“Beware the Cool Idea.”

-Jeff Jarvis in his book What Would Google Do?


Tech Startups are in vogue. Those of us who are slightly older than the average white, male, clean cut twenty something, bright eyed tech founder remember the bubble in 2000. Wild, rampant speculation generating stock profits on paper, wiped away when the dot com bubble burst. All those great ideas so generously funded with Venture Capital, gone.


Hedge fund managers had to deliver the news. It became understood that tech stocks were volatile and high risk. Remember that? I do. I was entering my 20’s and college. I believed in the future of tech. I went to college to create a hybrid e-zine ultimately and get a job generally. The tech boom opened the door for companies like Google to plunder the underutilized, unemployed workforce of Silicon Valley. Creating the best damned search engine the world has ever known: Google. Sorry Bing. I’m a Google Partner. Every one of my clients wants Google love.


Fast forward 15 years later, everyone wishes they would have bought tech stock in Google, Microsoft, Apple etc. when the professionals heeded warnings. We all adopted the technology but not the underlying concept: innovation through problem solving. Scientists and entrepreneurs both solve problems to arrive at a solution. Research reveals the problems. Conduct testing, analyze the data and arrive at The Idea. Every good scientist will tell you, don’t start with the idea. Let the data guide you. Find the trends, the patterns, identify the technical realities.


Over the last five years, running Howe Innovative Design, I’ve met many entrepreneurs. I’ve been pitched many cool ideas. I’ve seen some slick graphics, presented by fit and sexy innovators. Plus, there’s frequently free hors d’oeuvre. I enjoy the presentations and wonder how they will generate actual revenue after those three rounds of venture capital funding. I’ve patiently listened while meeting to the passion they have for this project. They dismissively wave a hand at the notion of generating revenue. They confuse enthusiasm with currency. Passion is not the price of admission to the Fortune 500 club.

I didn’t have a cool idea when I started Howe Innovative Design. I had several emails and conversations of local businesses and organizations that couldn’t find a good web person. The web designer would disappear into the ether with logins, not return calls or be contemptuous. I knew I could do better so off to the community college I went to learn design, advanced Photoshop, PHP, CSS, XHTML, JavaScript and SEO practices. I certified in Project Management through the University of Utah. I got a business license and the local Rotary as my first client. My first gig put me in front of the wealthiest, highest placed decision makers in the largest city of the state. That was my cool idea.


Solve a problem. Take the time to learn, in detail what your competitors won’t or don’t want to take the time to learn. Do it smarter, better, cheaper and faster than the other guy, while being awesome. Don’t give it away. I don’t do free websites no matter how deserving an organization. It undermines the value of my work and everyone else’s in the industry.


What sells is what solves the most pressing and time consuming problem my customers are having, right now. It’s not cool or sexy. I don’t flash any cleavage or offer an open bar. I rarely buy lunch. Necessity is the mother of invention. If you aren’t giving life to products and services that solve a problem, that people will buy right now, it’s just another cool idea.