Sunday, November 22, 2009

Want to Start a Toaster Company?

I've always wanted to start a toaster company. We'd make toasters that cook toast (and bagels, too!) and they'd be the best on the market. Pretty much every other company making toasters would copy us as best as possible within the limitations of the U.S. Patent system. Just imagine making money hand over fist selling $20 toasters. Hell, we could make like Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn and go crashing weddings, selling our super-toasters.

You: Why toasters, Dave? That seems to be a pretty weird market to want to get in to. Me: Because I don't know anything about toasters.

That's right: I want to start a toaster company because I don't have the slightest clue about the toaster market.

But let's look at this idea with my glasses on. The toaster market's only innovation in my lifetime is making the slot larger so that bagels can go in there too. There's got to be something I can do that pushes the market a little harder. The idea ends up being to take my knowledge and experiences from one unrelated industry and putting it together with another that hasn't had much real change in quite a while. Add in there that toasters are in every single home in America and they aren't really durable goods (like a fridge or dryer). It could even be considered a seasonal product during the spring and summer wedding seasons. Looks like there could be a few new angles to approach on the marketing side too...

There's obviously great value in using people that already have specific domain knowledge for your industry. The process of getting up to speed on the toaster market would take time and energy. Learning who the players are in the electric coil supply industry take time and energy. When starting a business, it's much easier to hire those specialized people and get to market faster. Plus, I don't want someone coming in to my office that used to assemble toasters telling me that my web services I spent week developing and testing sucks because it's old fashioned and can't cook bagels.

You: Let's crash some weddings! Yeehaw!

The toaster company is just an analogy and I'm not planning on going that route in business, so don't get too excited about crashing the weddings and writing it off as 'business expenses'. It's more of an idea of finding new, (seemingly) unrelated knowledge sources and applying them to what you're doing day in, day out.

Having an open mind and actively seeking for innovation are critical to long term success in any industry. Applying principles and ideas from outside sources is a great way to refresh your mind and vigor when ideas are stale.

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