"Your ideas are wrong, but. . ."

Posted on June 21, 2007


The second of the key concepts presented at the SVASE “Leveraging Service Providers” lunch event was:

“Any idea you have is the wrong idea. But then you learn from running the idea and figuring out what works.”

This concept was introduced by Christopher Keene, and I nearly laughed out loud in agreement. I thought immediately about Economic Information Services LLC. I founded the company to focus on technology transfer services for new developers based in the former Soviet Union. The territorial coverage was intended to include the entire CIS, including Russia, Moldova, Ukraine, the Caucuses, and Central Asia. I planned to go at this alone from my office in San Francisco. (“Entrepreneurship is a team sport!”)

After six months of slogging along, I attempted to plan a three-week business trip to Kazakhstan and Ukraine by myself. This included the notion that I would be able to pin down local companies and government agencies in these markets to a specific day and time for a meeting well in advance. Well, it doesn’t work that way in Kazakhstan. In Kazakhstan, you notify someone of the week when you will be in the city, and then they inform you that they may be available, give you their cell phone number, and tell you to call them the morning of the day that you would like to meet. For an organization nut like me, you can imagine my consternation at this.

I enlisted the help of a friend in Almaty, Kazakhstan that assisted with collecting information and agreed to take his vacation time from the university when I was in town. By the end of the two weeks, I hired this friend away from the university to be the director of our Central Asia office that we decided to establish. From there, we were off and running.

And by the way, in the course of the two weeks we realized that there wasn’t the funding available to support a private sector company solely dedicated to assisting with technology transfer, and over the course of the next year, we transformed the company to provide investment banking, business plan development, and project management services – what the company exists as today.

This macro-level example is one of hundreds of ideas that I’ve had for Economic Information Services LLC that when put into motion, produced vastly different results. But only after acting on the ideas was I able to determine the correct path to success.