An attractive young woman went out for a long run. She picked her route carefully, avoiding sketchy neighborhoods. But despite her best precautions, she could never feel completely safe in New York City, miles from her apartment, especially after dark. 

Her 110 pound frame sliced through the night leaving nothing but the sound of her running shoes on the pavement.  If necessary, she knew she could outrun almost any pursuit that came on foot. Assailants generally give up before the twenty-mile mark. It bothered her that she even had to have such thoughts. She kicked it up a notch.

Parked cars and lamp posts whizzed by. She thought she saw something that looked out of place, but it was just a rogue napkin blown by the wind. Settle down, she told herself. Don't be concerned about random motion in the night. Keep running. Get your miles. It's the only way you can sleep tonight.

She could see the shadowy outlines of three young males in the distance. They didn't look like trouble, necessarily, but she crossed the street anyway and planned her escape routes just in case. One of the men said something and the other two laughed. It sounded as if a comment had been directed at her. She kept her head down and put the three men in her past.

As she crossed the five-mile mark, she couldn't help wondering what would happen if someone with evil intent grabbed her. How long would it be until her husband knew she was in trouble? How long does an adult have to be missing before the police take it seriously?

She had her smartphone with her, but who has time to dial a number and make an emergency call during an attack? It takes time to get to your phone. Then you have to concentrate to get to the right mode.  Are you wearing gloves? If you get the gloves off, do you have time to dial 911, explain your situation, and give your location?

She had these thoughts every time she ran, which was nearly every day. And she knew that others must sometimes feel the same way.  There are some environments that feel unsafe no matter what precautions you take. As she ran, she tried to work out a solution. What she needed was a quick way to activate her phone in an emergency. And once activated, it needed to call for help automatically and give her location. But how?

At this point in the story you need to know that the runner's father is an electrical engineer living in California. The runner and her dad talked about the problem and brainstormed a variety of solutions. The best of the ideas turned into a patent application, a prototype, and now a business that just launched. The product is called MyRingGuard.

It's a ring that pairs with your Android phone (iPhone version will follow) via Bluetooth. If you're out by yourself, and you encounter trouble, just press the button on the ring to send an emergency text message via your phone to whoever you pre-designate. The text message will say you're in trouble and it will give your GPS coordinates. Obviously that won't stop an attack in progress, but at least you'll know help is on the way, and the help will have a good idea where to find you.

To me, the interesting part of this story is how two people starting with nothing but an idea can form a company that designs, manufactures, and markets a consumer product. I'm fascinated by the fact that none of the components of the business are physically in the same place. Most of it was outsourced by contract.

CEO (the runner): New York City

Engineer (the runner's dad): California

Industrial design: Argentina

Tooling design: Australia

Prototype: China

Electronics design: Romania

Firmware design: Hungary

App design: Hungary

Production: China (by a New York based company)

This sort of everywhere-at-once company structure would have been impractical ten years ago. In the old days, ideas were worthless and implementation was everything. We're entering a phase where implementation is a commodity that is universally available at a reasonable price. The real value is shifting to the quality of ideas. It's not a complete shift - someone still has to coordinate all of the disparate parts - but you can see the trend: If your idea kicks ass, and you have access to the Internet, you have the entire world to help with implementation. You can even crowdsource part of the funding, as the runner and her father did.

Along these same lines, a few weeks ago I teased you by saying I had a valuable idea I would try to "sell" to a venture capitalist - for someone else to implement - just to test my hypothesis that even unpatented ideas are beginning to have economic value. I can report to you today that the result of my experiment is a qualified success.  I was able to find a highly capable investor willing to form a company around my idea and grant me an equity position in return for my contribution, which will be mostly around defining the idea in more detail. That's not quite "selling" an idea, and there is a lot of distance between deciding to form a company and actually creating something of value. I'll also end up doing some actual work, but that should be manageable. (My idea will need to stay secret for now. Sorry!)

Implementation will always be important, but the shift to an ideas-based economy is underway.

Disclosure: The runner and her dad are friends of mine and I have an interest in the company's success. The opening story has some literary flourishes but it's accurate in a "based on a true story" way.

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Oct 25, 2012
Pleasantly surprised my comment already surprisingly well received or perhaps Americans have not yet woken up.

As you suggest it's not pretty for you on the gun deaths per capita front:

Perhaps it's just me but I like my friends and family to stay safe. Carrying a gun makes you 4.2 times more likely to be killed by one:

But you asked how other crime is going for us (how kind!) - pretty well it seems thanks - it is dropping as it is across Euope and indeed your side of the pond:

Overall in terms of a comparison I guess that is a tricky thing to do but here is one such:
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Oct 25, 2012
Yeah, I'm not sure how that kind of device is supposed to do any good at all. Most attacks last seconds (a couple/few minutes at most). Even if you were freaking clairvoyant and could trigger it while your attacker was still walking towards you, you still wouldn't have a chance of anyone showing up before it's all over.

Just carry a gun, duh.

