How to Bribe People to Start Companies (Plus: Kimono Event Scholarship)

183 Comments

Once upon a time, two entrepreneurs had an idea: what if we used traditional bookbinding to make iPad cases?

It was a fun idea.

Then it suddenly became very, very profitable. The two entrepreneurs, Patrick Buckley and Craig Dalton, named the idea DODOCase and soon had sold more than 10,000 iPad cases at $60 a pop.

Soon thereafter, they were featured in The New York Times and had a multi-million dollar business on their hands, to the tune to $4-5 million a year.

That could be you.

See, DODOcase was far from alone. They were part of a simple experiment, a business-building competition I launched jointly with an incredible start-up called Shopify.

The results were amazing:

Revenue PER HOUR for the duration of the contest: $696.38
Total number of orders placed: 66,503
Most important — Total businesses created: nearly 1,400

1,400 &^%$ing businesses, created by people just like you.

People who’d become comfortable in a routine. People who’d dreamt of starting their own company… someday. People who just needed a quick slap to get off the tranquilizers of their 9-to-5. But did I say “people just like you”? Scratch that — 1,400 businesses, many of them created by people far less capable than you.

The Shopify Build-a-Business competition is back, bigger and better than ever. There are more than $500,000 in prizes, including:

$100,000 Grand Prize
VIP trip for two to New York City, where Seth Godin will cook you dinner
One-hour power session with Gary Vaynerchuk
VIP trip to San Francisco, where you’ll visit the Googleplex and have dinner (and wine, of course) with yours truly at one of my favorite restaurants in the world…

This time, it’s also international!

The contest is open to residents of the U.S.A. (excluding residents of Arizona, Maryland, Vermont, and Puerto Rico), The U.K. (excluding N. Ireland), Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Regardless of location, EVERYONE can participate to take advantage of the educational portion. You don’t need any experience starting or running an online store. Forget the “prizes.” Those are just window dressing. The real prize is creating a profitable business that could be the next DODOcase, the next 4-Hour Workweek, or far beyond both.

GigaOM noted today:

“The competition isn’t simply about the money. Shopify is teaming with marketing guru Seth Godin, wine video blogger and author Gary Vaynerchuk and angel investor Tim Ferriss, along with sponsors Google, MailChimp and PayPal to offer advice and counseling to start-ups. That along with AdWords credits help bring the total payout to $500,000.”

To reiterate the dilemma and solution, as I wrote last time:

“This competition is intended as a benevolent and encouraging kick in the ass. This stuff isn’t rocket science, but it does require stepping outside your comfort zone for a bit to realize: this isn’t that hard. It’s just unfamiliar. If you do it now, a lot of people will be in the same boat and you’ll take the trip together.”

Ready to join the ranks, shed a little blood with your brethren (mere papercuts, guys), and fundamentally change your life forever? If not now, when?

Go here. Get excited. Pull the trigger.

###

Related:
Looking for ideas? Browse some of the case studies in the “Engineering the Muse” posts, or successful examples on Shopify.
Learn lessons from past winners and runners-up

Odds and Ends: ONE Scholarship for $10,000 Event

As promised, I’ve thought a lot about financial aid requests for the $10,000 “Opening the Kimono™” event in August.

I take your feedback seriously, but I also take the attendee selection seriously. I’ll therefore be offering one “scholarship” (covering attendance fee) to a qualified doer. To separate the talkers from the doers, and to reward loyal readers, here’s how a single winner will be chosen:

1) Upload a video to YouTube, no longer than 3 minutes, titled “4HB success story” or “4HWW success story,” followed by your full name.
2) In the video, describe the results you’ve created from implementing something from 4HB and/or 4HWW.
3) Then, leave a comment on this blog post with “SUBMISSION” at the top of your comment and a link to your video.
4) My elves and I will choose 5-10 finalists.
5) Those top 5-10 will be voted on by the blog community to determine the winner.

Your video must be submitted no later than this Sunday, May 1, at midnight PST. Earlier submissions get priority in the case of any ties.

I will ask the winner for their last year’s tax return and bank statements. If you can clearly afford it, the scholarship will go to the #2-ranked finalist. If #2 can clearly afford it, it goes to #3, and so on.

We look forward to seeing your videos, and to seeing one of you in Napa wine country in August!

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

183 comments on “How to Bribe People to Start Companies (Plus: Kimono Event Scholarship)

  1. *****SUBMISSION*****

    Tim,
    I GUARANTEE that I will be your biggest SUCCESS from this meeting…. if not, I’ll repay you the 10k -

    I hope you enjoy the video – Straight from the heart!

    Don

  2. SUBMISSION

    Can’t wait to hand you a pair of paperfeet in person, Tim. Thank so much for giving me the opportunity to travel and embrace experiential learning adventures.

    Cheers, Jimmy

  3. SUBMISSION

    Thanks for offering a scholarship. I love the 4HB. My life is turning around because of it.

    Thanks.

