Thinking Big

By | October 13, 2015

Damn that Elon Musk! I create a site solving the mystery of why some women’s shirts get tiny holes in them (ShirtHoles.com); he builds the world’s largest electric car company (Tesla). I create The Fart Name List; he sends rockets into space. And, in his spare time, he is designing Hyperloop (the fastest, most ambitious transportation system ever conceived) and revolutionizing the solar industry.

As I spend my days doing toiling away on small projects that don’t really matter much in the grand scheme of things, I feel like I should be doing more. I used to think big. When I bought two retail florists in 2002, my primary goal was to expand my GetFlowers.com website. But, I also had some hope that I could use all my computer and business knowledge to greatly increase the profitability of the stores, and I would then buy more of them. With 100 stores, I would be a floral tycoon. Next I could expand into buying other mom and pop businesses that were easy to run remotely (dry cleaners and laundromats maybe?). If I had 100 stores each making a profit of $50,000/year, I would be making $5 million a year!

That was all well and good, but here’s a little story I have never told anybody. I was thinking even bigger. I was going to disrupt the entire floral industry. All flower shops are pretty much the same, so I needed something to make mine different. I figured that if I were able to make the flowers I delivered last twice as long as those from other shops, the orders would come pouring in. I knew nothing about flowers and nothing about chemistry (other than what I learned in high school), but I had read some articles about various things that can make plants live longer (talking to them? playing certain types of music? I really don’t even remember anymore). So, I set out to develop a better plant food, to replace the generic little packet florists give you. During the two weeks that it took to close the deal on the flower shops, I turned into a mad scientist, making my basement into a laboratory where I tried all sorts of odd concoctions to try to extend the life of some flowers I bought at the local florist. I would feed one of them plant food and water, and then try my own formulas on the rest. My goal was to experiment with liquids no other florist or inventor would ever think of using: diet soda, baking soda, vinegar, fruit juice, club soda, chocolate milk, regular soda, honey, vitamin water, etc. I labeled each experiment, so I knew what was what, and kept a notebook with the results. Nothing I did seemed to hurt the flowers, but alas, none of it made them live any longer. I should have kept trying (Elon would never have given up), but once the two weeks went by, I had to actually deal with running the stores, so I did not have time for such frivolity.

This is what it takes though to do great things. Thinking outside the box. Acting crazy. Not being afraid to fail. All day I walk around with 1,000 times more computer power in my pocket (my iPhone) than geniuses like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had cobbled together in their garage. And, for a few dollars I can run a program on Amazon’s massive network of computers (AWS) and get results for any computation within seconds. This is something that when I was a kid (40 years ago) would have involved renting expensive time on a university supercomputer and then waiting days for the job to process. If I want to start a business, I can have it up and running in in less than a week by outsourcing almost everything, and I can even sell a product without ever making a working prototype (via Kickstarter.com). I can ship globally with ease (ShippingEasy.com), or deliver locally in an hour or less (remember when only pizza or Chinese food was like that?). Have a question, like if you need FDA approval for the Star Trek tricorder you want to invent? Just Google it. The knowledge of the entire world is at your fingertips.

What do I do with this vast wealth of resources? I make a list of Funny City Names, and add more Silly Cat Photos to the Internet (because there aren’t enough of those already). A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. I want to raise my sails and set out on an adventure. Float away from all the flotsam and jetsam in this digital ocean that I call home. With my map and compass in hand (Siri), I am ready to start a new journey.

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20 thoughts on “Thinking Big

  1. Alan Dodd

    Hmmm… it’s all relative brother!

    Say you never heard of Elon, but he was doing all these things privately.

    How would you feel then?

    1. Eric Borgos Post author

      There are always people doing bigger things: Richard Branson, Gandhi (world peace), Mark Cuban, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah, Steve Jobs, etc. Even Donald Trump, who already was the king of a giant real estate empire, might soon be president (he does not have my vote, but at least he is thinking big).

  2. Inventor

    You made good money…

    Why do not be the lender of great projects, of businesses that can really modify how we live? Same satisfaction and less stress and work… I think there are visionaries, in the domaining world…

    1. Eric Borgos Post author

      Almost every time I have lent money to anyone or done a joint venture where I invested money, it has not worked out. I would rather spend money launching my own businesses. I do agree that being an investor is good, and much less work and stress, but too risky for me for online ventures.

      1. Inventor

        Are we or are not we domainers?

        We have domains t ouse as collaterals.

        If we don’t exploit this chance is only our fault.

