Real Life Tips for Pursuing a Big Idea (with an Interesting Backstory)
Once upon a time, I had an idea for a mobile application. I knew it was a solid idea. I wasn’t seeing it on the marketplace being done by anyone else. So I decided to pursue it. And at that time I was in the throes of really learning social media marketing for business. In those days, I was considered a very early adopter of social media and digital and mobile technologies for business. And I really wanted to embrace and take on that role in a stronger way to advance my career and maybe help some other folks out in the process. So the way I even came to the idea of the mobile application was by being very aware of technology and then looking many steps ahead. Though, I was an early adopter of social media at that point, I was not the earliest of adopters. I was being mentored by some folks who had been truly front runners in certain arenas.
It was very truly blessed to meet those folks and be able to be brought into the fold. But I realized quite immediately—a ha—the key to unique success is to look those extra steps ahead and to create solutions that address the things that are to come that most folks aren’t even thinking about at this point. So I did that. I had this mobile application idea not yet developed. Around that time I learned about, in my city, there was a new technology incubator, a group of men (there were no women involved at the time) who would welcome applications. You could submit to present to this committee of fellows from various backgrounds business wise, and they would perhaps become basically angel investors in whatever technologies they chose to support. Um, but you had very constricted timeframe in which to present.
You had to meet certain criteria. So online, I filled out my application, was accepted to present, went to the group, presented my idea. My idea had many tentacles. It could be used in many ways in many markets. And I thought that was an advantage of my mobile application, but what happened was. after I presented to the fellows, they came back to me and said “We dig it. However we would prefer to see it pitched very specifically to one particular marketplace. So you can come back and pitch again, but pick one marketplace where you think it is exceptionally viable and sell us on that.” So I did. I returned for round two.
It was, you know, somewhat like the Shark Tank experience—if you’ve ever have seen that show on television. I pitched my heart out. very intelligently—wapow!—showed them the market that I presumed I could probably break into most quickly and generate the most revenue out of the gate. I still was not selected by the incubator. However, I was contacted by one of the folks on the committee who was still intrigued, and he had spoken with some other of the men on the committee and they wanted to have a further conversation, kind of take me off the grid and see where this idea may go even though it didn’t fit the criteria to make it into that angel investor situation through the incubator. So—very cool, very exciting.
But in the meantime, before that meeting happened, I was on the path. I believed in my idea so strongly that I had already started to carve its place out in the world, whether or not that incubator situation happened or not. So in doing so, I had mentioned it to a client that I already had on my roster. Honestly I mentioned it with no real intention that it might be of application to them. But in being open about what I was working on and enthusiastic about its viability, the person I introduced it to just somewhat offhandedly said, “this absolutely falls in line with something that we’re looking at.” So by the time I met with this group of men who were interested in my mobile app idea, I had a potential client on the hook. And through further discussions with that client, I knew that they did have budget such that it might cover the cost of the development of that app.
Again, I was pitching to that incubator and willing to meet with this group of men about the idea because there is cost involved out of the gate. I’ve got to get mobile application developers on board. There’s all sorts of items that need to be covered by capital that I didn’t necessarily have in hand.
So I go to this meeting, it’s in a high rise in the downtown of my city. You know, you can see the skyline out the window. These men—I believe all of them had been in the incubator pitches, so they were familiar with my concept. Honestly, at that point, when I was presenting, I had this little bubble of exuberance because I was excited about the idea and knew it was truly viable. So, I’m meeting with them, I’m explaining to them how I’ve taken it further than even when they had seen me present previously. And I kind of held the cards to my vest out of the gate that I did have an interested client on the potential hook. As I’m presenting and I get to that point where I might mention that I already have at least one viable option to get this mobile app out in the marketplace, one of the men stops me and—this was in context; it wasn’t arbitrarily out of anywhere, and I honestly don’t remember the full contex—I just remember him basically hitting pause as I presented.
And he said, you know, “we need you to be the cheerleader for this idea. We’ve got the tech guy, we’ve got the money guy, we’ve got the person with experience in the marketplace. We need you to be the cheerleader.”
It was then that I went, “wow, I don’t want to be the cheerleader for my idea. I developed this idea. It came from my brain. I’ve already found a potential spot for it out in the marketplace that would even cover the cost of development potentially. So, hmm, okay. Let’s finish this conversation politely and I’m going to move on.”
I was kind of floored. This was over a decade ago at this point. Frankly, I look back and I marvel that that incubator committee had no women on the panel. They did rectify that soon after I pitched to their organization; they did add one woman to the mix. But more than anything, the language of “we need you to be the cheerleader”? Wow.