    Christine

  4. SUBMISSION

    At 9pm Sat night, my wife saw the blog post about the “Opening the Kimono” scholarship – got the kids into bed and set about making my first video ever.

    After the 4H books, I really want to see under your kimono (kidding!!)

    I’d love the chance to attend, because I have everything to learn about successfully marketing and promoting a book, and I need this knowledge for my next two books!

    Many thanks,

    Greg

  5. SUBMISSION

    Check it out and vote guys!

    Try not to laugh too hard at my 4HB trailer style intro. My wife and I had a blast and were cracking up the whole time…Hilarious, fun, and totally worthwhile.

    Just lovin’ the whole thing…

    Paul C.

  6. ***SUBMISSION***

    Hey Tim,

    I hope entries closer to the deadline will still be considered. I cut mine down from 5+ pages of notes, to the top 20 things that have come about just because of the 4HWW.

    I even outsourced part of the video in true 4HWW style!!! :D

    I can see so many good submissions here with amazing stories! However I thought I should still try. I have learned through the 4HWW that I shouldn’t chase the competition but should chase the dream instead!

    Here’s my link, best of luck everyone!

    Helen

  7. ****SUBMISSION****

    So…I’ve been editing for a day and a half…and i’m a little paranoid about the possibility of the video not uploading the first time I submitted.

    Here it is:

    I cannot tell you all how excited I am about this!

    So much fun!

    Paul

  8. SUBMISSION

    Thanks for the opportunity, Tim. Last time, my video was a finalist in your RTW contest, and the results were incredible—I raised over $5,000 for an Indian school from your readers. Now, I want to show how my lifestyle changed–my business is so passive and outsourced, that I can work 0 hours / week and support my lifestyle. (My last video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1merER1zVFg)

    If anyone has questions about building passive income or the digital nomad lifestyle, feel free to email me. The 90 days project to becoming a DJ in Berlin begins in late may…stay tuned by subscribing at http://maneeshsethi.com/kimono

  9. Submission!

    It’s the 11th hour, but I just couldn’t let this opportunity go by without trying. Thanks Tim!

  10. I have a GREAT IDEA!

    You enter the contest, made the a Shopify store, then what ?
    As a participant, you are still responsible for your own marketing. That kind of sucks! Because entering in this “special” contest has No Added Benefit. You just have a Shopify store (which costs money monthly) and that’s it. Sure, it’s a start. But if you are a new entrepreneur without marketing experience, your chances of making a sale is rather slim. No one is getting a ounce of exposure for participating in the contest. This means Shopify wins(they make money) and participants lose. I’d rather it be a win-win. And this is only possible when participants make a sale. (everybody gets a cut)

    So here is the idea. Let’s gather all the participants in a central online location. Every participants makes a 30 second video about their product with a link to their Shopify Store. A website, blog or whatever randomly features a 30 seconds video every time someone visits the site. Of course, if the visitor wants to browse, they should be able to do so as well. This means FREE exposure for anyone who is participating in the Shopify Contest. If participants can make ONE SALE due to the added exposure(recuperating the monthly cost), it would be a win-win for everyone involved. Since many experts are organizing this event, the exposure (and sales) could be huge. I think this idea makes the Shopify Contest a THOUSANDS TIMES better than it currently is.

    Unfortunately, I’m not versed in computer code. But if someone has a little knowledge this shouldn’t be hard. Most of the videos are being hosted on YouTube anyway. So I think it’s just a matter of embeding videos into posts, then have the homepage feature the posts at random.

    What do you think ? Those who think this is a good idea, Say Ay!

  11. SUBMISSION

    I am not a movie editor, its 14 slides but all occur in ONE second. I have no idea how that happened or how to fix it. I have been tinkering but no results.

    and this is Ramon

    • i attempted to fix it and it kept shortening the time to one second. It didn’t have audio so maybe that’s it. I just left the current one up since I am hitting a dead end. I have now scratched movie producer off my freelancing list.

  12. Tim,

    You mention in 4HWW that “muse-worthy” products must have a markup of at least 8-10x. Other than ingestibles, which you wouldn’t wish on anyone, and information products, what product categories can sustain your target markup? Thanks!

  13. Shopify doesn’t support recurring payments. Is there a way to still be factored into the contest if you have a business model based on recurring payments or a subscription? My subscription model would be very similar to the 37 Signals basecamp model

  14. Okay, I’m like most of you blokes–young and been reading the 4hww blog forever…
    I’ve spent all this time trying to start an internet based business without true breakthrough success. I think it requires a certain business mindset to be successful.

    So, ever since Tim wrote about why he didn’t go to b-school, I’ve kept tabs on thought processes. Also I’ve kept b-school on the backburner. I recently started a blog about the MBA mindset.

    I think having a corporate background (without the rigidness) can have pros and cons to being a successful entrepreneur.
    Cheers.

  15. Hi All!

    This is an email I sent to Tim’s team on the 2nd of May. I only just found out about this scholarship today and I am kicking myself. See why below:

    Hi Charlie and Amy,

    I’m emailing you both because I am not sure where to send this.