        1. Eric Borgos Post author

          I have given out loans on domains before, and every single time I did not get repaid, and lost money. So, I will never do that again. That is what services like lend.me are for. If a domain owner can’t get a loan at lend.me then what they are asking for is probably unrealistic.

          1. Inventor

            I don’t know, I never used Lend.me. Sad to read that you lost money, anyway I hope those who can will not avoid to lend money on domains because it’s an opportunity that no other industry can offer… no other. It would be a shame to lose it or do not try to exploit this opportunity even if it doesn’t work always…

            Thanks anyway, your posts are always worth reading.

            1. Eric Borgos Post author

              I think domain lending can work fine for some people. The problem was that I lent money to people I knew, so it was not just based strictly on the value of the domains. I did it as a favor, not to make any money from it. So, I ended up getting stuck with domains that sold for 50%-90% less than what I was owed. Also, see my guest posting from 2014 about domain name loans and how I started my own domain name loan site in 2003: at http://www.domaininvesting.com/domain-name-loans-lend-me/ .

  3. Mason

    This was good food for thought. There’s definitely humor to be found in your comparison of what you’ve done compared to what Elon Musk has done, but the truth is, it’s no different than anyone else reading your articles! Elon musk is doing things on a new level of importance. When you compare anything 99% of us are doing to him it makes what we all are doing sound silly. I’m interested to follow your career further and see what you get involved with. This is just an idea but with your capital, you should get involved with an “uber for x” type of startup. I have this idea to do an on demand gas fill up service where you tap a button on an app and a guy comes and fills up your car with gas. You could easily get this started for under $25k. All you’d need is 4 or 5 guys with trucks to work for you as independent contractors(that way you don’t have to worry about taxes(similar to uber)), you’d buy them commercial gas tanks with pumps and a gauge($500/piece), an app for drivers and customers and an admin login on a website. That’s just one example but there are tons of variations of that business model that I believe could work.

    1. Eric Borgos Post author

      There are already at least 2 Ubers for gas, see http://www.theverge.com/2015/5/19/8617855/filld-startup-deliver-gas-app and http://www.businessinsider.com/purple-is-an-on-demand-gas-startup-2015-9 . Also, I read an article once about a company that tried to offer gas to cars parked at offices, but there are all sorts of regulations preventing that, like because if somebody in the parking garage is smoking it could cause a fire.

      I have read about most of the “Uber for X” type services. Here’s a good list of them:
      https://www.quora.com/Uber-for-X/What-startups-are-working-on-Uber-for-X
      There is some very inexpensive software you can buy to start your own Uber for X type service, see for example:
      http://www.dectar.com

  4. Bob Luther

    Eric, you have either overlooked or taken for granted a skill you excel at….. writing. Please post your thoughts more often! I remember your articles going back for years. Maybe something along those lines is the business you should be in.

    1. Eric Borgos Post author

      Thanks. Unfortunately, writing is one of the least money making businesses there is (after you take into account the time you put into it). I like writing my blog, even though I don’t make money from it, but it would not make for a good business. I am sure there are some money making ventures possible in the book/writing business though.

      Why don’t you have ads (like AdSense) on your site at http://www.countywebsite.com ? I see you are trying to sell listings, but why not set it up so if you have no listing sold, it shows an AdSense ad instead?

  5. Chris

    Eric,
    Your self proclaimed petty endeavors will most likely never kill anyone.
    Much of Elpn’s ideas though seem grand, are fret with dangers and
    the statistics will be out there someday. Great ideas preserve life and
    the habitat around us and not bloat one’s ego into attempting stuff
    not need for human survival or for human beings to lead fruitful lives
    for that matter.

  6. Monica

    Hi, Eric. I just bought your book on Kindle and am really enjoying it. I’ve only just come across your blog now because of it, and you may not be making money from it, but you are giving inspiration along with a little fun. That’s a great legacy to leave.

  7. Israel

    I read a comment on techcrunch, saw your article about digicredit.com which intrigued me since I”m working on a online payment platform for my Country Belize (payments are hard here.. online payments is way harder).

    I ended up downloading your book and reading it all the way through… great writing! but what struck me the most was that you were not afraid to share what failed and what did not work (there was a lot), but somewhere along there you still made it!

    I’ll follow your new articles, I like this one, because I have the same wild, big ideas that people tell me will never be possible, especially from a little country like Belize.

  8. Patricia Kaehler

    I’ll be watching to see where your journey takes you…
    ~Patricia — Ohio USA — DomainBELL
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