BREAKING NEWS: Nobody Gives A Damn About Your Great Idea

Ever give free advice?

Me too. Sometimes without being asked – I can’t help myself – but often often in spite of my better judgement.

Like a lot of people who run their own business, I get asked for advice on how to do the same. It’s usually by acquaintances or friends of friends (seldom friends or family).

Listen up – they have a killer idea for a business. It’s going to be HUGE – and they want to hear what I think.

Let me clarify: they think they want to know what I think…

There’s almost always three common riffs. Number one, it’s usually in a sector I know little or nothing about…

“We’re going to sell XXXXXXXX… but on the internet”

Secondly, they are super secretive about THE BIG IDEA, as if they’re working on the The Manhattan Project.

“It’s an online marketplace. But I can’t say any more than that without an NDA in place”.

They won’t tell me any specifics. Think Darwin went around talking about evolution before he’d got “On The Origin of the Species” all typed up, huh? (Hint: yes – he did).

Or – worse – they want me to sign a confidentiality agreement, agreeing to millions of dollars in contractual liabilities before I can advice them for free.

Three, there’s usually an internet angle, because the barriers to entry are low, they know I run web-based businesses and because nobody wants to build railways in 2013.

“It’s like [$1B company] meets [$1B company]”

I protest that there are others far better qualified to advise. But they always insist, and I’m faced with the quintessential British problem: how to be honest without sounding rude.

Why? Because 99% don’t *really* want to hear that. They want me to tell them that they have a great idea – and that’s all it takes in this town, kiddo!

Not so, natch.

Don’t get me wrong – I love ideas, especially big ideas. I devoured dozens of books on the subject (like this, this and this) plus more magazines and blog posts than I can remember (like James Altucher’s here and here ).

But we live in a world full of good ideas, and good execution is far more scarce. And that continent-sized gap between “good idea” and “good execution” is where opportunity lies for people who, y’know, get stuff done.

Wish.co.uk was not the result of A GREAT IDEA. It was the result of being able to find an angle to work that competitors were overlooking.

‘The Sopranos’ creator David Chase got it right in this GQ profile of James Gandolfini:

“We can all sit around and decide we want to make a Louis XIV table, but eventually somebody has to do the carving.”

The Internet: Then And Now [Infographic]

A friend recently defined “Big Data” as anything too big for Excel (read: over 64,000 rows). He was only half joking. This infographic is chock full of the stuff, but one fact stuck out for me above all others.

YouTube in 2009 had had one billion views total. By 2013, the Gangnam Style video alone had had one billion views…

The Internet: Then and Now [Infographic] by Who Is Hosting This: The Blog

Tech Giants and Their Overflowing Cash Coffers [Infographic]

Ever wondered what happens to the $1000s you spend on Apple products? Find out below…

Tech Giants and Their Overflowing Cash Coffers [Infographic] by Who Is Hosting This: The Blog

The #1 Reason I’ve Not Blogged for 2 Years

I’ve been busy. Who knew?

But since I’m snowed-in in Virginia, I decided to bring my blog back. One last job. So here are reasons #2-#26, with a quick run down of what I have been doing since 2011:

  1. Grafting full time on Wish.co.uk’s zombie madness
  2. Interviewing for Colombian radio on Romantic Breaks for Three
  3. …and making enemies in Downing Street.
  4. Spending time in Iceland, Tokyo, Dubai, Paris, Virginia, Vegas, Austin, Florida and New York, New York.
  5. Neglecting my Twitter account
  6. *Finally* learning to focus on fewer projects (inspired by Walter Isacson’s Steve Jobs biog)
  7. Closing a couple of nice domain sales (Code.co.uk and CPA Offers.com)
  8. Selling a $10 .ORG domain to a Vegas casino company… without sussing the buyer. Damn it!
  9. Contributing to the Flippa blog about promoting website auctions
  10. Attending South by South West, PubCon and Affiliate Summit East & West and TedX Paris
  11. Helping out on Gab Goldenberg’s Advanced SEO Book
  12. Turning gamekeeper, and launching an affiliate program
  13. Speaking at the ever-ace Think Visiblity on how to make the move from affiliate to merchant
  14. Thanking my lucky stars my deal to buy PasteBin.com was gazumped before THE BAD STUFF
  15. Reading Ryan Holiday’s book, blog and Forbes column
  16. Laughing at fake Jeff Jarvis (background here)
  17. Joining ace General Assembly web talks & workshops in London and New York
  18. Winning a RealBusiness’ Future 50 award for British startups…
  19. …then discovering 30 minutes later they’d told the wrong company by mistake
  20. Obsessing over my new-favourite-tools/apps ChartBeat, Pocket App and Zite
  21. Reaching four hour work week goals five years late
  22. …with a little help from my Zirtual Virtual Assistant
  23. Filming zombies (what else) with YouTube superstar DevinSupertramp
  24. Telling anybody who’ll listen about the return of ThreadWatch.org.
  25. Being condemned by the Daily Mail and a local MP

