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FORTUNATELY, IT'S ALL BEEN DONE BEFORE

By Evan Redmon | November 2, 2015

It happened about a year ago – a Washington DC web developer and I were collaborating on a project. Then came the dreaded five-word boogeyman every creative web designer fears:

Someone has already done that.

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Mister Web Developer Guy showed me the website where my completely unique, truly one-of-a-kind idea was fully realized in the form of a very sharp looking set-up built on WordPress. I actually sank in my chair; my butt was halfway off the seat.

A day passed before I realized something.

This was actually a good thing.


 

There are 7.3 billion people in the world.

About 1.4 billion of them live in India. My aforementioned website development brainstorming session occurred just after I returned from a three-week stay in four different cities on the subcontinent. During my trip I met with several IT professionals in Hyderabad and they all showed themselves to be highly intelligent, motivated people who happened to be in the most competitive web development environment imaginable.

Brainstorming ideas for them was as commonplace as eating dinner. The entire country is in the midst of an extended technological revolution.

These folks have big ideas. The idea market is competitive. The world’s collective history is at everyone’s fingertips.

There aren’t many unique ideas out there anymore.

TWO’S COMPANY, THREE BILLION’S A CROWD

The combined population of India, Europe, Australia and all of the Americas is roughly 3.5 billion people.

Most of them have internet access. Most are tired of working for The Man. Most are searching for a way up to a better lifestyle.

What made me think that not a single one of them would’ve had the same idea as me?

An even better question is this: if none of them came up with the same idea as mine, what are the chances that it was a marketable concept in the first place?

The answer to that question is the fantasy of the million-dollar idea.

 

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All these people have had one legit million dollar idea that they simply failed to execute properly

 

For whatever reason, people in the United States use certain, oft-repeated terms to describe common situations. The million dollar idea has it’s own, but for reference:

If someone wants to illuminate the randomness of life and the possibility of a sudden demise, they’ll say, “What if I get hit by a bus tomorrow?”

If someone delivers a cautionary piece of advice about interacting with an unknown, potentially dangerous person – someone offering web design services on Craigslist perhaps – the question is “How do you know he’s not an ax murderer?”

Because non-ax wielding murderers are acceptable, and automobile-to-human impact with a Ford Fiesta is merely a pedestrian party foul.

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS SOMETHING FOR NOTHING 

In the realm of million dollar ideas, the standard reference for the easy money fantasy is “the guy who invented the soda can opener”. That guy is “living on a yacht somewhere” (actually he was 79 when he invented the opener; he died a few years later and never bought a yacht).

These unspoken, odd notions that one good idea means a effortless, free ticket to easy street – and everyone who is rich stops working immediately upon receiving their wealth – are figments of the imagination.

The Guy Who Invented The Soda Can Opener (TGWITSCO) is a good example.

His apocryphal story goes like this:

He couldn’t find an opener one day. His frustration led him to his magical idea, one that only he had. He sketched it out on a napkin and sent it to Big Soda.

Boom! Instant billionaire!

False. There was plenty of competition. Not only was his idea already taken, it was already being put to use.

TGWITSCO won the day by finding a new way to attach the opener. Others before him had the idea and some beverage companies were already utilizing alternatives. The winning design was just different enough to earn its own patent, and TGWITSCO had worked his butt off starting an engineering company many years prior.

He stayed up at night agonizing over the design. He marketed his idea more effectively than his competitors.

In other words, his non-existent yacht was paid for not just by his idea, but by his persistence, his different angle, and his ability to form relationships.

THAT’S A GREAT IDEA

Think about what kind of world we live in if everyone gave up on their creative project just because someone else had already done that.

There would be:

One kind of car
One kind of soda
One book on World War II
One website for adventure travel
One Recipe book for healthy eating
One TV show featuring the news of the world

The world of online creative projects is no different. If you have a “million dollar idea”, and then discover that not one single person out of…

…had the same idea, you might have, ah, jumped to the conclusion that your idea was a good one…

…and you’d probably be wrong.

On the other hand, if someone else has already done that, guess what?

It means there’s a market for your idea, and now the real work begins.

You’ve been handed the golden goose. You get to outmarket them, outwork them, outsmart them.

It’s your lucky day.