Being mocked for crazy ideas!


New ideas are often laughed at, particularly the ideas that have the biggest impact! Often people are so entrenched in their way of thinking, and so unwilling to look at alternatives that affect their existing position, that they can’t see the opportunity (or the threat) in a new idea.

The inventor Charles Kettering once said (with a touch of sarcasm) “people are very open-minded about new things as long as they are exactly like the old ones”.

Imagine someone going onto Dragons Den saying “we will be the worlds biggest taxi business but we won’t own any vehicles”. They would receive five “I’m out!”‘s very quickly. Uber is now worth something like $50 billion.

Or someone pitching “we are going to be a hotel business but we won’t own a single room”. I think they would have struggled to convince a potential investor that they weren’t crazy. Airbnb is worth over $30 billion.

In 1806 entrepreneur Frederick Tudor hacked some ice from a frozen lake in New England and towed it behind a boat all the way to Mustique in the Caribbean to sell to wealthy clients who wanted cold drinks at sunset. It sounds crazy but this was the start of a huge global industry that reached the United States, South America, India, China and Australia. Entrepreneurs literally hacking giant chunks of ice from glaciers, frozen lakes and icebergs to transport by barge and railway to warm countries to sell to people to keep in their basements to keep food fresh. In turn the ice industry revolutionised several other major industry’s; meat packing, vegetable and fruit distribution, fishing and brewing. The ice industry lasted over 100 years and at its peak was worth two thirds of a billion dollars in current terms.

But then in 1913 the domestic fridge was invented and within a few short years the market for natural ice had collapsed.

Is this so different to Kodak filing for bankruptcy in 2012 because they grossly underestimated the threat of digital technology to their stranglehold on the markets for non-digital cameras and photographic film.

And do your know the real irony of that story?

Who do you think invented the digital camera? Kodak!

Who do you think launched the first digital camera? Kodak!

Who do you think launched the first wi-fi enabled camera which allowed users to share their photos digitally? Kodak!

Who bought Ofoto in 2001, one of the first online photo sharing services? Kodak!

But where did Kodak made most of their money? Selling photographic film. And what would these new digital cameras do to that precious revenue stream? They would destroy it. So Kodak shelved the project and allowed others to pick up from where they had left off. And that decision led to the failure of the entire business.

As Steve Jobs said “never be afraid of cannibalising yourself. If you don’t cannibalise yourself someone else will.”

Look at the way that Walkman under-invested in digital music players to milk its cassette players and allowed Apple to launch the
i-pod. And look at how that i-pod has evolved…just think about the smart phone in your pocket. That phone is the beginning of the end for several enormous industries; landline telephone services, conventional SLR cameras, personal music players, analogue television, cinema, newspapers, book publishing, greeting cards, watches, diaries, alarm clocks and maps are all being replaced by your humble phone. So…never think a new idea is too stupid or too outlandish!

Look at the way that the directors of Blockbuster laughed at Netflix when it was launched.

There is an old German proverb: “an old error is always more popular than a new truth.”

So don’t be scared of trying something that no one else seems to believe in.

Gareth John, Tutor & Director at First Intuition









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