Like many, my mind has historically been the birthplace of countless ideas. Some were embarrassing; most were okay — extraordinarily okay. There are a handful that I believe were great. To this point, however, none had ever made it ‘out’ into the world, so it didn’t matter.
The reasons were numerous. I don’t have the skills; the experience; the credentials; the time; the team. This veritable grocery list of excuses kept me in stasis for years, and it was comfortable that way.
“I’ll do it when I’m ready.”
I knew others had scoffed at the ‘rules.’ My CEO and entrepreneurial role model Gary Vaynerchuk had his own franchise (a true lemonade stand empire) at age 8, when I was still drooling over Totino’s Pizza Rolls and Kirby’s Super Star.
Nick D’Aloisio sold Summly for $30 million at 15, when I still was hung up on the black hole of melancholia that was Dashboard Confessional’s early work. Steve Hoffman and Alexis Ohanian sold Reddit to Condé Nast at 22 and 23 respectively, when I was still writing acquisition ads for The Children’s Place on Facebook.
I knew about these people, but I didn’t put myself in the same plane on which they operated and succeeded. I couldn’t. Theirs was a league of geniuses, prodigies, and outliers. Mine was a league of humble dreamers with destinations in mind, but no maps to get there.
Until I met Ashton Kutcher.
He was a few weeks into the Jobs promotional circuit, and stopped by VaynerMedia to catch up with Gary and share some words with us. In the middle of a passionate monologue on entrepreneurship that took most of us by surprise, he brought up one of the simple insights that drove Steve throughout his career.
“Everything around us that we call ‘life’ was made up by people that are no smarter than you.”
It had to be true. There are too many great products, businesses, organizations, platforms, and thoughts out there to have come from the ‘elite minded’ alone. It may seem like a simple, or even obvious reality, but I hadn’t put it into the context of my own world before. In that moment, I realized I could figure this out; I could bring a product to life.
So we formed a team, and started building.
Some colleagues and I had an idea — make it easy for people to find great content in the cities they care about most. We began testing it (and still are! would love you to take a few minutes and complete our survey) to validate our assumptions. We mocked up our most idealized version of the platform to motivate and keep us on track. We’re now in the late stages of developing a web-based MVP, and we finally launched our landing page yesterday.
All because we’re looking at things differently.
The obstacles ahead are now based in the market and in technology, not our minds. The educational and professional paths that preceded Paper Route are ones we no longer consider time wasted, but invaluable experience garnered. The wait until I’m ready attitude has been replaced with figure it out along the way.
And “I can’t wait to start building something!” is finally “I can’t wait to finish building this.”
(part 2 coming soon!)
By day, Luke Kingma is a senior copywriter at VaynerMedia, one of the leading digital and social media agencies in NY. By night, he operates as co-founder of Paper Route, a mobile platform for local discovery with a focus on cities. On occasion, he dabbles in professional beer glass stealing. Please don’t tell. Chat with him @LukeKingma and @PaperRouteApp.