Have you ever thought of starting a company? Mark Moore (42) has. Four times. And with two acquisitions and an IPO behind him, expectations on his current venture, “One True Media”ù are high. So where do the ideas come from? How does Mark create that flash of brilliance which gives ignition to a company; a successful company?

Start with a problem
Mark keeps a list. Not a list of ideas for companies, but a list of problems he sees every day. Call him a technology anthropologist. The problem behind One True Media was that suddenly people everywhere were generating an unmanageable quantity of digital content. Tiny digital cameras, video cameras, and camera phones were filling hard disks with photos and videos at an alarming rate. There was no good way to organize, present or edit the information. Mark knew he could create something the world needed.

Exchange with the customer
What exactly did amateur photographers want? And how would he translate that into a business model? Mark simply got started. He founded “One True Media”ù knowing he would change the business model quickly and continuously. The initial online service let users create a montage, a scrapbook, from their photos. One True Media would print it, package it in a photo album, and mail it to the user. From this start, the company began learning and is still learning. It changes the service every 2 weeks. Employees watch how people use it, constantly adding and removing features. There is a phone number, an email feedback form, and live chat for suggestions. Every week Mark reviews all the input and sends the top 5 promising or consistent suggestions to the entire company.

It’s never the big things
In creating ventures, its little changes that really matter. One True Media had a terrific holiday season in 2005, but in Janauary 2006 the business went dark. Mark and his team kept changing. At the end of January, they had a breakthrough. People wanted to share. One True Media added a simple feature that let users put photos and video onto “myspace,”ù an Internet community site. All of a sudden users were doubling every two weeks. Less than a year and countless more changes later, One True Media has over 880,000 registered users and has created over a million videos.

The result is rarely the starting point
Mark is not unique. Successful ventures are rarely a flash of brilliance. MedTronic, inspired by the vision of electricity in life from the 1931 movie Frankenstein, started as a medical equipment repair shop. After 8 years of interaction with doctors and the medical industry, the founders began pioneering the pacemaker. MedTronic is now an $11 billion business. An idea is sculpted and sometimes radically changed in conjunction with customers and partners. Mark’s philosophy is this: “Think of yourself in a room with many locked doors. Your customer is on the other side of one of the doors. She is yelling at you, saying ‘I’m over here’. Your job is to unlock the right doors. The faster you unlock doors, the sooner you find real opportunity.”ù


 Stuart Read is professor of marketing, IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland. Robert Wiltbank is associate professor of strategic management, Willamette University, Oregon.

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Stuart Read