People have asked me through the years how I come up with ideas for starting companies. I'm frequently asked how hard it is to find a new company to start when I finish working on my previous company. The answer is reasonably simple: There are ALWAYS some things I'd like to do. As I have ideas sometimes I go through my list of great ideas and pick one. Other times others come to me with ideas and see if I want to work with them on the idea. The point is - I never have to try to find an idea - there are alwoys more great ideas then I have time/money for. If any of the following are interesting to you and you'd like to participate - let me know!
I must preface this by admitting: I have never raised enough money to start a company-I have always personally self funded everything I've done. I think it part this is because I talk about both the positives (opportunities) I know about as well as the negatives (challenges). It is the second part that I think has been my reason for lack of success in this area. As a result, I seem to always end up starting companies that I can personally afford to start and operate - I seem to be able to sell myself better than other people! However, for example, the ICF company below, I am working with a partner who does have experience raising money so that will be his responsibility, my responsibility will be to make the company profitable if/when he completes his responsibility.
A new robot vacuum. I won't go into details, but I have experience with robot vacuums. I have spent hours purposely watching them work (always while doing something else like eating, reading a book) and I came up with many pages of, mostly significant, improvements, many of which should be patentable (and therefore won't be noted here). I haven't figured out how much investment I would want, I just know that $3-4M is probably in the rght range so the amounts above are probably safe numbers, I will be doing a more careful budget before spending any investor's money (including my own) of course, but in round numbers: I'm figuring about $1-1.75M in product development. About $1M in marketing and another $800K-1.25M in production molds and a final $500K-$1M for general business expenses and other expenses. If you want to see and/or buy the current best competing product, go to iRobot. Until mine is produced theirs is by far the best - and I use their product in my home - all the while wishing mine was ready to use instead. Unless someone decides they want to fund this project, I won't be going ahead until I can afford to fund it myself or through companies I control/influence, and I don't expect the ability to do that for a few years.
If you have ever used a robot vacuum and you have suggestions you want to share with me - let me know, I'll keep you in mind for a beta tester when I get around to doing this company. And if you have $3M+ that says I should make this my top priority - let me know!
This company would develop a significant system for them, the details I'm not releasing publically right now. I have no plans to move this project ahead unless I can get one of the large companies to come behind me on it. I have not had time to approach them properly on it and so, I haven't approached them yet! If I found a marketing person that would be willing to take on that side of the role, I would consider starting sooner. If and when one signs on, there may or may not be an opportunity to invest, depending on what direction the first customer decides to take.
2012: This one is cancelled. It was a great idea, but 2 other companies how now done it and it is no longer a good one for me to pursue. If we had been earlier it would have been great, but I didn't have the cashflow at the right time to do this. No problem - there are lots of other great ideas!
An interesting idea for a vastly improved Electric fence controller. Probably require about $2 to do this one.
The key to how I like, and succeed in doing business, is to manage teams of people, each person working on their areas of strength and expertise. I direct them, and them give them as much leeway as their skills and experience deem appropriate. I do not ever micro-manage. While I maintain the absolute right to make any decision, I exercise this right judiciously and encourage all people below me in the structure to think independently and not be afraid to make decisions.
But looking at my track record, though I've run multiple companies, I've never raised money for a project - so far I always use my own money for every project of mine. So being realistic, I'll probably have to wait until I can do them myself. As I have the money and time available, I evaluate the current best options and go for them.
Some have been started and are successful. A couple simply became obsolete because I did not earn the money needed to start them in time - and as time passes, ideas that would have been good ideas are no longer. I list the above ideas because, I'd prefer to start them now with a partner, than wait until I have access to the capital to do them myself. So the ones above will either become ideas that I personally fund later or they will become obsolete and drop off the list.