From Purple Cow To Startup Unicorn

The news of billion dollar valuations leads most to believe a well thought out startup ideas is like hitting the Powerball jackpot. Combine the tired mantra of chase your dreams with a little research into the billions thrown around by venture capital these days, and people flock to hackathons and StartUp Weekend events believing they have a clue how to do it.

The truth of the matter is most fail to gain any kind of traction. Not because the idea is bad or because no one understands the apparent genius before them. Instead, the idea just isn't interesting enough. The idea isn't remarkable enough to warrant any kind of reaction other than "It sounds like a good idea."

Be A Purple Cow First

Being a purple cow means being interesting enough to make people stop and say to their friend "Did you see that?" I got the term from this Seth Godin TedX talk in 2007. He talked about how his marketing attempts win and lose based upon one thing: Being remarkable.

The best possible example of this is Uber. Not just because it was a great idea at the right time, but because of what Uber has become. It spawned a whole new concept of work and economy. Uber is the example of the sharing/gig economy everyone cites. It has become it's own noun. Now that the word has infected the lexicon, Uber is never going away.

Uber is such a remarkable idea there are wireframe software kits where you can build your mobile app to be the "Uber for X." The letter X is the variable. In my life it might be Uber or Umpires. Not that I would build such an app, but you get the idea.

No one talks about Uber's competition like this. There is no Lyft for food delivery, or Didi for lawn maintenance. 

From my own experience and the founders I spoke to, interesting is how HipPocket is turning the real estate world in its head with a new spin on the MLS. Lomics is another interesting app as it removes all the dead time from user-generated video and captures the good stuff into a comic strip. Each is remarkable in its sphere.

Hold On A Minute. . .

There's another piece to this equation that is deeper and requires more thought and planning. It's timing. Bill Gates invented the tablet years before Steve Jobs made it popular. Jobs once stated this as true. What Jobs did was reintroduce the idea at the right time.

This TedX talk by Bill Gross is the other vital piece to the startup equation. Your idea may be great, be well designed, and thought out. If it doesn't fit the current market, it will fail. Richard Branson founded Virgin Galactic in 2004. That's well before Elon Musk started wasting his money on it. Now that NASA is outsourcing it's work because of cost, the moment may finally be right for Branson and Musk to cash in.

That's The Magic Sauce

All this sounds rather simple on the surface. Then again, these startups also thought the same thing. A real entrepreneur understands this formula and fails many times before hitting the mark. 

You might believe you have the next billion dollar idea, but if no one finds your idea remarkable, it's not really a good idea. You aren't a tortured, misunderstood genius. Your idea just sucks.

You can watch all the videos on YouTube about building the next billion dollar startup. You can read every startup book written enough times to quote Eric Ries from memory. Unless you can get the right audience to stop and look, all the technology and logic in the world doesn't sell unless people care. Just remember: Feelings sell. Facts confirm the bias.

Before you order that new private yacht, be interesting first.