I had defined a vision, a financial objective, a timing, and a business model, now I needed an actual idea. How should I go about finding one?
There is much talk about following your passion. I never found this concept very useful. If someone is lucky enough to have a true passion, he/she would already be very active following it, if only as a hobby. If not, that would not be a passion, would it?
Instead, I find the concept of passion quite paralyzing because it prevents too many people from moving forward until they find that all-encompassing obsession.
Personally, I have successfully opened many markets, developed many products, built various businesses, and yet I cannot say I was really passionate about any of them. I fully enjoyed all the projects, the journey, and the experiences, but I had no qualms about leaving them behind and moving to the next thing. If I had been waiting to find a passion, I would still be looking around having accomplished very little.
Instead of looking for this ever-fleeting passion, I prefer to focus on the convergence of market trends, personal skills and interests, brainstorming techniques, and consultations within my network.
Perhaps a real passion will eventually develop as a result of implementing an idea, and perhaps not. Does it matter really? That is not the objective, is it? You are probably doing work today that you are not so passionate about anyways.
I look for trends that have a good probability to explode in the short or medium term because it is always easier to operate in a market in expansion: You do not have to be the best to generate some value. ‘In a stock market where every stock rises, being a winning stock picker is not so difficult…’.
At the end of the 90s, we were at the beginning of the internet revolution and few people could imagine where it would lead us. I was not one of them. I just sensed that the internet was here to stay in some fashion and it could be valuable to jump on the bandwagon and occupy an early position. That’s what I did.
I used the same approach in 2014 seeing the early rise of social media. I launched a couple of projects that eventually led to valuable expertise generating millions of martial arts followers and providing some inspiration for my son to independently develop a very successful media company of his own.
Nowadays, one may look at the aging population, the warming of the planet, population increase in Africa, IT security, customization, AI, etc. as trends that have a high probability to exponentially grow in the foreseeable future, therefore potentially offering a wave worth riding.
The key as we will see further is not only to look at these trends, and anticipate their continued growth, but to decide to actively engage in them now!
AREA OF EXPERTISE / INTEREST:
It is often easier to operate in a sector you know. It significantly reduces the learning curve in terms of time and investment.
At the time, I was working in Moscow and had strong expertise in the consumer goods and retail sector of the ex-Soviet Union having already spent 10 years in the region. It was also the time when modern retail chains were just entering the market.
I knew the key players in major multinational companies, distribution, and retail organizations across the country. I had a good understanding of the idiosyncrasies of the supermarkets, suppliers, and manufacturers operating in Russia. I could develop an intuition with a decent probability about the challenges they would face in their transformation towards modern trade practices. Perhaps I could help alleviate them...
After much thinking, consultations, and brainstorming sessions with a CEO of a distribution company who ended up being a friend and co-founder of the new venture, the idea that best corresponded to the convergence of all these elements and the subscription business model was to launch a B2B reverse auction platform for retail buyers.
We called it CISLink and planned to offer a service that would connect supermarkets with their existing suppliers. We would facilitate the placing of their daily orders through an automated reverse auction. The service would be free to retailers and subject to a fee for suppliers participating in the auction. By choosing a flat fee of $100/month paid by the supplier rather than a success fee based on auction results, we potentially limited our revenues but greatly simplified our operations, accounting, liabilities, and fixed costs.
The challenge was to convince retailers of the advantages of the solution: lower purchase prices, time-saving, simplification of their operations, fewer human errors, and fewer possibilities for corruption. I will pass on many details but knowing that a large retailer has thousands of qualified suppliers, that Western chains were opening new stores every month, and that the cost of operating our solution was pretty much fixed whatever the volume of auctions we processed, you may understand how the project represented an opportunity with significant scaling potential.
TRAVEL UPDATE - STAGE 6
Distance: 14.0 km
Cumulative Elevation: 459 m
Time: 3 hours