The Nontrepreneur Solution

September 11, 2013 by Damon D'Amore

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“Not everyone is an entrepreneur. Still, everyone should try — if only once — to start a business. There is something uniquely educational about sitting at the desk where the buck stops, in a dreary office you’ve just rented, working day and night with a handful of employees just to break even.” – Niall Ferguson

Good ideas come from everywhere. However for most people, without a full-time commitment there are few great options for turning their ideas into a successful product or business. At WayFounder we refer to these people as the Idea Generators of our society – everyday people who conceive solutions to pain points in their lives as consumers but don’t possess the skills, resources or desire to build them into a business. In the investor community we refer to these folks as “Nontrepreneurs.”

WayFounder represents the first solution for Nontrepreneurs to fully capitalize on their ideas in a supportive and collaborative system, working with veterans of the startup and consumer industries to identify if an idea is a product, a feature on an existing product, or has the potential to be a startup – a truly sustainable business. And if so, the commitment and resources to turn that idea into reality.

“Nontrepreneur” is not a negative label. People who have good ideas should embrace the value of their contribution to the startup ecosystem, understanding the value of their idea and its chances for success is exponentially increased when paired with expert knowledge, financial and labor resources, and execution capabilities. Instead of the limited outcomes resulting from not committing 100% to executing ideas on their own, Nontrepreneurs will gain greater wealth and success from a smaller piece of a much larger pie. Idea Generators play a valuable role in strengthening the startup ecosystem of our nation as a whole, democratizing the founding process and broadening the base of ideas for startups beyond the “mirrored-walls” of Silicon Valley or other “startup hubs” that lack the insights and perceptions of consumers “between the coasts.”

Most Idea Generators don’t just have one idea, they have TONS of ideas, collected in notebooks, organized in lists or scattered across their digital diaries. Some will even take steps towards making their ideas a reality and will be successful. However the most common story is one that many of us are familiar with, having personally known the characters: While working full-time they dabble with an idea on nights and weekends, researching and possibly even speaking with designers, manufacturers or developers. They attend entrepreneurial webcasts and events, read tons of blogs, business planning books and videos and interviews with founders and gurus. One month turns into six turns into a year and their idea is no closer to reality than when the light bulb first went off in their mind’s eye. And in the worst-case scenario, they awake one day only to see their idea for sale as a product on a shelf, or launched as a business by someone else when all along they “had that idea years ago “and their’s was a “better version” of the product or business as it exists today.

Instead, why not get paid a generous up-front fee just for the right to build your product, let someone else spend their money, time, resources, expertise and industry relationship currency to evaluate and market test rather than an idea (likely) never seeing the light of day? Take comfort in knowing your idea will be executed by professionals and category experts who commit and risk tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring it to market. If your idea proves to have the potential as a startup business on it’s own, even more capital and resources will be committed to launch and grow that business in a way that allows for the best chance of success. Along the way Idea Generators are compensated for the true value they bring to the process by owning a piece of equity in that startup that will grow from the seed of their idea – not just a licensing fee for a one-off product.

We have all watched contestants on Shark Tank with a prototype or product they have spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in life savings or mortgage loans to bring to market. We read national media stories of highly educated, successful professionals (with no startup experience) making the most basic mistakes in customer development, manufacturing or market testing and winding up with 30,000 units of a product in their garage that they can’t sell.

With the growing popularity of crowd-funding as a means to turn one’s ideas into reality there are also pros and cons. There are growing numbers of casualties of the Kickstarter generation, learning that funding is only a small part of the process in building a successful business. With no experience in design, domestic or foreign manufacturing, operations, logistics, sales or basic branding, a troubling trend of funded projects not being delivered to backers is growing. We have even witnessed some high-profile and supposedly well-funded campaigns fail due to underestimation of what it takes to produce and launch a product the correct way.

Another common choice is a growing number of “inventor” websites and product development/distribution companies – some with real merit, large retail output deals and staff members experienced in product development and marketing. However most of these companies have mandates to simply test and release products. They lack the infrastructure, funding and drive to identify those ideas which have the potential to grow into a full-scale startup or business on their own. These companies may be a good solution for a one-off product idea or even a feature for an existing product category, but for someone who believe their idea has the potential for much greater success, these are not the companies you want to sell your intellectual property to in exchange for a small licensing fee.

Entrepreneurs represent a rare breed. It takes a special type of person to put their reputation, resume and personal resources on the line full-time – time and time again – continually embracing and learning from the many roadblocks and failures on the way to building a successful business, and the failures exponentially outnumber the success stories. Those who have taken the journey learned first-hand what it takes to bring an idea through the stages of prototyping, financing, legal and patent filings, strategic and/or founder partnerships, hiring and firings, engineering, design, development, marketing, sales, distribution and ultimately the scaling and sustainability necessary to sustain a business. Some of the glamorous highlights include: late nights stuffing envelopes, long days sending emails or making cold calls, dealing with manufacturers, retailers, investors, lawyers all as a first-time entrepreneur trying to convince them why they should take time away from their big clients to work with you, the list goes on.

Most people who experience the aforementioned joys of entrepreneurship throw in the towel sooner than later, assuming their plans are not working and there must be quick success to validate their idea or it’s not worth it. Sure, there will always be exceptions to the rule – viral sensations that sell millions of products, or businesses that only require a handful of hours a week to maintain, but they are just that – anomalies whose stories are ultimately packaged to sell books, seminars and targeted ads in your inbox.

Nontrepreneurs and Idea Generators now have a light at the end of their individual tunnels and a well-funded experience team motivated to turn those ideas into successful startups. As WayFounder gets closer to our launch date we will be detailing the proprietary process by which people can submit ideas safely and securely, without concern that someone will steal an idea. We will also be providing information on how we select CEOs and founding teams to run those startups that make the cut, and the online competitions that will facilitate bringing your dreams closer to reality.

“The problem with American business is not a lack of good ideas, but a lack of follow-through.” – Mary Kay-Ash.

WayFounder is looking to work with those people with ideas for the next generation of startups. Regardless of where you live, your economic status or educational level or experience in business, if you are passionate about a product, digital or app idea that solves real pain points for large numbers of consumers, together we will bring those ideas to life and in the process democratize the startup ecosystem in America.