Startup #49 – Six Degrees of Innovation

kevinbacon.jpgOK, stick with me on this one.  Back in September, the folks at Dogster (a social network for dogs) convinced a lot of smart and seasoned investors to give them 1 million dollars.  It’s a simple idea…and it’s easy to see how these guys came up with it based on the success of MySpace.  Before MySpace, would anyone ever have thought to give 1 million dollars to fund a social network for dogs?  Of course not.

Now let’s go back to MySpace.  It doesn’t have an exact value, but it’s worth well over one billion dollars.  Again, a simple idea: a social networking website.  But only 15 years ago, before the Internet really took off, nobody would have imagined that a social networking website would be worth 1 billion dollars.

One more step back, to the Internet as a whole.  How much revenue is the entire Internet generating?  I have no idea, but it’s a heck of a lot.  Go back 30 years, when Bill and Paul were sitting in their Harvard dorm room, and not even those guys could have imagined the size of the opportunity in front of them.

The long-winded point that I’m trying to make is that in order for something to be the Next Big Thing (NBT), there has to be a Current Big Thing (CBT).  Once you have the CBT (i.e. MySpace), then it’s easy to make the leap to the NBT (i.e. Dogster).  But what about the Next Next Big Thing?  Or the Next Next Next Big Thing?  In order to come up with these scenarios, you first have to make a leap to the next thing (i.e. the first degree of innovation) before you can come up with the next next thing (i.e. the second degree of innovation).

All right, still with me?  Good, because here’s the idea.  It’s a site that allows users to start with a popular idea and come up with future scenarios which other users can then build on.  Here’s a quick sample to demonstrate:

  1. The base idea is IPTV, interactive TV broadcast over the Internet
  2. User A proposes an idea for an interactive TV show where viewers answer trivia questions
  3. User B builds on that idea, an interactive TV show where viewers answer sports trivia questions
  4. User C builds on that idea, a mashup that combines live sporting events with the interactive sports quiz show
  5. User D builds on that idea, a live basedball game delivered over IPTV where you can connect a Wiimote-like device and swing along with the pitches
  6. User E builds on that idea, a company that offers insurance policies to any Wiimote-wielding players in case they lose control of the Wiimote and break their TV

As you go deeper into the degrees of innovation, it becomes a powerful way to start brainstorming things you may not have thought of on your own.  Also, users can vote on the various ideas so the more popular ideas stand out, and users can identify those ideas that are most likely to be the strongest bases from which to build subsequent ideas.

I’ll be honest, if I had the time to build out any of my ideas, this would probably be at the top of my list.  Which is probably why I’m not a real entrepreneur.  Tomorrow’s a big day – #50!  Be sure not to miss it, big annoucement coming as well.  🙂

3 responses to “Startup #49 – Six Degrees of Innovation

  1. I love your approach to innovation Kevin.

    VC sometimes like to talk about finding ideas where customers hair is on fire – and then sell them the firehose.

    Shameless plug:

    If you cant find new ideas that build on the NBT, try setting your customers hair on fire yourself (by creating something completely different).

    This is hard to due, but if you are first to market, you have a big leg up on the competition.

    Cheers – JR

  2. Thanks man, I dug that post and have been thinking about the “hair on fire” thing lately when I’ve been brainstorming new ideas. It’s a good excercise to examine my daily frustrations that I encounter on the Internet.

    Perfect example: the fact that ever since my iPod stopped working with Vista I wake up five minutes early every morning, download a podcast to my laptop, and then play the podcast through my tinny laptop speakers while I’m battling rush hour traffic each morning. And you wonder why Steve Jobs is a bazillionaire.

  3. Pingback: Where Do Good Ideas Come From? « A Startup A Day

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