Sometime during the mid-90’s a friend approached me with an idea for a business. It wasn’t a pitch to get me to work with him, it was more about using me as a sounding board.
His idea was to set up a business online. I don’t want to get more specific for reasons of anonymity but it was going to be a place where consumers could shop and no this is not about Jeff Bezos and Amazon or anything like that.
I listened to him as he described his idea to me and considered it carefully. I wasn’t real excited about it because I just didn’t see that many people using the Net and was skeptical about whether he could get enough people to use his site to make it work.
Although I was online and familiar with email and how to surf around, my perception was so narrowly focused that I saw the Net as being a resource for information. You used it for news, you researched papers and projects online and that was about it.
So when I responded to him I wasn’t real enthusiastic, but I tempered my response because he was and I didn’t want him to think that I was a jerk.
In time he did launch the business and eventually it was a place that had a couple of million rolling through it. In a lot of these stories this is the point where the storyteller says “boy was I wrong and now that company is called Wal-Mart. I could have been so successful blah, blah, blah.”
The reality is that the company did not make it. When the economy soured and the recession hit it was one of the victims. But my friend was able to sell it to a larger company for a profit and ended up getting a great job out of the experience as one of the investors hired him to be their VP of Internet Services.
What I learned from the experience was to broaden my perspective and more carefully consider things. I learned to really try and not allow my own experience prevent me from seeing how others could be interested and excited in something.
In the years that have passed it is a lesson that has served me well. If I had to try and sum it up I would tell people that they should remember that a convertible can be driven in the sunshine or the rain because the top goes up and the top comes down. There are multiple uses for many things and we should look carefully because sometimes the obvious escapes our eye.