Crazy Ideas That Actually Worked
By: Kayla Stevens 02/20/2015
“That's so crazy, it might actually work!” How many times have we all heard this? Luckily, some investors still buy into this theory, and it often pays off. Of course, that means that there are lots of investors out there right now who are kicking themselves for turning down those insane plans that actually made it. What are some of those ideas? Let's take a look.
According to a post inMarket Wired, FedEx began as a college paper in an economics class at Yale University. Fred Smith was given the low grade of “C” by his professor for his paper about “an overnight air-freight shipping system for time-sensitive packages, such as computer components, medicine and electronics.” Despite the fact that his idea was given such a low score, Smith decided to run with it anyway. In 1973, he started FedEx with only seven packages delivered in the initial run. Smith scrounged for his seed money, getting funds from wherever he could. According to legend he made payroll once by winning $27,000 at blackjack and wiring the money from Las Vegas to his company. Once Merrill Lynch began to use FedEx to send their own packages, the company's name was solid. And a crazy idea which only scored a “C” in college became a huge success.
Yes, this one just sounds stupid. But it worked. As the tale is told byInc, a man by the name of Gary Dahl created these inanimate pets. Where did he get such a crazy idea? Sitting in a bar, or course. (Think “Cheers” and it all makes sense.) The legend says that Dahl was sitting at a bar in 1975, listening to his friends’ complain about their pets. For reasons that are not quite clear, this made him decide that a rock would make the perfect pet. (After all, they are easy to care for, very quiet, and don't take up much space.) At first the idea was a joke meant for Dahl's friends and family, but when the idea went viral, Dahl ended up writing a 32 page training manual which was full of “detailed care instructions filled with jokes and gags, such as commands like playing dead.” Neiman Marcus soon picked up the idea, and sold them for about $4 each. The rocks came in a tiny kennel complete with air holes. With a product that was cheap to produce, Dahl ended up making millions of dollars off of a bunch of rocks. Pet rocks made a comeback in 2012, and many still have theirs.
Who would have ever thought that millions of people would choose to post to a social media outlet which only allowed 140 characters per post? Jack Dorsey, and undergraduate at New York University, that's who. When podcasting company “Odeo” had a brainstorming session back in 2006, the board of directors was looking for new ideas. Dorsey suggested that one could use an SMS system to communicate with small groups of others. Flikr and the American SMS codes (which were five characters in length) was the inspiration for this idea which soon exploded out of the company's offices and into the world. Today, millions of people, businesses, and organizations use Twitter to get their messages out there.
In 1994, when financial analyst Jeff Bezos got the idea to sell things on the internet via a online store, everyone thought it was a stupid idea. Everyone, except him and New York investment company D.E. Shaw. They realized that online sales were increasing by a whopping 2300% each year. With items such as books so easy to ship and so popular to people from all walks of life, Shaw decided this was a good product to begin with. Although the first releases of the company were a bit hard to navigate and “boring,” according to customers, the site has since greatly improved and has over 65 million users in the United States alone, according to Market Wired.