to you, send an Email, put together the team, etc., themselves, give you a certain percentage, etc. And these people aren't wanting for ideas which, to them, look like they could be the NBT.

So the question will be asked "what is it about a Scott Adams idea that makes it worth going the extra mile" and doing it his way. No offense, but within that community it's possible that your name/blog/etc don't command the extra attention/effort.

But -I'd- love to know what it is :-)

Oct 1, 2012
I believe that in saying you will release the idea next week you shoot yourself in the foot. The venture capitalists with the $10 mil will just wait until you release the idea with no requirement for equity and pursue it at 100% equity for themselves.

[Why would a VC wait and allow the idea to public, at which point competitors will spring up, when the VC could hear the idea at zero risk just by sending an email? -- Scott]
Oct 1, 2012
Hopefully this blog will get picked up by the Wall Street Journal or Huffington Post - some media that can expand the exposure. I suspect that most of your fans (including me) are cube dwellers who don't have $10 mil lying around. One note - I hope you'd give priority to American entrepeneurs.
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