[The ring is designed so you can easily activate it with your thumb even if an assailant grabs you by the arms. Your idea of going for a run while carrying a loaded firearm is. . . suboptimal. -- Scott]
Oct 25, 2012

[I know I'll get negged out for this comment on this site - but surely it may be better to move to a place where people DON'T have ready access to firearms and a hair trigger willingness to use them? }

Hows that working for you? Yes, I know, fewer gun deaths, thats not what I meant. I meant other categories of crime. Sexual assault. Robberies. Things that might be prevented by the victim being able to draw a gun and say 'stop or else'.

Or maybe this is a question better answered in another blog. How about it Scott?
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Oct 25, 2012
I know I'll get negged out for this comment on this site - but surely it may be better to move to a place where people DON'T have ready access to firearms and a hair trigger willingness to use them? I saw a recent program that reckoned the stand your ground amendments alone has caused 600 more gun deaths in the US. Sure, it's what you all are used to and you love them and all I understand that - from here (UK) it just seems mental, sorry.
Oct 25, 2012
You can buy this "new" product:


The website does exist since end of 2006.

[You would carry that device plus your phone while going for a run? -- Scott]
Oct 25, 2012
Now that you've had an idea and hopefully, will soon have a product you may realise that probably the most important thing in business is marketing. There are lot of good ideas and good products which simply did not sell.
Oct 25, 2012
[An attractive young woman went out for a long run.]

So if she was really rough, a total munter even, this product would be of no use to her then?
Oct 25, 2012
"imo paradigm shifting is a function of leadership. When information and communication approach infinity, the real limiting factor then becomes managing/leadership, capital/resources, or some other non-idea based limitation."

What if the paradigm shift _is_ the idea? Your competitors will first have to get over their confirmation bias that you've lost your marbles and they're doing great. Once they do and try to catch up, you've already taken the lead and a sizable chunk of marketshare.

Naturally, implementation and leadership is still a factor. But less so because its the paradigm shift that makes the whole difference.
Take the iPad for example. Tablets had been tried before, but thinking of them as dedicated media consumption devices was the real game changer.
Oct 25, 2012
[How do you get any money from an idea without communication and information? I think you're confused and are saying 'Ideas highest value is when communication and information are non-existent' when you really mean 'Ideas highest value is when it can be monopolized'. ]

yeah i didnt address IP. You are discussing ideas whose content itself is the value, instead of ideas whose implementation is their value.

My take on scotts hypothetical was not IP, although his end product could hide under that umbrella after created. His idea is not married to any particular set of lines of code. His idea is many levels more abstract.

the only time exploded information and communication doesnt devalue an idea, is when you corner the market on some resource or access requirement. IP corners the market on access. there is no actual barrier to someone stealing his software and selling as their own, except as law restricts them. in that scenario, its not the idea thats valueable, its the control of govt force. the ideas are ubiquitous over the internet by pirates and opensourcers.
Oct 25, 2012
["Ideas lose their leverage once explained unless you have some draconian patent."

I think you're absolutely right.
However, there is a class of ideas that transcends these pitfalls.
Ideas that require a paradigm shift are completely immune to what you describe. Ideas like those can often hide in plain sight due to the nature of paradigm shifts; people won't really understand it until they make the jump, and the competition won't take you serious before its too late. ]

imo paradigm shifting is a function of leadership. When information and communication approach infinity, the real limiting factor then becomes managing/leadership, capital/resources, or some other non-idea based limitation.

under those !$%*!$%*!$%*! the informational value of the idea is near zero, the real challenge in your hypothetical is leadership.

in sports, its not enough to know a workable game plan. you have to execute your strategy.

when EVERYONE has a good game plan, a good idea is devalued. a type of inflation. having a good idea is meaningless, as an advantage, when everyone already knows it and can do it themselves. thats just an even playing field.

i dont think i was wrong to say as information and communication explode, ideas value plummets. implementation then separates chaff from wheat.
Oct 24, 2012
@Phantom II

...I dunno...I still think my interpretation makes more sense. I mean...if an assailaint starts chasing her at the 19-mile mark does it make sense that theyd give up at the 20-mile mark? Either Im right in what Scott intended or it makes less sense than we thought.

You say, however, that you're a regular runner so I will bow to your wisdom on the other point that you made; that even a daily run that exceeds five miles is a bit much.

Oct 24, 2012
@whitllnew: No confusion on my part. She, in Scott's novella, says they (the assailants) usually give up before she hits the 20-mile mark. That would imply that she runs past the 20-mile mark. But the whole thing was absurd to begin with, if you want to pick nits. In the novella, she's passing the five-mile mark, which means she's still somewhere in the body of her run, not yet close to being finished. That's a hell of a long run to do daily.

My point, for which I was trying to use mild sarcasm to make, was that the first rule of writing fiction is to have at least a modicum of understanding of your topic. Scott is obviously not a runner, nor does he realize that nobody runs twenty miles on a near-daily run, and rarely does anyone run more than five. I only run three miles three times a week, although I'm an old guy.