I fully acknowledge there’s a lot of sexism in the marketplace. Throughout my career, I have never fixated on that issue. I’m not saying that my experiences have been void of any of that. I realize there been times there were undercurrents of sexism were present in the rooms in which I was working, but I have never lighted on that topic and it’s never been something that I’ve found actually even a huge impediment. I’ve been able to carve my own path. At the point that I was pitching to this incubator group, I was in the throes of launching my very own business that was already starting to go well. So the fact that I was a young woman at the time had nothing to do with holding me back or preventing my success. It worked actually quite well or me.
To some degree, I think, perhaps early in my career, the naïveté to think that that wasn’t an issue in any of my circles actually may have helped me. I do acknowledge there were times in particular where I was brought into the mix and, perhaps, expectations out of the gate might’ve been low just because of my youth and maybe my blonde hair. But in due time, I was always able to prove my value within a mix. And I rarely held back simply because I was a woman, even if I were in the mix of a lot of men or all men in certain situations.I had a level of competence and I knew what I was contributing was unique from the other people in the room, regardless of their gender, and was not impacted by that. But on that day I was like, “Oh my goodness, I have just been invited to be the cheerleader for the mobile application that I conceived and am already on the path to create and get out into the marketplace.”
The great news is that didn’t stop me. I took it as a lesson and a little nugget that I’m here over 10 years later, sharing with you because the most valuable thing that came from that was not even that I got invited to be the cheerleader for my own idea, but that it only served to propel me even more quickly and clearly on the path of my bright idea for business.
So, my best lessons…
I wanted to share them with you—but that backstory makes it a little more intriguing and interesting, I do believe, in light of how things turned out.
So here’s what I learned through developing my mobile application and very intentionally deciding to not be the cheerleader for my idea, but to be the champion of it.
First of all, the idea itself. Look ahead.
If you’re looking for new opportunities in business—oh, my friend—in the cow pasture of life, you got to look steps ahead to know where you’re headed and not step in something.
At the moment that I came up with my mobile application idea, we were in the midst of digital, social, mobile technology starting to really overtake the marketplace. I knew I was an early adopter in social media for business, but that really wasn’t good enough. I wanted to now find the next thing that other people weren’t necessarily paying attention to and jump on that bandwagon and lead it.
So look ahead for ideas. Look ahead for what paths are going to be most easily cleared to bring that idea to life, look for opportunities to apply that idea in the real world. It’s one thing to take note of an opportunity, but if you don’t know how it’s going to have purpose in the marketplace, it may not be viable. So always be looking ahead. That can be an exhausting process because sometimes we’re so busy here in the thick middle.
I, at this point today, am bringing you, strategies and solutions so you have more time for that quality thinking ahead that is going to take your career and your life further than you ever possibly imagined. So if that sounds a little daunting right now, hang with me, cause we can get you there. But that awareness to look ahead is incredibly important in so many ways.
Another thing I learned: don’t wait.
I had the idea and I knew again, if you’re looking ahead and you want to be leading something that most of the marketplace doesn’t even know is coming yet, you can’t dawdle. You cannot sit on your laurels and wait for something to stir around you. You’ve got to stir the pot yourself. So I did not wait. I found that incubator here in my city, I was ready to pitch in no time. And another thing that happened is once they were interested, even when they asked me to come back and pitch the second time and I had great hope that that might lead to something, I was still looking for other paths.
I was not waiting for that one, even though it seemed quite intriguing and possible. I kept moving. So don’t wait. Another great thing that worked to my advantage in that scenario is that I did not wait even when I had that special meeting, that was kind of off the grid with the select group of fellows who potentially could have helped move the ball forward with this mobile app idea. I was still speaking of it. I was still learning about it. I was still figuring out what it was going to take to make it happen. If I had to do it on my own. I didn’t presume that a potentially open door was going to be the answer. I kept moving.
Very important lesson. I learned, thirdly: Know your role.
If you have a vision, if you have an idea, know that it’s your idea.
I say this and I want to footnote it immediately. For those who might be curious, it will take a village likely a quality team that you need to build to take that idea forward. And not just to the finish line, but beyond, you’re going to need more than you. But you need to be solid in your place within the context of that opportunity that you’re creating.
