[David McInnis, pictured, was recently interviewed by David Biondo and Dean Rotbart for the October 23, 2011 edition of B. Unconventional. Here is an article that Dean wrote about McInnis and other guests in September 2011 for his Examiner.com column.]
I never thought I’d play the role of midwife, especially to quadruplets.
But that’s exactly what I did earlier this month, helping to launch four new enterprises and coaching them from concept to revenues in just 72 hours.
Do you have an idea for a new startup? Have you mulled the concept for months, maybe even years?
Most people think that starting a new business requires oodles and oodles of advance planning and strategizing, lots of financing, hiring personnel and the creation of significant infrastructure.
David A. McInnis isn’t one of those people.
McInnis, 41, is a successful serial entrepreneur. He’s raked in tens of millions of dollars starting or investing in companies ranging from art galleries and rapid-prototyping services to scooter sales and Internet social networking tools.
McInnis, who is perhaps best known as the founder of PRWeb.com, hypothesized that with a little coaching and a lot of encouragement, ordinary folks could get their business concepts off the ground in just 72 rapid hours.
McInnis was not just shooting to guide these budding entrepreneurs to hang an “open for business” sign within three days. He actually believed they could generate real, money-in-the-bank sales.
To test his theory, McInnis turned to the Wizard Academy, an Austin-based think-tank and non-profit educational center that teaches unconventional but proven methods of business and creative excellence. Each year, Wizard Academy attracts some of the best minds in the world to take, or teach, its seminars.
McInnis, a frequent student at the Academy, proposed leading a three-day course with the aim of demonstrating that launching a new business need not be a prolonged process. And so was born, How to Make Awesome Sauce, the sold out Wizard Academy course that I had the honor of co-instructing.
Despite the searing 112-degree heat that fried Austin early this month, 30-plus intrepid men and women converged on the Academy’s campus to pitch their startup concepts in the hopes of being chosen to lead one of four teams that would actually build out new businesses.
The original proposals were wide-ranging. They included: a social club for middle-school girls; a computer repair service; a gift-card exchange; customized chocolates; and an innovative bra that offered more than just support for women. (Don’t ask!)
Helping to hone the choices to a manageable four, in addition to McInnis and me, were instructors Jeffrey Eisenberg and Roy H. Williams. Both Eisenberg and Williams are legends among Academy graduates, not only because they are inspired educators and bestselling authors, but because they’ve made millions of dollars time and again for their global consulting clients.
Eisenberg, 45, whose corporate clients have included HP, NBC Universal, GE, WebEx, Overstock and Dell, literally and figuratively wrote the book on successful Internet marketing strategies and boosting online conversion rates for sales and lead generation.
Williams, the “Wizard” of Wizard Academy, comes as close to being a true-life business alchemist as anyone I’ve ever encountered in my three decades as a business and financial journalist. His Midas marketing touch, via his Roy H. Williams Marketing, has transformed jewelers and car washes; plumbers and Internet services; medical practices and accountants – you name it – from boring and marginal endeavors, to hugely successful category killers.
One after another, the would-be entrepreneurs attending How to Make Awesome Sauce, spent 2 minutes pitching their concepts and getting immediate feedback from McInnis, Eisenberg, Williams and me. Some registrants dropped out of contention immediately, realizing they could not squeeze their idea into the required framework that their businesses be built and generate sales within three days.
Others returned for a second round, this time five-minutes long, to try and sell the four instructors on their revised concepts.
Well, it worked. While many of the discarded concepts might be valid under different circumstances, four winners were chosen and those would-be entrepreneurs whose ideas were not selected divided themselves among the surviving concepts. Aided by the course instructors, each of the four businesses were designed, built, marketed and in-the-money within 72 hours.
This past Friday, I checked in with the How to Make Awesome Sauce team leaders and received an update. One of the original four projects – featuring a ‘garden in a box’ sold over the Internet –never actually made it out of Austin. Its team disbanded on Day Three, realizing they didn’t adore their concept that much after all. A second project, to sell streaming videos featuring Wizard Academy experts and others, is on hold as its team-leader reworks the concept.
But two of the original four are moving forward. You can see their current stage of development here:
McInnis’s goal was never really to launch the next PRWeb or Facebook in only 72 hours. His point was to teach the lesson that anything worth doing is worth doing now, even if it starts out rough and is in need of significant reinvention.
The group of Wizard Academy students who completed the How to Make Awesome Sauce course took a class photo and dubbed themselves the Ugly Baby Makers.
It’s a crude moniker. But its meaning is a clear message to all other wannabe entrepreneurs. Giving birth to a new business need not take 9 months or even longer.
Do it now. Do it this week. It may begin life as an ugly baby. But it will be alive, instead of just an idea. And your ugly baby may very well grow into a most handsome income down the road.
Are you a Denver-area entrepreneur still dreaming about launching your own business? Would you like to receive a free professional evaluation of your concept? Email me, tell me in a few short sentences your idea, and provide me your phone number. I will be working with a panel of experts in the coming weeks and months to provide professional advice to those seeking to jumpstart the success of their small businesses.