Home
An attractive young woman went out for a long run. She picked her route carefully, avoiding sketchy neighborhoods. But despite her best precautions, she could never feel completely safe in New York City, miles from her apartment, especially after dark. 

Her 110 pound frame sliced through the night leaving nothing but the sound of her running shoes on the pavement.  If necessary, she knew she could outrun almost any pursuit that came on foot. Assailants generally give up before the twenty-mile mark. It bothered her that she even had to have such thoughts. She kicked it up a notch.

Parked cars and lamp posts whizzed by. She thought she saw something that looked out of place, but it was just a rogue napkin blown by the wind. Settle down, she told herself. Don't be concerned about random motion in the night. Keep running. Get your miles. It's the only way you can sleep tonight.

She could see the shadowy outlines of three young males in the distance. They didn't look like trouble, necessarily, but she crossed the street anyway and planned her escape routes just in case. One of the men said something and the other two laughed. It sounded as if a comment had been directed at her. She kept her head down and put the three men in her past.

As she crossed the five-mile mark, she couldn't help wondering what would happen if someone with evil intent grabbed her. How long would it be until her husband knew she was in trouble? How long does an adult have to be missing before the police take it seriously?

She had her smartphone with her, but who has time to dial a number and make an emergency call during an attack? It takes time to get to your phone. Then you have to concentrate to get to the right mode.  Are you wearing gloves? If you get the gloves off, do you have time to dial 911, explain your situation, and give your location?

She had these thoughts every time she ran, which was nearly every day. And she knew that others must sometimes feel the same way.  There are some environments that feel unsafe no matter what precautions you take. As she ran, she tried to work out a solution. What she needed was a quick way to activate her phone in an emergency. And once activated, it needed to call for help automatically and give her location. But how?

At this point in the story you need to know that the runner's father is an electrical engineer living in California. The runner and her dad talked about the problem and brainstormed a variety of solutions. The best of the ideas turned into a patent application, a prototype, and now a business that just launched. The product is called MyRingGuard.

It's a ring that pairs with your Android phone (iPhone version will follow) via Bluetooth. If you're out by yourself, and you encounter trouble, just press the button on the ring to send an emergency text message via your phone to whoever you pre-designate. The text message will say you're in trouble and it will give your GPS coordinates. Obviously that won't stop an attack in progress, but at least you'll know help is on the way, and the help will have a good idea where to find you.

To me, the interesting part of this story is how two people starting with nothing but an idea can form a company that designs, manufactures, and markets a consumer product. I'm fascinated by the fact that none of the components of the business are physically in the same place. Most of it was outsourced by contract.

CEO (the runner): New York City

Engineer (the runner's dad): California

Industrial design: Argentina

Tooling design: Australia

Prototype: China

Electronics design: Romania

Firmware design: Hungary

App design: Hungary

Production: China (by a New York based company)

This sort of everywhere-at-once company structure would have been impractical ten years ago. In the old days, ideas were worthless and implementation was everything. We're entering a phase where implementation is a commodity that is universally available at a reasonable price. The real value is shifting to the quality of ideas. It's not a complete shift - someone still has to coordinate all of the disparate parts - but you can see the trend: If your idea kicks ass, and you have access to the Internet, you have the entire world to help with implementation. You can even crowdsource part of the funding, as the runner and her father did.

Along these same lines, a few weeks ago I teased you by saying I had a valuable idea I would try to "sell" to a venture capitalist - for someone else to implement - just to test my hypothesis that even unpatented ideas are beginning to have economic value. I can report to you today that the result of my experiment is a qualified success.  I was able to find a highly capable investor willing to form a company around my idea and grant me an equity position in return for my contribution, which will be mostly around defining the idea in more detail. That's not quite "selling" an idea, and there is a lot of distance between deciding to form a company and actually creating something of value. I'll also end up doing some actual work, but that should be manageable. (My idea will need to stay secret for now. Sorry!)

Implementation will always be important, but the shift to an ideas-based economy is underway.

Disclosure: The runner and her dad are friends of mine and I have an interest in the company's success. The opening story has some literary flourishes but it's accurate in a "based on a true story" way.

 
Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +73
  • Print
  • Share

Comments

Sort By:
Oct 25, 2012
@uhmdown

The firearm murder numbers are raw, not percentages, so, given we have roughly five times the population, 140 times the current rate is more realistic. To which I reply 'depends. 140 times what?' In this case the answer is 140 times 14, or an increase of roughly 2,000 firearm murders in a population of 60 million. And for this we would see a drop of roughly 150,000 rapes and 1 million assaults.

So, yes, I think thats a good deal.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 25, 2012
(Oh, I see I am dumb. There is a picture on the first page. Am I the only one who didn't understand this?)
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 25, 2012
@Joe:
Yes, lets carry a gun, that will scare them off! Oh, but wait, those assaulters probably have guns as well, mmhh. O.K., we'll just get a bigger gun, that'll show them. Oh, now they have gone and bought assault rifles. No problem, I'll just get a bazooka. Tha's pretty heavy, but that's good exercise.

