What Do They Do Now?

There I was, sitting in the auditorium of the Philadelphia Mint during an angel investing program. Hopeful entrepreneurs took the stage one by one and attempted to wow us with their several-minute-long pitches. Would a lucky few  leave with a potential investor to help them in their journey to becoming the next unicorn?

So far it had been a boring collection of products and services at various stages of getting off the ground. As the next contestant, excuse me, entrepreneur, came on stage, a sense of curiosity ran through the room. The entrepreneur walked out waving a big white thing that looked like…a diaper.

With unbridled enthusiasm he spent his allotted time regaling us with details about incontinence, including the exciting fact that many of us in the audience have an uncontrollable affliction to look forward to.

But have no fear. The very diaper he was waving around was our salvation.

He then went on to explain the amazing science behind his product, the exceptional new absorbent material he’d located, how profitable his company would become almost overnight, and other odds and ends about his product and business. Best of all–from his perspective–was that “there is nothing like this” to solve the leakage problem spreading ever wider as the population ages.

I looked around and saw a collection of skeptical faces. Seems I was not alone in my thinking this guy had certainly not done his homework.

And then the very first question was shouted out. “What do people do now?”

This event took place  quite a few years ago but I’ve never forgotten the horrified look on the presenter’s face as he realized he really had no idea how to answer this question. “What do people do now?”

Since that time, I’ve noticed that many people fall into the same trap. They seem to think that their idea is so wonderful, it just has to be unique. They look so narrowly when evaluating what else is out there that if something isn’t exactly like what they’re doing, it’s not competition. Their blinders keep them from expanding their view and realizing that of course there is competition. People are currently doing something to keep their pants dry. The question is, how will a new company’s product or service be a vast improvement over the current solutions? How will it delight people more?

Look carefully around you and notice what people are doing that competes with your idea. Do a great job of this assessment and come up with a totally new way of moving people around and become the next Uber. Or do a lousy job of this and be relegated to the trash heap of failed ideas.

I did five minutes of research on leaking adults. It seems people have been having this problem and writing about and dealing with it in numerous ways for a very long time. The Washington City Paper has  quite an enlightening and humorous article on the topic that shares these solutions, “The Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian text from 1550 BC, discussed the condition and methods for treatment: for men, external urine-collection devices: for women, vaginal inserts to provide compression.” And since then, new solutions have been devised and used continuously.

Even today, if you happen to have a truly unique, effective, and easy-to-use way to soak up this problem, millions of customers are waiting…

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