That’s more or less it for now. More soon… Maybe.

PS. The new WP theme is by StudioPress, in case you’re wondering.

A4U Expo: Outsourcing for Affiliates

I’m speaking at A4u Expo on Wednesday afternoon about outsourcing for affiliates with Paul Madden (nee SEO Idiot).

The title of the session is Insider Secrets of Outsourcing Success:

Outsourcing can be your ‘secret weapon’ to scale your affiliate marketing business – but everybody has heard the horror stories about broken promises & poor quality work. Our two speakers offer actionable tips and advice on how to achieve results when outsourcing.

If you’ve questions during the talk, the session hash tag is #A4UB12.

Wish.co.uk – My Ecommerce Site – Live…

Back in April, I bought the domain Wish.co.uk with a little help from Sedo.

The sale picked up a few mentions, and lots of people asked what my plans were. After four months hard graft, I can finally share them…

I’ve just launched an ecommerce business selling gift experiences called – three guesses? – Wish.co.uk (AKA WishCoUk Ltd).

Go take a look: Wish.co.uk

PayPal’s Offshore Support Sucks…

I use PayPal a lot for my business [bear with me – this gets more interesting…].

Unfortunately, their customer support sucks, badly. Since @AskPayPal asked me to explain my comments, I thought I’d share a real life example. But mostly since their customer support emails are so woefully bad, I might get a laugh or two.

Most recently, I contacted PayPal explaining that all outbound payments from my account were blocked. I was away in Portugal, but needed to pay a contractor ASAP.

PayPal wouldn’t fix it. Instead, they replied with a rambling, 416 word reply that offered zero answers – but instead a bizarre pick ‘n’ mix of cliches and statements.

So I thought I’d round up some of my favourite cliches & quotes from PayPal support emails…

“Rest assured that this does not imply that we are suspecting you with fraudulence or anything like that, no.”

“we only have your best interests in mind”

“You may, at the moment, view this as an inconvenience however in actual fact this system we use has helped reduce losses for both buyers and sellers”

“The system would just like to make sure that your payment goes through smoothly.”

[Re: their arbitrary block on my account] “Unfortunately, since there are thousands of transactions happening in the PayPal system in a per minute basis, it is virtually impossible to turn it off.

PayPal, your offshore customer service and/or CRM system suck, badly.

Slangatang App on The Apprentice

Watching The Apprentice tonight?

Each team had to design & build a smartphone app in just 24 hours – and build a userbase.

The boy’s team – who were robbed! – came up with Slangatang, a soundboard-for-stereotypes app plugged by TechCrunch and Pocket Lint.

The girl’s team, meanwhile, came up with the single worst app idea you’ve ever heard… (Wired.co.uk! What were you thinking choosing them?).

The Slangatang.com domain was registered in February 2010, lapsed in February 2012 and drops shortly.

Bid early, bid often at the SnapNames.com aftermarket auction.

[The co.uk, meanwhile, was registered earlier this evening].

PS. Quote of the week: “The next application you might be making is a job application”.

PPS. Be sure to check out the Offices.org.uk Apprentice Blog for blow by blow coverage of each episode.

Wired Magazine: Fail Fast

Wired UK hosted a discussion last night dubbed ‘Fail Fast‘. This month’s issue explains their premise succintly…

“Fail! Fast. Then succeed. What European business needs to learn from Silicon Valley”

The live debate followed the print feature, with the founders of Moo.com and Firebox.com as well as investors Luke Johnson and Stefan Glaenzer talking to Wired editor David Rowan.

