Trevor Toczydlowski

My ‘ah ha!’ moment? Most great start-ups come from a simple idea

When people think about how to become the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, they expect to suddenly be hit with an idea that’s too good to be true. However, this is not how most ideas that will be successful come about. They require attention and effort, and being ready to strike when that big idea finally comes.

Sara Blakely, the founder and CEO of Spanx, didn’t get her ‘ah ha!’ moment out of nowhere. When she decided to cut the feet off of her pantyhose it was because there was a product that was needed in the market. It didn’t come from nowhere.

Being ready for when the big idea comes seems to be the most important step in determining success of an idea. Every day people all around the world think of the “next big thing” and then do nothing to try and make it a reality. They are afraid or unprepared, and let what could be the next Spanx disappear.

As Clayton Christensen, David Skok, and James Allworth mention in their story on Nieman Reports, you have to be a disruptor. Allowing the status quo to remain is what keeps big ideas from happening. You have to be ready and willing to take a chance if you want to make a big idea become a reality.

As Paul Graham talks about in his article, if you want to create a start-up you have to first identify the problem that you’re trying to solve. Many things sound like a good idea, but when pitched to consumers you come to find out that people didn’t really want what you’re trying to sell. If you first identify the problem that you want to solve, it will give you a foundation to start from.

Once you determine what the problem is you have to find a solution. There can often be many different solutions to the same problem, but as a start-up it is your job to find the one that will best solve the problem while making it most worth your while. I think many times people try to rush this process and don’t take time to get the right feedback and make the solution happen. They are worried that taking too long might mean someone else will think of their idea and then they will be out of luck. So instead of finding the right solution, they take the first solution and hope that it works.

Blakely took this process into her own hands, which is kind of crazy. To create a start-up without any financial backing would lead to failure for most and the loss of a potentially great idea. She managed to make it work with what she had and turned her simple idea into a billion-dollar company that women around the globe rely on.

She wasn’t happy with the way things were and took the bull by the horns to make things the way she wanted. She identified her problem, came up with a practical solution, and developed a product that would satisfy not only her needs but the needs of millions of other individuals who didn’t see the idea or weren’t in a position to make it happen.

These kind of start-ups aren’t as prevalent in media, but when they do come around, they change the entire industry. Twitter provides a platform where anyone is able to break news in real time to their followers, and the followers of those who share their post and so on. The Nieman story illustrates a specific example of this.

When Chesley Sullenberger had to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River news stations weren’t the first to report the news. One of the passengers on a commuter ferry that ended up rescuing some of the stranded plane passengers shared the first photo on his Twitter page and essentially broke the story.

It was then that it became clear that anyone was able to break news now. You didn’t have to be a journalist or reporter, rather anyone with a phone and internet. These individuals serve an important role as the “first responders” of media. They are able to gather basic information and rasie awareness during the time it takes for journalists and news outlets to put together all of the pieces and make a story out of what happened.

These people are disruptors to the way traditional media worked, but are crucial in today’s 24-hour news cycle. Rather than seeing disruptors as bad or ruining industry it’s important to see their value and embrace what they can bring to make everyone’s job easier.

6 thoughts on “My ‘ah ha!’ moment? Most great start-ups come from a simple idea

  1. This is a great point. I think we often fear the citizen journalist because they’re making our jobs a lot easier, meaning we’re less useful. But I had never thought about it in that perspective: they’re making our jobs easier in ways that allow us to go beyond breaking the story and more into the explanatory elements.

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  2. I agree with you. Opportunities are for those who are prepared. If a person does not have a good skill, he will not succeed. Bill Gates and Zuckerberg all came from famous universities. Because they have the ability to enter famous schools, they can succeed. Another point is to do it and to put the ideas in your mind into action. Everyone has a lot of imagination, but few people really take action. At the same time, some people have paid for their actions, but they have failed. Although they work hard, it’s hard to succeed.

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  3. Trevor, you make a great point about how social media isn’t always a bad thing. While social media isn’t always reliable, it is a great way for us to get real-time communications from people in tough situations. You mentioned the emergency landing in the Hudson River. I think this is a great explanation of a time when traditional media wouldn’t be able to release the story in time, but social media can give anyone the opportunity to share that story immediately. Do you think that journalists should take to social media and focus their time on social posts, or still commit their time to actual stories? And, further, do you think that ideas should always come from a position where you are questioning a problem, or do you think that entrepreneurs can come from a position where there isn’t a problem to be solved outright?

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  4. Trevor, I like how you touch on the idea that Twitter allowed anyone to be a reporter in real time. I didn’t even realize that the first person to essentially “break the news” of the Hudson River emergency plane landing was a passenger on a commuter ferry. Twitter was created to give the public a platform to speak their minds and say whatever they could muster into 140 characters – yet we’ve watched it become so much more. A place for political activism, a place to raise money and petition for important causes, and a place to share the news. This is just one example of a media start-up that changed the way news was received as we know it.

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  5. Hey Trevor, I really like your idea that we should be prepared for that moment and there are people who have “big ideas” a lot but hard to make it reality. I think it’s easy to find a problem, because people complaint. But it would take a lot more steps to resolve one. Also, you mentioned there are a lot of solutions for a problem, but it’s our responsibility to find the best one, which means it will take time. Being successful definitely needs a start up idea, but more importantly, time.

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  6. Trevor,
    I can see how people view first responders as harmful to our industry, but they’re bringing something new to the table. I agree, it’s time to see their value. I honestly find it fascinating that regular people can break stories, just by the simple fact that they were apart of the story and/or were there when the incident happened. I believe this allows journalism to be more personal, not only can you put a face to the name, but in the era of social media you can see how they truly portray themselves to the world.

    Liked by 1 person

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