Paperclip

A friend of mine had an idea for an iPad app to help kids with autism. It seemed like a pretty good idea, but he was in a place many others find themselves in.

He didn’t have any money. He didn’t have any resources. And he sure as hell didn’t know how to make an iPad app. Or software of any kind.

He’s just a guy with an idea and no way to see it through.


Seven years ago, Kyle MacDonald, took a single red paperclip and bartered that paperclip into a house.

It didn’t happen overnight. It took 14 transactions over a year. But he plodded along, trying his hardest to trade up, and eventually he got his house.

That’s how a paperclip turned into a pen. That pen turned into a doorknob. That doorknob turned into a camping stove. And on and on. Eventually it turned into a KISS snow globe, which was valuable to one of the largest snow globe collectors in the world, Corbin Bernsen, the Hollywood actor.

Corbin traded a role in a movie for that snow globe. And that was traded for a house.


I know a lot of people who are stuck in limbo with their idea.

The idea sounds awesome to them and maybe some friends, but they find themselves without the time, money or resources to even get started. The idea just sits there. A vauge hope of making a dent in the universe. And that’s how it remains. A vague hope.


Christopher Flint wanted to make an iPad app to help kids with autism and their caregivers: parents and teachers. But Christopher doesn’t know anything about software development.

He could use the help and resources that a startup accelerator might offer so he applied to Imagine K12, the Y Combinator-like startup program to help get ideas like his off the ground.

He was rejected.

Most people stop there. That’s enough of a blow to your ego. But Chris reminds me of the guy with the red paperclip.

Over the years, he’s become awesome at what he can do. He can teach kids with autism. He can help teachers and parents learn how to help their autistic kids.

So he traded that skill into relationships with parents, teachers, and principals. Then he traded those relationships into commitments that people would use his iPad app if it existed. He didn’t have a prototype. All he had was slides.

And he kept trading.

Here’s what Chris had to say about getting rejected from Imagine K12:

the application process forced me to further think and write about the company. Even though we were not accepted in the incubator program, I ended up with something tangible to share with the people that ultimately led to the formation and funding of Infiniteach.

Chris figured out how to trade that rejected Imagine K12 application and those commitments from teachers into significant funding and resources to build what he set out to do. He isn’t stuck anymore. I don’t think he ever was.


We have big ideas. We have enormous ambitions. We want to build impressive things. But sometimes we have to start with what we have and make a little trade to take the next step.

You can follow Chris and his new company at: Infiniteach.


P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter: here.

 
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