If the magazine feature is half as interesting, it’ll be well worth a read.

Silicon Roundabout, David Cameron & Political Opportunism

Last year, David Cameron pledged £400m to turn East London into the next Silicon Valley.

Many people, understandably, will conclude that this is A Good Thing.

Exposure for startups, support for small businesses and the promise to help the Brits square up to our American friends – what’s not to like?

They’d be missing the point. Like Vince Cable on a bad day, I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

Not for the first time, the British government have missed perhaps the single most exciting thing about so many internet companies.

[whisper]They are not location dependent.[/whisper]

Meanwhile, David Cameron, Boris Johnson et al obsess over the location of Twitter’s UK office like star struck school kids.

The Problem

Let’s call the problem ‘not as sexy as Twitter’ syndrome.

The reality is that building any business –whether it is moderately or monstrously successful – is hard work, especially in a recession.

Most startups fail, and even the successful ones are more likely to hit Groupon’s teabag budget, not buyout offers.

Nobody wants to read about the mundane minutiae on sites like TechCrunch or Mashable: dealing with tax red tape, wondering why banks won’t lend profitable businesses money, etc.

That’s fine – it’s not what they do. These do, however, fall well squarely within the Government’s mandate to encourage small businesses, and that is what they should be concerning themselves with.

So why my scepticism of their sudden enthusiasm for internet startups?

Enter The Olympics

In the 2012 Olympics, the government has inherited a white elephant so large that it makes the Millennium Dome feel like a Poundland bargain binge.

The total spend is – forgive me – genuinely Olympic, staggering by any measure, but genuinely appalling given the state of the British economy.

After London was awarded the Games, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced a budget of £9.325 billion.

In December, the Spectator put the true cost to the British taxpayer at closer to £12 billion.

For some context, the Coalition’s Comprehensive Spending Review last year introduced £7 billion worth of public sector cuts.

I am not denying that the Olympics brings benefits.

It means jobs, tourism, redevelopment of a deprived part of London and the chance for me to sublet my flat to desperate tourists, for starters.

But I remain to be convinced that this these offer value for money. And I believe that the Coalition Government has come the same conclusion.

Hence the sudden enthusiasm to bring Silicon Valley to, um, Stratford.

What’s This Got to Do With Startups?

The government is committed to hosting the Olympics, which will leave them with a very expensive, very empty Olympic Park afterwards.

If you’ve ever visited the former Olympic sites in cities like Barcelona, you’ll know what to expect.

The Olympic Park will be in Stratford, a part of London that is regretfully better known for deprivation than startups.

And Cameron & Co have pledged £400m to turn this into a Silicon Valley-style success.

This equates to approximately 0.3-0.4% of the Olympic spend, depending on whose figures you believe.

Suddenly, it feels less like backing British business, and more a case of ‘for an extra £50 we can use it for something useful’.

Details remain vague on how exactly the government money will be spent.

Vaguer still are the what exactly the name dropped firms – Intel, FaceBook, Google et al – have to do with it.

Will it work? I have my doubts. Here’s why.

What the Government Should Be Doing

Motivations aside, the things that encourage great execution are not as trivial as shared local boozers, fancy offices, or persuading Google to move their YTS kids in next door.

These distract from the real issues facing small businesses in 2011.

What the government should be doing is taking responsibility for fostering an environment that encourages homegrown entrepreneurs, not chasing the superstars of Silicon Valley.

That means things like encouraging bank lending to profitable small businesses or keeping services like Business Link that help nurture them.

I’ll be the first to admit that these ain’t half as sexy as getting to tweet: ‘Hanging with @Ev at Twitter HQ’.

But they would do rather more to encourage small businesses in the UK.

The Future

I’ll end with a few predictions:

#1. Government involvement with internet startups will be an expensive, ill-conceived disaster. Think ‘Millennium Dome with wifi’.

#2. Those that buy into it will be the American behemoths currently located in the UK burbs (eg, Amazon, eBay etc) – not homegrown startups.

#3. Stratford will continue to host a smaller startup scene than my kitchen.

PPS. Thanks to Flickr user mbiddulph for the photo.

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