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What to do with your great idea

cartoon of brains as lightbulbsBY AMBER SMITH

Sean Ammirati believes the world has lots of problems that need to be fixed. “Part of the key to fixing those problems is getting more and more people to think entrepreneurially,” he said at a conference at Upstate's Central New York Biotech Accelerator this fall.

Ammirati, author of “The Science of Growth,” spent 12 years building and selling businesses in the media and software industries. Today he teaches at Carnegie Mellon University and leads Birchmere Labs, a seed and studio fund focused on community-driven commerce startups. He told conference attendees how to go about commercializing their innovations – and cautioned them that entrepreneurship has a high failure rate, even when done perfectly.

  1. Have a great founders‘ vision, one that is contrarian and correct. Entrepreneurs create the world the way it ought to be, Ammirati says, but even if their vision challenges the status quo, it may be incorrect. Or, their vision may be ahead of its time, and the world just has to catch up to it.

  2. Is the market large enough to justify your time and resources? “Enough” is purposefully vague because the threshold differs among entrepreneurs and among projects. “I‘m shocked by the number of entrepreneurs who don‘t research if they have a scalable idea,” Ammirati says.

  3. Does it solve a real problem? When you create something, it‘s easy to fall in love with its features. Just remember that customers only care about the problem you are solving for them.

Entrepreneurs face a straightforward question about whether their product solves a problem for a defined group of people, which Ammirati says is easily answered using the scientific method. That is, you build something, you measure it, you learn from it – and then you rebuild, measure again and learn more.

 health-winter-2017cvrThis article appears in the winter 2017 issue of Upstate Health magazine.