By Brett Sholtis
York Daily Record, Pa.
Daryl Gibson is an ideas person.
Gibson, 46, said he’s launched about a dozen business ideas throughout the years. He said he’s had some successes, and he’s quick to point out that he’s also had his share of failures.
His new product — Idea Essentials — has other entrepreneurs in mind.
Idea Essentials is a membership-based application that runs an idea through a gauntlet of vetting. Gibson said his product helps budding inventors, artists and other creative types to avoid common start-up pitfalls.
“We create online or digital tools to be able to take someone with any idea through the idea development process, step by step, from concept all the way to market, to include building a business around it and preparing it for funding,” Gibson said.
Gibson said Idea Essentials, which will be available in early 2016, evolved out of a group called Innovative X that he formed after he moved to Manchester Township from northern Virginia a decade ago.
“I was mentoring a number of people who were trying to develop their ideas,” Gibson said. “I kept seeing there’s a common mistake among people who develop ideas. They get an idea and they either try to turn it into a business, get funding for it, or protect it with patents. But the problem was, before you do any of that, you need to validate it — to see if it’s something people need.”
Gibson said he’d never have been able to create Idea Essentials without his own business successes and failures. The Aurora, Colorado native has had a varied career that includes military service, government consulting, meteorology and a stint in the FBI as an intelligence analyst. His first business, in 1994, stemmed from a need he saw while working as a bodyguard.
“A lot of people were very interested in being a bodyguard… but very few could get the job,” Gibson said. “I put together a package to teach people how to get into the field.”
This was before the Internet revolutionized data collection, Gibson said, and he was able to sell data to a security company.
He earned money on that deal. However, Gibson said he’s also lost money.
“My greatest failure in business was when I was managing and trading on behalf of an incubator hedge fund I founded,” he said.
Gibson said he lost investors’ money — including money from friends and family — because he disregarded his own trading models, believing he knew what the stock market was about to do.
“I was wrong, and it cost my investors tens of thousands of dollars in losses. Most importantly, I lost their trust. I think about it almost every day. This lesson had a huge impact and taught me to always validate any idea before betting on it.”
Gibson said he used to believe that when you start a business, you should risk everything. That opinion changed after he met his future wife, Jennifer, who he said taught him that risk had to be managed.
“Failure is an integral part of the process, but it needs to be managed,” Gibson said.
Gibson said the Idea Essentials process begins with the user setting up an account. The service is free to try, but membership costs $10 a month. The user answers questions about the concept in an effort to flesh it out and learn where it needs to be improved.
One big part of the process? The idea has to solve some existing problem. If the user can’t point to a problem that he or she can solve better than others, then the idea might not be a good one.
The program helps users to test a product’s demand, learn from competitors, and develop a prototype.
“Using as little risk as possible, we want to build something that resembles the idea and sell it to people and get feedback,” Gibson said.
Users will also get into the financials of their product, he said, because many ideas may be popular but may be too expensive to bring to market in its current form.
Artists and writers are welcome, too. Making a movie may not solve a “problem” in the same way that making a better car tire or can opener solves a problem, Gibson said, but many of the concepts overlap.
“You’d start out the same way,” he said. “Who am I making this movie for? What’s the purpose of making this movie? Is it supposed to appeal to specific markets? Who is making similar movies? What’s the cost?”
In fact, he said, a feature film would be a great example of how a good project requires getting other creative people, such as storyboard artists or screenwriters, on board by successfully pitching an early, prototypical concept to them.
Jay Azriel teaches entrepreneurship at York College’s Graham School of Business. Azriel hasn’t tried out Idea Essentials, but he said it could be a good way to provide a template for many of the same concepts he teaches. Most important? That same question: what problem does this product solve?
“A common problem is that the person…hasn’t thought enough about how this is creating value for a group of customers or a target audience,” Azriel said. “Sometimes people come up with the solution first, and they’re seeking out the problem, and that’s kind of backwards.”
Joseph Hackett, COO for a York-based angel investment group called MI-12 Ventures, said one of the most common problems he sees when people seek funding for ideas is that they’re unable to clearly present a concept to people who may know little or nothing about that area of business.
Hackett said there are other internet-based applications on the market that claim to offer similar services. He said Idea Essentials’ success will depend on how well it is marketed.
“It’s really all about marketing,” he said. “How many eyeballs can you be in front of so that people can know about it?”
Azriel said marketing is important, but the product hasto be good.
“To me, business boils down to one concept: creating value for the customer,” he said.