Disclosure: Consideration was received by Smart Business Revolution for the publishing of this post. However, I wrote this post entirely by myself. The opinions are 100% mine.
What I mean is businesses that invent a whole new category of service or product that never previously existed. Businesses that perhaps meet a new pain, fulfill a new need, or which leverage new technologies or customer habits that weren’t prevalent just a few years ago. Champions of innovation.
For example, Amazon.com broke the mold when it launched in that no one bought books (or really any other products) using the web before Amazon came along.
However, if Amazon had been invented in 1984 instead of 1994, it probably would have been a failure. Because the internet and consumers were not ready for it yet.
Of course, the obvious examples today are the big companies like Amazon, or Kickstarter, or Evernote. But in countless different smaller ways, creative-minded individual entrepreneurs are finding ways to provide great service – and to support themselves – by inventing companies that address a particular pain in the market.
I have met a few entrepreneurs recently, including while I was in Las Vegas for the New Media Expo, that got me thinking about this. I’m fortunate also to have a few of them as clients. So I wanted to highlight a few of these creative entrepreneurs and their companies for you.
(By the way, I’m hoping to spotlight some of these entrepreneurs further on this blog or on the podcast in the months ahead, but in the meantime, you can check out them on their websites or Twitter.)
If you want to be like these entrepreneurs, then here’s what you should do. Work hard. Study hard. Read great business books. Study the history of innovation. You may want to work for & learn from a successful entrepreneur for a few years, or get an MBA, or an online business administration degree, or maybe you won’t go to school at all. But the bottom line is start by doing something. And you can get started by reading about these 8 entrepreneurs:
Inventing an iPad-only Magazine
Meron Bareket has one. He created Inspiring Innovation: The Entrepreneur Kickstart Magazine, one of the first iPad-only magazines.
I met Meron recently at the New Media Expo, which he had traveled to all the way from his home in Israel.
Meron started Inspiring Innovation after a dispiriting stint in the corporate world. “I found no satisfaction in what I was doing, and was depressed,” he said. “[I want] to help people like me get unstuck, and start pursuing their dreams.”
He’s just getting started, but it’s definitely one to watch. I can only imagine all of the ways you can integrate video, audio, and other multimedia in to a magazine that exists on the iPad.
Check it out: Inspiring Innovation Magazine
A Web-Based Interview Show Focused on Startups
Ten years ago, if you wanted to start a video interview show, you had to work your way up in broadcast TV over many, many years. Today, you can start one in your bedroom.
Andrew Warner was a successful entrepreneur who turned a company that focused primarily on web-based greeting cards into a $38-million/year company. After he burnt out and sold the company, he spent a few years trying to find himself before zeroing in on his passion – talking with other startup entrepreneurs about the tools and tricks of the trade.
He created Mixergy, which is a popular web-based interview show where Andrew has interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs about their successes and their failures. He has a rabid following, which I witnessed in Las Vegas. Dozens of NMX attendees cited him as someone they admired.
I recently spoke with Andrew at length about Mixergy and he said that he didn’t want Mixergy to be simply an interview show/website. ” I want to draw some meaning from all of these hundreds of interviews I have done and do it in a way that allows people to live better lives because of it,” he said.
After building a popular following, Andrew turned to generating revenue by creating in-depth courses taught by the same entrepreneurs he was interviewing already. He charges a monthly fee for accessing this content.
Just a few years ago, Mixergy could not have existed as a web-based TV show. Today, the market and the technology were available, but Andrew also does a great job of getting top-level guests and drawing them out in a very revealing way on the show.
Check it out: Mixergy.
Creating Online Courses, the Easy Way
In early 2012, I created a course called Business Profit Academy which we ran live once, then turned into a self-study program. Setting up the website, coordinating the participants and managing the technology was hugely time consuming.
Udemy.com is a platform for teaching online courses. It allows teachers to easily integrate video, audio, text, and other media into a multimedia online class.
From a consumer’s perspective, the website is a great central location to find interesting courses on a wide variety of subjects. It’s also simple and easy to use.
Update: I recently interviewed Dinesh Thirupuvanam from Udemy which you can check out on Podcast Episode #13.
I met one of Udemy’s representatives, Max Altschuler, at NMX. He told me the company is growing at breakneck speed and has a number of high-profile instructors who are going to be teaching courses using the Udemy platform in 2013.
Check it out: Udemy
Connecting Platform Leaders With New Audiences
Anytime there is a new platform, with a lot of users, there are opportunities. Remember that.
Less than a year ago, Hollis Carter realized that Amazon Kindle publishing was one such opportunity.