When I was faced with that moment in that meeting where I was invited to be the cheerleader on an idea that I had conceived and was ready to develop, I knew that wasn’t good enough. I had decided in advance…and it wasn’t something I hadn’t thought I’d have to decide in advance…but that was my baby (and I use that term but I don’t really don’t want to ‘cause actually a business is not a baby, and I’ll get to that in a moment), but I knew I needed to maintain leadership in that idea that I was bringing to the market because I not only had the intelligence to do it out of the gate, but I was already learning so much.
I did not want to be separated from that process and just be the mouthpiece, just be the spokesperson, just be the ‘rah-rah – this is cool- ya gotta try it’ kind of person. I wanted to be the champion, not the cheerleader. Know your role, know everyone else’s role, too.
So—as you’re developing an idea, part of what you’re doing, hopefully, is gaining the intelligence to know what it’s going to take to make that happen. As I mentioned, you don’t work as an Island typically when there’s a great idea that needs to come to fruition; you need to build a team, and you need to do that with a lot of savvy. And part of that means knowing what needs to be done, potentially how much time it should take, margin of error for those that you bring onto the team based on the difficulty of what needs to happen, etc.
By the time that the potential client became an actual client, we set a budget that would fascinatingly cover the development of the technology for the mobile app. So I was basically getting my costs covered as I was getting the app to the marketplace. I was very knowledgeable about what would be required of that mobile app in terms of development, so that I built the team intelligently. And I was able to manage them really well. I don’t write code. I am not a mobile app developer by trade, not at all, but I absorbed my brain in the knowledge required to understand what it was going to take. Um, no, I can not sit down and write the code itself, but I actually became acquainted enough to even identify bits of code. There was a Saturday morning as we were developing this mobile app where one of my freelance app developers who was working on…he might’ve been working on the Blackberry version…
Y’all this was back when we had to have a version for Android, iOS/Apple products, and we had to have a Blackberry version. I think it was that fellow, and we were doing an integration and I caught an error because I had done my homework. That worked obviously to my advantage because I’m paying a freelancer by the hour to develop that part of the mobile app. So—know everyone else’s role, too ‘cause you need to know how to manage them.
Then, back to another point,. I let slip a phrase that actually don’t subscribe to for really any approach to business.
I had to remember, this is a business, not a baby.
In other words, as this app developed and I brought it to market and we started to see how its use functioned out in the real world, I had to be incredibly intelligent to know what to continue to pursue, what to pull back on. As excited and exuberant as I was for that mobile app idea and really just the thrill and joy of being able to bring things together, to get it out into the world, I also wanted to use my time extremely well. I wanted to make my efforts go to where it would have the most revenue. So I was able to always keep watch on that mobile app with a soberness to know that I’m developing a business. I’m not trying to pat a little baby on the head because I loved it ‘cause I birthed it. No, it’s a business.
Then I’ve already kind of mentioned this, but learn, learn, learn at every step.
When this started, and I had this idea, the most logical thing for me to presume is that it would be a success, and I would become a mobile app guru. Well, guess what—I did not. But I did become so many more things than I would have ever imagined if I had not pursued this solid idea. I became more savvy in mobile app development and what it takes to bring a new technology into the marketplace. I became really well versed in pitching an idea in front of a very challenging group of human beings from disparate businesses, different walks of life, folks that didn’t know me from Adam—to get up there and articulate a business idea in a way that that may want to spend their big bucks to make it happen. Do you know how phenomenally wonderful and helpful that was for me as a business person?…especially at that point, I was just launching a new endeavor entirely. That was incredible.
I became an entrepreneur through doing this.
A lot of people claim the entrepreneur moniker just because that’s very popular to talk about these days. This was a genuine entrepreneurial endeavor in its most authentic form, in that I knew there was an idea I identified my marketplace and I was willing to do what it takes to carve that path. I learned about me. I learned that if somebody invites me to be the cheerleader, I’m going to hold my ground and be the champion.
It was a great experience with many chapters in hiccups, in adventures along the way. But I just wanted to share this with you today because I hope something in the context of what I’ve mentioned might spark you. Maybe it compels you to invent a new idea or just look ahead in your business or maybe even in your personal life to some degree for what’s coming that other people aren’t even aware of yet.
Hold your ground, know who you are, be ready to learn. Even the technical or hard step that isn’t part of your natural wheelhouse. You will benefit from it.
As I’ve mentioned in so much of the other content I’ve shared out in the world, the journey is really not about that destination. It’s about who you get to become along the way. That can sound rather trite. But if you’re living that, if you’re pursuing something and you acquire all those great skills and know-how and knowledge and wisdom along the way, you’ll absolutely get what I mean.
It’s worth the journey.
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