Joe, opinions like yours are the reason that a lot of Europeans don't understand Americans.

@Scott:
I didn't understand where to carry this ring and how big it is, if you had to clip it onto your phone or somewhere else, untill I clicked through to the product specs where I saw a picture that showed the ring on someones finger.
I'm not sure if I'm the only who is that dumb, but it might be a good idea to put a picture like that on the first page of the website.
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 25, 2012
@whtllnew

Lets assume that more guns did bring down assault rates.
If UK relaxed their gun laws and had their assault statistics go down but their murder-by-firearm statistics become _668_ times higher, you'd call that a win?
 
 
Oct 25, 2012
@JoetheWebmaster

If a criminal could commit a crime with a knife or less, why would he choose the riskier path of acquiring a gun?
 
 
Oct 25, 2012
@uhmdown

Did you read my last response to callcopse? Yes we have more gun related crimes, which is what you would expect if we have more guns, but the question is do you want to reduce those if it means more robberies, assaults, rapes, dangerous streets and giving up the right to own a gun?

Or can you demonstrate to me that getting rid of guns don't increase any of those things?
 
 
Oct 25, 2012
@uhmdown, your logic is flawed. If guns were illegal then only criminals would have them as criminals do not abide by the law.
 
 
-102 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 25, 2012
@whtllnew
"If I have the right to own a gun and you don't thats one measure in which Im freer than you."

Maybe. But that logic allows you to argue that not having the right to own chemical weapons makes you less "free" too.


"As for the rest of your argument evidence speaks louder than words. We have a website provided by a brit that shows the kinds of crimes guns can prevent are less common here than in the UK."

The website shows that you rank number 1 in "Murder with Firearms", with 668 times more than UK.
It also shows that UK has 133-125% more rape and assault (note that only the rape/assault numbers are in %).
While nobody can dispute that carrying a gun might save you from becoming the victim of a crime, you still have a much bigger gun-violence problem than UK has assault problems (even when taking into account that USAs population is about approx 6 times larger than UKs).
 
 
Oct 25, 2012
@whittlenew

atleast we can agree that universally known ideas have no monetary value.

scotts point is that as collaboration and information increase there will be a market/demand for ideas. what i am saying is that scenario makes ideas a dime a dozen. the real challenge in that glut is finding the idea that fits demand (subjective choice) and putting it into action(implementation).

ideas themselves get devalued, while visionary risk and implementation rise in importance.

imo the more knowledge, collaboration, and communication increase the more saturated and universally known any (and every) idea is.

Ever hear the song "Its all been done"? if i put my fingers here or if i etc etc etc. very few new ideas. a bad romance song is nothing unique. he/she might be a hermaphrodite, but that doesnt make make everything he/she does special. its all been done. new music variations don't explore humanity in any new meaningful way. its just new art, not new ideas. its value is the uniqueness of its actual content, not its implementational thematic idea.

How much do you think I could sell my idea of starcrossed lovers to Lady Gaga for? It would be specific enough to be unique, but recycling obvious themes. Does she need me to help work out unique specifics, or can she do that on her own, or by looking at amateur work on internet?

exploding communication and knowledge is idea inflation. supply far outpaces demand.
 
 
Oct 25, 2012
@uhmdown

If I have the right to own a gun and you don't thats one measure in which Im freer than you. You might say that its not much or that you don't miss that freedom. Fine. But its still there.

As for the rest of your argument evidence speaks louder than words. We have a website provided by a brit that shows the kinds of crimes guns can prevent are less common here than in the UK. You are welcome to provide counterexamples from other wealthy countries.
 
 
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 25, 2012
I live in Denmark. And just like callcopse the mentality in the US where having a gun is part of being "free" will forever be foreign to me, but ok.

Lets forget about the risk of accidents for a moment.
For those that argue that having a gun protects you from assault: what you're forgetting is that you're contributing to an arms race. What happens if your would-be assaulters adapt to everybody carrying guns? You think it won't happen?

This type of predator-prey dynamic happens all the time. Consider using insecticide on your crops against parasites. In the short term you do beat the parasites back, but eventually they adapt and become resistant. Your solution: more pesticides. Guess what happens then.
Same with Antibiotics. Same with GMO plants.

I don't know US gun law, so I wouldn't know how guns would be any different. But my hunch is that they won't.
 
 
Oct 25, 2012
@language

The idea to make a song is universal. How many people had the idea to make "Bad Romance' before Lady Gaga did? The idea did no good until Lady Gaga actually implemented it (made it) and then communicated (sold) it.
 
 
Oct 25, 2012
@whtllnew

for music, the value is the content. the 1's and 0's in a mp3 file. this information is what is sold.

the idea to make a song has reached infinity in the USA. everyone is aware of the idea. the implementation idea has no monetary value. you can't sell this idea, everyone already knows it.

