Last weekend I had a conversation with my neighbor in which he started telling me about a television show called Shark Tank. I haven't seen it (watch little-to-know tv), but apparently entrepreneurs and inventors pitch their ideas to a group of wealthy experts, and then, if things go well, one of the experts chooses to invest in the inventor's idea, making them wealthy. It sounds like Antique Road Show for inventors.
According to my friend, the experts aren't just looking for a good idea, but they want a good idea that is already getting some traction in the marketplace, and then they will infuse money and take it big time. Basically, they want to take a small, but growing concern, to the next level, as opposed to taking an idea all the way from the drawing board to a business.
This observation interested me because I've heard it in other industries as well.
Last summer I spent several days in a recording studio recording a books-on-tape version of my first book. During the breaks (and by the way, that much reading was surprising hard work. I have new respect for voice-over artists!), I talked with the young guys who owned the studio, and they told the same story. According to them, record labels aren't looking for the most talented singers to make into stars, rather they want people who have already developed a following, and then the label can increase their success. (For a recent example, see Rebecca Black).
Likewise, I've heard from several authors, an agent, and an editor that the book publishing world is the same. Publishers prefer authors who already have a big "platform"--basically a group of people who pay attention to what the author is already saying, whether via a blog, sermons, articles, or whatever.
This leads me to wonder what it is that I do that can be taken to the next level, with the right amount of money. For a long time it was obvious... with sufficient funding I could have become a spokesperson for Ben and Jerry's! But, now, I've given up the hard stuff, so that's out. I really like presenting social statistics, especially about religion, but it's not clear to me that there's a "big time" for that. So that leaves me with either building stone walls or making smoothies, both of which I've developed quite a reputation for, at least among my immediate family. So, venture capitalists, give me a call!