This essay is part of a collaborative blogging experiment to answer the following question: What inspired you to found your startup? Read responses from founders who are far better writers than I am on Startup Edition
As a huge Latin nerd, I was probably the only kid in law school who grinned each time a new italicized Latin term appeared in a textbook. Because I love understanding the historical meaning of words and care about etymology, I took Latin all through grade school and college. I especially love understanding common words that are overused or over-hyperbolized.
What is inspiration?
I’ll avoid going super nerd, but *insparare*, the root of the word “inspiration,” is Latin for “blow into, or breath into.” This intuitively makes sense because when we are hit with an inspiration, it is as though something external has “breathed into us.” We feel full - full of ideas, full of creativity, and full of energy. Like many other entrepreneurs I know, I typically come up with a new business idea each week. Most of them make sense to me; they are solutions to problems I see in real life. I write these ideas down so I don’t forget them and have been doing this for probably ten years. When I came across the idea for Duxter, I was inspired. I became filled with energy and life. I couldn’t simply write it down and go on with my life. This is how I distinguish an inspiring idea from simply a good idea.
For four years I owned and operated a network of sites that catered to hardcore gamers. Gaming Synergies was the parent company of 25 different web properties selling a variety of goods and services. At our peak, we were generating $200K a month in topline revenue with about a 60% margin.
Our business was thriving, but for some reason, we had a hell of a time getting gamers to connect with us through social media. We constantly pushed our Facebook pages and Twitter accounts but could never build up any traction on these platforms. Frustrated, I started reaching out to some of our frequent customers asking them what the holdup was. I would consistently hear a variation of the same answer:
"I don’t want X to know what I am doing over here in my gamer life."
Fill in X with mom, wife, kids, girlfriend, boss, friends at school, or other people at the law firm. After pushing a bit further, I got to the heart of the issue: “gamerlife” was perceived as unique and separate from “personal life” which is what mainstream social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, is typically used for.
After hearing from a few customers, the proverbial lightbulb went off. Inspiration had hit. Here is how I spent the ensuing three days:
- 12 hours on competitive research to understand the landscape
- 4 phone calls with friends and advisors on “the idea”
- 10 hours in Photoshop trying to mock up my “vision”
- 5 hours in Word writing a quick and dirty 3 page business plan
- 2 hours setting up domains and servers in order to build a working prototype
- 4 hours on various forums trying to convince some other community builders to help me work on the prototype
Since that “lightbulb” moment, I don’t think I’ve spent one day where some aspect of my business wasn’t on my mind. I’ve recruited a badass team to join me in my vision. We’ve received significant funding to help accomplish our dream. We have had the pleasure of creating a community and platform for hundreds of thousands of gamers so far.
I’ve had a dozen of other business ideas since and write them down in a little notepad so I don’t forget. Even though I know I won’t, I always think that one day I’ll come back and try to execute some of these ideas.
The only ideas I want to work on are the ones that keep me up at night. The ones that prompt me to forget about my responsibilities. I only want to work on ideas that I find inspiring. Inspiration will forever be my personal barometer for good ideas. This could steer me wrong, but so far, it hasn’t.
I encourage you to hear about inspirations from my fellow founders on Startup Edition.