I will sell you the idea to make a song for $100 though if you want. It's a proven idea that has made ppl billions of dollars. great idea, and you are certain it has monetary value so $100 for the idea is a steal tbh.
 
 
Oct 25, 2012
@callcopse

your perspective on gun rights is not uncommon. IMO grouping stats of law abiding citizens together with felons and criminals in general is fine, but you fail to discuss it.

For your interpretation of stats to be accurate you have to forget entirely about the behavior of gun owners and the morality of their actions.

A gun owner who breaks into your home to assassinate you and gets shot dead by you will be part of your 4.2 times more likely.

i really wonder about a person who would lazily put stats in no context whatsoever. the death of a !$%*!$%*!$ is more about his criminal activity than his gun ownership.
 
 
Oct 25, 2012
@language

No. To use your music example the idea is the idea for the song. That idea for would have no value without implementing it by making a recording. And that recording would have no value without communicating (selling) it. And copyright increases the monetary value to the creator (by giving him a monopoly on that song).
 
 
Oct 25, 2012
"Run a store for left-handed convenience items" is an idea whose implementation is the value.

IP like music or software, their content is their value.

Scotts idea seems to be implementation value. Make a widget to do some task, whose content is arbitrary. The finished product will be IP with content value, but his base idea is all implementation.

The problem in quantifying implementation value is that it runs into choice very quickly (in industry with high information and communication). if 2 companies both are aware of a potential implementation and the executives decide different paths, and only 1 chooses to do it and it turns out to be profitable, then you might say the idea had that value. Except the real difference between the companies was a decision, not information.

when information and communication increase, the core difference between all actors stops being ideas, and starts being subjective choices or resources or some other non-idea based disparity.
 
 
Oct 25, 2012
@Scott, a sub-compact hand gun is easier to carry than a cell phone...

@callcopse, UK... the same place that puts bloggers and unpopular facebook posters in jail for opinion? No thanks I'll pass. Also your NewScience "study" is hardly scientific. The study never mentions how many had CCW permits. They could have been gang bangers for all you know, highly likely where the study was conducted... Philly. How does carrying a firearm as a law abiding citizen increase my chances of being shot? That's just ridiculous... Unlike what UK likes to believe the US isn't the wild west. Even if I have a permit and say pull my gun out for no / petty reason in public I can be charged with a felony. A responsible person only reveals the gun when they plan on using it if escape is not possible. However, you would not know this because only criminals carry guns in your parts.

Cars kill more people than guns, should we make them illegal?
 
 
Oct 25, 2012
@language

[yeah i didnt address IP. You are discussing ideas whose content itself is the value, instead of ideas whose implementation is their value.....]

Are there ideas where the value is in the content and not the implementation? I don't think there are. I think that to have any real value any idea must be acted on. By 'acted on' I don't just mean 'try to profit from', but also 'allow to influence your behavior', 'try to put it forth as a law', etc.

I seriously do not understand the other points you were trying to make in this post or the post preceding it.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 25, 2012
[The ring is designed so you can easily activate it with your thumb even if an assailant grabs you by the arms. Your idea of going for a run while carrying a loaded firearm is. . . suboptimal. -- Scott]

"suboptimal" made me laugh. I heard an ad recently for an iPhone app that, when activated will automatically start recording video and audio and stream it to an external site - so an assailant can't just grab the phone to erase the evidence. That seems like a good addition.

I took a self-defense course offered by my job many years ago. The company later relocated, but at the time, those of us taking the bus to work had to walk through some sketchy parts of town. That was OK during the day - but working overtime was risky. We were given a number of handy tips. A few stand out. For example, we were taught: If someone puts a knife to your throat - grab the blade with your hands. Sliced hands are more survivable than a sliced throat.

On outrunning an assailant: I would assume that the runner would head to the closest populated location. There aren't many places that require a 10 or 20-mile run to get there. Then again, - when I was 20, I did not show that sort of common sense. I once led a threatening man who had started following me and physically brushing up against me - as I walked home from work past a well populated hospital (where I should have gone) through an alley to the door of my apartment where I snarled at him that my boyfriend would kill him within seconds. In fact there was no boyfriend. I was ticked off and operating on adrenaline and stupidity. Mostly I didn't want to show fear because I that would be giving him what he wanted. Fortunately, he took the threat seriously and left.
 
 
Oct 25, 2012
@callcopse

[Overall in terms of a comparison I guess that is a tricky thing to do but here is one such:
http://www.nationmaster.com/compare/United-Kingdom/United-States/Crime]

Hmmm...seems to show the types of crimes I was asking about are less prevalent over here....so I guess the question is is it worth it? Fewer gun deaths with the price being more assaults, robberies, rapes and less safe streets.

And less freedom. You're giving up the freedom to have a gun. Mustn't forget that part of the deal.
 
 
 
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog