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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 24, 2012
I know something she could use, been around for a long time... It's called a handgun... She could get a nice little bersa .380... then apply for a Carry Conceal Weapon in New York for $10. Police are many minutes away when you need them in seconds.
 
 
-11 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 24, 2012
@uhmdown

["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.]

What do you mean 'too late'? If there is no patent the competition can jump in anytime they want.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 24, 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.
 
 
Oct 24, 2012
The signal from the ring could also enable the cell phone's microphone and start recording so that if something were to happen, there would be evidence to identify what happened during the emergency.
 
 
Oct 24, 2012
@johnhanauer

[How unfortunate that the website looks so .... unprofessional.]

What website? www.roadid.com?
 
 
Oct 24, 2012
@language

[Ideas highest value is when communication and information are non-existent.]

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'.
 
 
Oct 24, 2012
How unfortunate that the website looks so .... unprofessional.
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 24, 2012
How about the process for creating ideas? In my experience people who need a solution typically have no idea how easily their issue could be addressed. People who have the ability to address the issue have no idea the problem exists.

People like me who are often in the middle - writing marketing copy for products - try to bring those groups together. In my case - I've learned not to trust marketing professionals to understand why people buy the product. They rely on developers to tell them why it's awesome. Sales people know why customers buy -but they typically don't understand marketing. They just want some awesome promotion that moves product. They don't care about some larger positioning campaign - or even new product development. They are in front of prospects in the moment and want to make a sale.

Executives - except for those rare few who make the effort to get in front of customers on a regular basis - are even more out of the loop than the marketing team. They hear only the rosiest scenarios from people promoting their own genius.

Too few companies bring the right people together in one place and work through a process that sparks real creativity. (NOT traditional brainstorming. That rarely works as advertised.) I've done it successfully in the past - but I have no desire to manage projects or people ever again. As such, I am essentially just a copywriter. I'm paid well enough because I'm good at what I do - but I do sometimes get frustrated at all the lost opportunities. I can bring people together to get the information I need for a particular campaign - but rarely anything beyond that.
 
 
Oct 24, 2012
consider the value of the idea of inviting ppl into your store, providing them a place to sit, cooking them food, and selling it to them.

It's an awesome idea.

For this idea, communication and information have destroyed any innate value the idea may have once had.

There is no reinventing this wheel.

The only obstacle is implementation.

Proper or visionary implementation is the limiting factor. This is what restaraunts really provide. Not a unique idea, its been done to death.

Ideas highest value is when communication and information are non-existent.
 
 
Oct 24, 2012
As information and communication explode I believe the value becomes initiative, not ideas.

Ideas become ubiquitous, but vision and initiative FOR a specific idea turn it into something.

When I was a kid, my dad had this great idea to lay a giant tarp on the lawn (it was a gentle slope), and run the hose from the top, and for ppl to slide down it. We would always say its a great idea and he ought to make it a product and sell it.

I'm sure all across America middle class neighborhoods did the same thing. About 10 years later Slip and Slide came out.

Ideas lose their leverage once explained unless you have some draconian patent. opensource is the wave of the future for poor ppl.

ideas are not a good vehicle for turning effort into money. As we see from your example, you are ending up doing some work. Your real contribution here is taking the initiative. The idea has no monetary value in an open society. ideas are more like a raw resource from the public consciousness; as communication and information approach infinity ideas value approaches zero.

And even if you could find someone to take the vision and initiative workload off your hands, you spend all your time making sure you don't get cheated. And who knows, maybe someone else has greater claim to the idea than you. Why should you profit when they "deserve" it more?

One of the main problems of "monetizing ideas" is that you never know if you are the first person to come up with an idea. How can you sanely patent it? If you do, you aren't proven to be the first, just the first who bothered getting a govt recognized monopoly.
 
 
Oct 24, 2012
As a school teacher, I see the Falicy of Uniqueness all the time. The issue is not going to be getting good ideas, it will be separating the wheat from the chaff (such as it is). I love that you are in a position to sell an idea. I hope you will remember your loyal blog readers when it comes time for offering the stock for public sale...
 
 
+18 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 24, 2012
she should have just bought a treadmill
 
 
Oct 24, 2012
Just want to say congratulations on getting an investor to run with your idea, Scott.

Hope it works out for everyone!
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 24, 2012
Your friends may want to consider partnering with Road ID. The products are complementary and Road ID has pretty good market penetration.

www.roadid.com
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 24, 2012
Who's able to watch the patent databases for applications by a "Scott Adams"?
 
 
Oct 24, 2012
I dunno, Scott. Implementation still involves work, some know-how of what you're doing and money. And everyone has an idea. Maybe several ideas. I grant you that theres a shift underway; ideas are becoming more important and implementation less in creating new businesses, but I can't help thinking that implementation will always be more valuable than ideas simply because its harder and less plentiful.
 
 
 
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