    I created a business using principles from Tim’s Four Hour Work Week. I made over £12,000 in revenue in April 2011. My story could be a good case study.

    Here’s the business: http://www.sorrybut.co.uk

    This is what I learnt from Tim:
    - I chose a polarizing, newsworthy theme: the Royal Wedding.
    Thinking of the business as an experiment solved my 3 year paralysis problem.
    - I focused on being different, not just better. I designed a non-parody “anti-commemorative” product in a limited edition, using high quality materials and local manufacturing. Not a cheap gag, but a heirloom.
    - Online selling versus physical shop. I focused on creating a buzz online and directing traffic to my online shop, instead of asking retailers in London to carry my product. I didn’t want to reduce my profit margin and I wanted to be in control of price points.
    - The story is topical. Millions of commemorative ceramics are being sold right now. Ironically, the bulk of the official products (commissioned by the Royal Family) are not being made in the UK. It’s a sad irony. The UK ceramic industry is struggling to survive. Imagine how many jobs would have been created if the decision had been made to manufacture locally?
    - I made it for me first. I can get inside the head of my target customers, because I’m one of them. And, I believe in the story 100%. No better motivator than that.
    - 10% off the selling price goes to a local charity that helps youths do cool things like put on plays or sporting events. Tim gave me some incentive act on my dreams. I would love to do the same for the bored and often drunk teens I see around me.

    Here’s some press:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/apr/04/buy-of-the-day

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-04-26/royal-wedding-apathy-spurs-britons-to-commemorate-indifference-.html

    If you could pass this on to Tim, I would greatly appreciate it.

    Thank you both!

    Kind regards,
    Camila.

  16. I’ve read 4HWW a while ago but honestly had no plans of starting a business.

    THEN, this weekend I met Tim at JFK headed to SF. I felt like it was a sign! I’ve entered the Shopify contest and we’ll see how it goes. Good luck to everyone :-D

  17. Hey all,

    I’m interested in entering the Shopify contest, I’ve got a few viable ideas and I’ve used Shopify before. I’d ideally like to find others interested in forming a team.

    Preferably those who have skills that compliment mine! :) As others have pointed out, I could do this on my own. However I think it would be more of an enjoyable experience and be more of a success to work with others and learn new things!

    If anyone is considering the contest and would like to form a virtual team, pls reply!

  18. Hello Tim,

    I’m one of your readers from France.

    In France we have a very specific selective system to train the best
    engineers in the country.

    To go to the best french schools (Grandes Ecoles), you have almost to
    study day and night, because of important competition.

    Literally. It’s not about how smart you are, but how a hard-worker you are.

    Even if I think I could get in the top list, it requires extreme
    dedication and very often I ask myself if it’s really worth it to
    loose my twenties this way.

    Either way, I don’t feel like becoming a geeky engineer, even if I could.

    So what do you think about it? Would it be wise to quit and to start
    doing what I like to do or should I keep at it and wait until I’m 24
    with a shiny, but useless diploma?

    I have a plan on building a software engineering company with my team
    based in Ukraine for european clients (french and ukrainian are my
    native languages).

    Thank you Tim!

  19. Hi Helen,

    I’m interested in connecting with you too. I just read your post on New Idea Syndrome and recognised a kindred spirit. I wizz through notebooks like they’re going outta style, hundreds of ideas unimplemented. When I couldn’t take the frustration anymore I created a mini business experiment that panned out better than I imagined. Oh, the power of picking 1thing and acting on it!

    I did an EFS programme at my old uni too. Where are you in the UK? I’m in Brummy. Here’s my email: camilaprada[at]yahoo[dot]com

    Would love to hear from you :)

  20. Hello Tim and Gang,

    Great book, really liked it, however I am stuck with a dilemma as I can’t seem to digest most of the foods suggested in the book. High fiber foods, and high fat foods do not seem to agree with me. I used to eat a lot of ceral and a fair bit of bread which i know is not ideal for staying trim and other stuff but these foods did not bother my stomach. Eggs, steak, beans, raw vegtables, and most of the stuff suggested in this book bother my stomach a lot. Any suggestions? Lost a bunch of fat after cutting out ceral and orange juice, and doing the 30 grams of protein 30 min after waking up but my stomach is constantly giving me grief and i always feel bloated and constipated. Little help please? Perhaps easy digestable foods that fit into your guidlines?

  21. Hi Tim,
    My name is Sophie and I am the owner/founder of FlockStocks, which was recently announced the front-runner in the Shopify Build-A-Business Contest. So apparently you may be having dinner with me. I am amazed at the opportunity and just wanted to introduce myself. You can read a bit of my story here if you’re interested:
    http://www.themogulmom.com/2011/10/sophie-kovik-shopify/
    I’m currently on a 3 month mini-retirement in Thailand, and the best part about winning the comp would be getting to thank you in person!
    Anyway Tim, thank you for being so generous with your time and I hope to be meeting with you soon.
    Sophie