I have read novels that said, for example, that every time an airplane reaches a new Mach number (from Mach one to Mach two, for example) it generates a new sonic boom. So according to this author, when a plane goes from Mach 1 to Mach 4, it generates four separate sonic booms. I read one a while ago where a flushing airplane toilet sucked the guts out of a passenger. I've read two novels recently, both of which talked about a payout to someone using $500 bills, when the largest bill currently in circulation is a $100 bill.

Sorry my point was made so obtusely. I'll try to be more direct the next time so I don't cause confusion.
Oct 24, 2012
Sorry. Edit on the last sentence of my last post.

'Says she can run that far once if she has to'
Oct 24, 2012
@Phantom II

[Second paragraph, second and third sentences, and I quote: " If necessary, she knew she could outrun almost any pursuit that came on foot. Assailants generally give up before the twenty-mile mark."]

Okay. I can see how you might be confused. Read those sentences again. Doesn't say she runs that every day. Says she can if she has to.
Oct 24, 2012

Second paragraph, second and third sentences, and I quote: " If necessary, she knew she could outrun almost any pursuit that came on foot. Assailants generally give up before the twenty-mile mark."

A marathon is 26 miles 385 yards. If she's passing the twenty-mile mark, then she's more than 3/4 of the way to running a marathon. If it were me, my dessicated corpse would have been found around the five-mile mark, which Scott's woman friend passes in the first sentence of the fifth paragraph.
Oct 24, 2012
A thin, tired man went out for a short walk. He picked his route carefully, avoiding painful rose thorns. But despite the effects of White House honey ale and a Marlboro, he could never feel completely relaxed in Washington, D.C.

His 180 pound frame stepped through the cool night, leaving nothing but the sound of his wingtips and the shoes of several Secret Service agents on the garden pavers. If necessary, one agent had the nuclear "football" and another, the mobile hotline to Air Force One. He breathed in a hit of sweet, sweet tobacco. No, there will be no nuclear war tonight.

Bo, the black and white Portuguese water dog whizzed on a bush. Beyond Bo, he thought he saw something out of place -- but it was just a feral cat left over from the Carter administration. No reason to get upset. Just keep going. Puffing, sipping ale and humming Kenyan songs from his youth.

But then -- up ahead! What is it?! It's -- it's a FISCAL CLIFF!! Quick, hand the beer to one of the agents and activate the Fiscal Cliff Rescue Ring. Instantly, a text message is sent to Congress saying, "Enact a plan to reduce deficits $4 trillion over the next decade." Whew, crisis averted.

Oct 24, 2012
There is an iPhone app called ICE Pic, video below, that does the same thing but also sends a picture of the assailant. No special ring to buy either.

As an idea-oriented guy myself, I have come to realize that if you can think of an App idea, it is likely already available, or coming soon. And, to make it worse, and incredible number of people seem to be willing to give stuff away for free, so it is fast becoming a no-profit zone.

Oct 24, 2012
@Phantom II

...Umm...where did you get the idea she runs a marathon a day from? 'Five mile mark' was the only indication I saw of how far she ran.
Oct 24, 2012
The most amazing thing that came out of your "based on a true story" is that your woman friend runs a marathon almost every day!!! ". . . [they] generally give up before the TWENTY MILE MARK. . . [Caps mine, obviously]. Wow!

The average time for a marathon is around four and one-half hours. So if your friend starts out when she gets home from work, say at 5:30 PM, then it would be around 10 PM when she staggers back into the house. And she wonders, if something happens to her, when her husband will figure it out?

How about the next morning? He's probably already in bed asleep before she gets home, having fixed himself a sandwich for dinner while bemoaning the fact that he married a woman who runs almost five hours every day. I wonder if he ever gets to see her, let alone gets to engage in, shall we say delicately, connubial bliss. I'm in awe of them both.

And now she's the CEO of a company? When does she find the time? If she has to run a marathon just to get to sleep each night, how can she even move the next morning?

Something tells me your "based on a true story" has taken some license with the facts. Marathoners, when they're working up to run one, generally do about five miles a day. I have never heard of a non-Kenyan running more than ten.

Here's the idea for your next company: bottle whatever it is that allows her to abuse her body that much and then still weigh a reasonable 110 pounds, rather than be skin-and-bones enough to make a skeleton look chubby. Not to mention having the stamina to run over twenty miles every day just to be able to fall asleep. Has she never heard of Ambien?

Now, on to your topic. At last. How do you protect your ideas from theft? Particularly international theft? The Chinese have a subscription to our patents, and when they get them, they steal them. So a patent may protect you here, but not internationally. And if you don't patent them, you have no protection other than right of prior invention, which as I recall is being or has been changed under the Obama administration to be right of first patent application.

So while ideas may be valuable, the question is, valuable to whom? To the originator, or to the thief?
Oct 24, 2012
Since you need to keep the phone on you to work, how about an app that does the same thing but the trigger mechanism is your scream via already built in voice recognition sdk... no extra super ugly hardware needed... I could put that together in a weekend...
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