I read not long ago that Chris Haney passed away and it made me sad. You probably don’t know the name, but you definitely know his invention. I wrote about Chris several years ago in my book The Big Idea. He was a great entrepreneur.
Back in the late '70s, Haney and his pal Scott Abbot were out of work journalists who loved to play Scrabble. One day they went to play and saw that they were missing a letter tile. On their way to the toy store to buy a new set they realized that they had bought a lot of Scrabble games over the years. So right then and there they decided to create a new board game.
It was an audacious idea as no one had done that in almost 50 years; Scrabble and Monopoly were about it at the time. Given that they were broke and had never started a business before, Haney and Abbot’s plan was all the more incredible.
But armed with a clever idea and a lot of gumption, they coaxed about 70 of their friends, family members, and business associates into investing $1,000 each in return for a 1% interest each in the nascent company. Haney and Abbot almost went broke before finally getting some traction. No doubt their investors were happy they did. Can you imagine investing a grand and owning a 1% stake in . . . Trivial Pursuit?
We all get great ideas, and some of us even run with them. Having spoken with a lot of very successful inventors and entrepreneurs for that book, I came away with three key requirements for taking a dream and turning it into reality:
- Make sure it really is a great idea: While entrepreneurs are an enthusiastic, confident lot, not all ideas are great ideas. The important thing is to get some feedback early in the process so you don’t spend a lot of time or money on an idea that only you think is a winner.
- Get obsessed, and committed: Novel ideas often take time to break out, and that in turn requires a backer who is a true believer. George DeMestral took a walk in the woods one day, got some burrs stuck in his sock, looked at them under a microscope and came up with a corresponding hook and loop fastening system that he dubbed Velcro. But it took him 10 years to get it to market.
- Have a great team: Teammates with different skills are necessary. Investors love them and banks bank on them. Good teammates will help you fulfill the vision and turn your dream into reality. And really, there’s nothing trivial about that, right?