Artemy Lebedev

§ 161. Idea worth minus a million

October 21, 2009

It is natural for inventors to value their own work, but no correlation exists between the worthiness of an idea and its author’s greed.


Very often, having come up with an ordinary idea, its author believes that a million dollars has already been earned and it just takes finding someone to pay. Inventor’s syndrom occurs when people choose to live with the feeling of being unrecognized, for it’s easier than figuring how to use their talent to make money.

Ideas are not protected by copyright laws in any country. Some ideas turn into patents, but one can find a way around any patent with just another idea. Few inventions bring money.

Here is an example from personal experience. The author of Mandership once ordered mineral water at a French restaurant, 10 dollars a glass. It was served with a separate bowl of ice, not nearly as pure. Why would anyone want to spoil expensive drinking water, painstakingly brought from thousands of kilometers away over many borders, with tap water ice?

By the time the author finished his lunch, he had become a multi-millionaire. There was only one little thing left to do—arrange production of ice using Evian, San Pellegrino, Perrier and other brand drinking water.

Ice would come in individual packs (like coffee creamers). In case it melted, customers could re-freeze it at home. Some would sure like to discover a new dimension of taste of bottled water as they put Vittel ice in a glass of Aquafina.

Launching production of brand ice would require buying loads of equipment and licenses. It would mean having to get premises, pay staff, bear shipping and advertising costs. Ultimately, in order for the first ice cube to find its way into the first thristy customer’s glass, the author would have to have spent at least a million.

A negative amount makes an excellent indicator for illustrating any idea. For example, the idea of producing a keyboard with screens embedded in its every button costs somewhere around minus two million. And the idea of developing a technology that would allow trolley buses to pass each other could total minus half a million (and would probably never pay back). And the idea of a laptop with two displays would cost minus ten million. And so on, and so forth.

When telling others about their ideas, every inventor or designer should say honestly: “I have an idea worth minus a million.”

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