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


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.


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!

Posted on: April 26, 2011.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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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. No AZ again? That’s it–I’m moving! Actually I am, in July to a state that DOES allow the contest, so since I see the deadline is in December, I’m in the running…


  2. I was still in school and in Canada last year when this competition was held… I’ve been hoping it would come back in 2011 when I graduated! This is so awesome!! Thanks Tim, for pooling your resources together and making this awesome contest :)


  3. Brilliant competition, once again inspirational. I’ll be in the Shopify competition for sure with my muse/charity.

    I love that the real inspiration for this competition is the financial independence and kickstart, not the prize pool.

    Great that I can participate this year as an Aussie ;) Thanks heaps for that.

    Is the Canadian prize pool separate because of lottery laws again?


  4. Sounds like a fun competition.

    What is your “favorite restaurant in the world” that you speak of? I would be royally peeved if it consisted of a 5 minute fast food diner.


  5. As a resident of Maryland, I have to ask… why not? What’s the deal?

    Not to sound like an accusation, but what is the prohibition concerning my home state?

    I understand the gist of what you’re saying, so far as the “transfer” that comes from building one’s own business, but in a legal sense, wassup?


      • Hi Adam,

        Canadians are not eligible for the Grand Prize and the Industry Prizes as that would be against the law. Canadians are competing amongst themselves for the Canadian prize.

        The approximate value of the Canadian prize is $25,000. The $5,000 is just the Apple gift card part of the prize.


  6. $696.38/hour and 66503 sales divided over 1400 companies is a mean hourly wage of a bit more than $0.497 with 47.5 total sales per company over the course of the contest. That the winner grossed $600,000 over 10,000 sales means the median will be far lower than the mean.

    The real value here is in finding out what everyone else failed to do.


  7. I think I will enter this time…last time I found out about it to late….I have already been toying with some ideas….Tim you btw are possibly the coolest guy I think I have come across in a long time…funny I’ve never met you


  8. Hurray! I am so excited to bust out the camera tomorrow! I really want to go to the seminar and soak up info, and sip some wine! Maybe this chance at a scholarship will be it! Thank you Tim for being so generous and inspirational!


  9. Hi Tim,

    This is completely unrelated to this topic but I figured this would be the best way to get in touch with you. First off, I just started reading your blog, and I’m amazing at what you have accomplished. I just ordered my copy of the 4-hour workweek and can’t wait to read it and then after the 4-hour body. Had 2 questions: Have you ever tried picking up a musical instrument? Have you ever tried to make yourself taller? I’ll be interested to see what your answers are.


  10. I had questions about the contest? I am not sure if this is the place to ask, but here goes anyway do all orders need to be placed through the shopify website in order to count? I thought I read something about the dodo case being marketed directly to customers standing in line to by the ipad? would it be possible to have a designated buyer make purchases via shopify for person to person sales. Example: I find a few clients that want to purchase my product to put in their store but they don’t want to go through the trouble of going to a site to make the purchase when they could just write me a check and have the product delivered. The sale would benefit me but would I get awarded “points” for that?


    • Though the dodo case was marketed directly to customers standing in line, I think they did not take orders there. It was to build buzz, but what I envisioned was the street team did not take orders.


    • Hi Wes,

      Only sales that go through a the Shopify store count towards your sales total. In the case of DODOcase last year, we only took the sales they made through their Shopify site.

      This isn’t to discourage you from selling directly or elsewhere, it’s just that there is now way for us to accurately track any of those sales.


  11. This is fantastic, thanks for doing this again. I needed the slap across the face to get started and this helped — I’m starting an information product business so I won’t be officially taking part in the shopify contest, yet I’ll be along for the ride with everyone else.

    This would be a perfect time for you to post another Muse Examples post with emphasis on info products, it would definitely spur those of us in the info product realm.


    • Hi Aidan,

      Sorry, Republic of Ireland doesn’t count as the UK :)

      Hopefully next year, we’ll be able to spread the contest to even more countries. It took a lot of legal work to get it expanded to the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada this year.


      • That’s disappointing, I don’t think there’s anything I wouldn’t do to have Seth Godin make me dinner ha! I’m still gonna start a company though. Exams end in a few weeks, then let the games begin! :)


  12. “The contest is open to residents of the U.S.A. … excluding residents Maryland” But why?! Guess it’s just not for me….


    • Hi Ajaero,

      Running contests like this requires a lot of legal wrangling. Every country has different laws concerning contests (and even some regions within countries).

      This year we tried really hard to expand to more countries. We had to work with 4 law firms across the globe to get it expanded to the countries that are included.

      The real prize from this program is starting a sustainable business, and that’s available to everyone.