Hollis and business partner Jonny Andrews created Velocity House Publishing which partners with leaders who have a platform already (people like Deepak Chopra), then ghost writes a book for them, publishes it to the Amazon Kindle store, and promotes the book. They then split the proceeds.
Velocity has 14 full-time writers working for them right now – just 7 months after they started – and their writers are churning out both non-fiction and fiction books.
Hollis Carter is not your typical hard-charging entrepreneur type. When I met him recently at a get-together put together by Andrew Warner in San Francisco, he blended in seamlessly with the crowd. Hollis will tell you he’s a ski bum at heart, and he’s shaped his business affairs to indulge in his love of being on the slopes as frequently as possible. Velocity allows him to do that.
The real value Velocity House provides is it finds people who have a following already but who aren’t reaching their full potential. Hollis and Jonny then connect those thought leaders and speakers with a new technology (the Kindle store) where demand for good content is skyrocketing.
It’s a really smart strategy and I expect they are going to continue growing at an amazing clip as more high-profile leaders partner with Hollis and Jonny.
Update: Check out my interview with Hollis and Jonny in Podcast Episode #009.
Check it out: Velocity House Publishing Partners
Using Thought Leaders To Improve Organizations
Pain: A lot of “thought leaders” have great ideas, and write earth-shattering books, but then don’t do such a great job of following through and bringing those ideas to organizations that could most benefit from their ideas.
Solution: Andrew Greatrex created a company where he partners with well-known authors who write about the world of work, and then creates educational programs for companies and organizations to help them to implement those ideas.
The authors love it because it helps them to get their ideas out. The companies love it because their workforce gets focused training on bleeding-edge strategies that improve their bottom lines.
It works because Andrew saw two needs – authors needing to get their ideas out, and companies/organizations with a desire for help implementing big ideas across their workforce.
It’s kind of like Velocity House but focused on the corporate/organization market.
I discovered Andrew’s company because he is currently working with Dan Pink to create a corporate training program inspired by one of my favorite business books, Drive. Andrew has also partnered with thought leaders such as Chip & Dan Heath, Jim Collins and Malcolm Gladwell.
Check it out: Global Achievers Company
Selling Wines In a New Way
His wine distribution business has been growing with leaps and bounds ever since he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he helps small batch, family-owned wineries in Sonoma and Napa get into the high-end restaurants and wine shops around New York city.
A few months ago he decided that there was an opportunity to have a little fun with selling wine. They decided to create Area 51 Wines.
Although they weren’t the first deal-a-day wine website, they certainly have a lot of fun with it, from the name of the site to the aliens featured prominently.
Ehab has been a client of mine for about a year now, and I just love how entrepreneurial he is. He dreams up big ideas, then he follows through with them. He’s one to watch in the years ahead.
Check it out: Area 51 Wines
Helping Bloggers to Generate Advertising Revenue
Pain: Aspiring bloggers and website owners who need help with generating revenue using advertising.
Solution: More than a year ago, I stumbled across an article written by Crystal Stemberger about how she launched her business. Crystal had a little blog focused on personal finance, and she had discovered that she was really good at getting advertisers to buy ads on her blog.
Soon she found out she could make more money brokering ads for other bloggers who didn’t like the hagling. “Not all blog owners like negotiating [advertisements] and some would love to trust someone else to do it for them,” Crystal told me. “In about a year, I went from 1 client to more than 200.”
She quit her day job and eventually, her husband quit his job as well to join the business.
“Even though we work more now than we ever did before, we agree that it seems more fulfilling and we like the flexibility of our work hours,” she said.
I have used Crystal and her husband Len for my blog, and I can say they do a great job with their advertising network.
Check it out: Budgeting In the Fun Stuff.
Advising Women Going Through Divorce on Financial Concerns
Pain: Women going through divorce who don’t understand all of the complex financial issues involved.
Solution: A number of years ago, Laurie Fried was going through a divorce and was frustrated by the process. Even though she had a background in finance, she was confused by all of the financial, retirement and other money implications of the marital settlement agreement, and she didn’t have anyone to talk to about it.
Flash forward a number of years and Laurie launched New Leaf Financial Advisory, a consulting firm that focuses on helping women going through a divorce to understand all of the financial implications.
One part financial advisor, one part counselor, one part shoulder to cry on, Laurie mixes both sound financial advice and deep caring for her clients in making sure that they don’t have an experience like she did.
Disclaimer: Laurie Fried is also a client of Corcoran Law Firm.
Check it out: New Leaf Financial Advisory.
As I mentioned above, I plan to highlight some of these companies more in the months ahead. Please join our email list (if you haven’t already) so that you’ll receive an email when we post interviews with these creative entrepreneurs.
Do you know of any other interesting, break-the-mold companies that could not have existed a few years ago? Mention them in the comments below!