Will my unicorn play in Peoria?

unicornI qualify for a ton of labels: solopreneur, techpreneur, seniorpreneur, etc. There is one thing I know I will never be. I don’t think anyone will ever accuse me of being a unicorn whisperer. In the tech world, if you happen to have one of those really big ideas, people will sometimes refer to it as a unicorn. That just means its the one-in-a-million idea that breaks through the noise and becomes the business that solves a problem the world didn’t know it had. In the process, its value goes on to exceed $1 billion dollars.

I don’t have a unicorn. I don’t even have a unicorn foal. But I do have an idea that comes from a unique (as far as I can tell) way of looking at things. If anyone is successful at implementing it, I am certain they would have a unicorn on their hands. But that’s the rub, “successful at implementing…”. I dare say that no one has ever developed a unicorn on their own.

At Notionovus, we believe in diverse teams. It’s one of our core values. So, at this stage in my venture, I must build a team. I am looking for people who will understand the huge potential in my business model and recognize my ability to see the idea through. One problem; when I was very young, my Daddy Warbucks was hit by a train while simultaneously being struck by lightning. As a result, I had to be raised by my biological parents. The upside was a life I am happy to have lived. The downside is bootstrapping.

Bootstrapping is the art of reusing paper (most people would throw away because it already has printing on one side) by placing the printed side up in the printer feeder. Bootstrapping is keeping the twist ties from packaging in a corner of your desk drawer because you never know when you are going to need a cable stay and won’t be able to afford the box of fancy plastic ones sold by Office Max. Bootstrapping is what every real lean startup does, because lean wasn’t invented in Silicon Valley. It was invented in post-World War II Japan from the ashes of their devastated industry.

I’ve always wondered why “lean initiatives” cost firms so much money, when all you really need to do is take their money away and bury it someplace they can’t find it. They’ll either quit or go lean. Either way you’ve fixed their problem. But, I digress.

– Back to building my team…
The difficulty is I can only afford to pay my team members the same salary I have been paying myself since we formed our company. I am not at liberty to divulge that exact number, but I can say that if you have any bills to pay, you won’t like it. So what can I offer? Equity. Shares of what might end up being nothing.

We’ve got a few things going for us, so far. We’re smart, we’ve got grit, and the idea is sound. What I know we need now are customer / investors. And that is where Peoria comes in. If we were based out of Austin or Santa Clara or Cambridge, I’m sure I couldn’t walk from one end of a bar to another without accidentally overhearing a snippet of a conversation about middleware. Technology startups thrive in such hotbeds of investment and talent.

I love Peoria. I’ve spent most of my life here, and it has been very good to me. There is little to complain about the climate, the geography or the people of this fine metropolitan area. But I am getting strange reactions from some of the people I am interviewing for the Brave Launch program I have enrolled in. When the true purpose of my firm is revealed to my interviewees, they are often shocked by the scope and the gravity. On several occasions I am told that my idea is “too big for Peoria”.

I hope they’re wrong. I would like nothing more than to have a unicorn spring up in central Illinois. I would love for my idea to transform the lives of hundreds of tech workers in the area. It would be fantastic if people graduating from the information technology programs offered in Peoria, Springfield, Galesburg, Bloomington / Normal, and Champaign didn’t feel like they had to move to Chicago, Minneapolis or Dallas to find work.

Someone in central Illinois needs my help. Someone is currently confronting inter-application integration problems and is staring down the barrel of a dreadful choice: pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix it or let it fester and eat away at their business’ profitability. I represent a third alternative. We have a way of fixing middleware problems for pennies on the dollar for current commercial offerings.

Our first few engagements will be rough. We are looking for Goldilocks problems, so perhaps the problem you identify that may help both of us is too simple or too complicated. Maybe it is too critical to your business or not critical enough. At any rate, Notionovus won’t find the perfect project unless we start looking for it. That search starts now.