Skip to content
Swizec Teller - a geek with a hatswizec.com

You don't *have* ideas, you develop them

Your mental model about ideas is all wrong my friend.

wznjzJF

How We Got To Now describes Frederic Tudor as "comically ambitious". A 19th century Bostonite whose father sent him to the Caribbean in 1800 โ€“ at 17 years of age.

He arrived in summer.

Humid, hot, downright atrocious weather for someone used to Massachusetts winters, frock coats, and top hats. Locals liked it fine enough, but they didn't know any better.

This gave Frederic an idea ๐Ÿ‘‰ ice.

What if you could have a refreshing glass of cold water in the blistering Caribbean summer heat?

Fantastic! But it's 1800 and there's no such thing as a fridge

hmmmm giphy

THERE'S FREE ICE ALL OVER BOSTON! Brilliant.

What a killer business idea. You take ice from a Boston lake in winter, free since nobody wants it, transport that ice to the Caribbean where it's hot, sell for big bux. ๐Ÿค‘

The idea becomes a prototype

6 years later he set sail for Martinique with his first ship full of ice.

No joke. A vessel has cleared at the Custom House for Martinique with a cargo of ice. We hope this will not prove a slippery speculation. ~ Boston Gazette

Most of Frederic's ice melted on that voyage. Much of the rest melted in Martinique. And locals, who'd never seen ice before, didn't know what to use it for anyway.

He lost $4500 on that trip. $92,000 in today's money.

But ice was free, renting empty ships on their way to get sugar was cheap, and he did sell some ice. Frederic Tudor kept going.

After more failed trips and a stint in debtor's prison, he figured it out. It was 1815.

The prototype becomes a process

You harvest ice in the Boston winter. Cut it into large blocks, insulate with sawdust, store in cave-like warehouses. Both ice and sawdust are free, you just pay the labor and the warehouse. ๐Ÿ‘Œ

Rent cheap empty boats and ship off to the Caribbean.

Some ice melts on the way, but not much. The blocks are large and the sawdust insulates well.

Once in the Caribbean, you store that ice in purpose-built ice houses. Local businesses buy it by the block. Store in their own ice rooms.

Folks have gotten used to the idea of cold drink in hot summer, too. They wanted it now. They understood.

The prototype becomes a business

By 1820 The Tudor Ice Company had icehouses packed with frozen water all over the American South. By the 1830's they reached as far as India. By 1850 the first competition showed up.

Ice trade became a well-established global business. Reaching all parts of the world from Hong Kong to Calcutta.

Tudor now known as The Ice King amassed some \\\$200,000,000 in today's money by the time he died in 1864.

And it all started with that initial hunch in 1800 that you could sell a winter nuisance to a population that's never seen cold.

It wasn't until the American Civil War that artificial ice overtook natural ice as The Way To Keep Things Coldโ„ข. And ice blocks remained popular well into World War 2 when fridges became small enough to stick in restaurants, shops, and homes.

Tudor pretty much invented the idea of cold in summer.

mind_blown giphy

How you develop an idea

Your best ideas work like a slow hunch. You collect little scraps here and there until one day they fit together to solve a problem.

That's your first kernel. The idea โ€“ a solution to a problem.

Then you gotta prove the problem is solvable and your solution works. You build a prototype.

And you're done.

Lol no of course not. Now comes the hardest part ๐Ÿ‘‰ develop the idea.

You have to show that your prototype solves a problem for others. That they see the problem. That they want the solution. That they'll use your solution. That you can reach them. That you know how to market to them. That ...

You iterate. You reshape. You refine. You build the moving pieces for the whole idea. Not just your initial hunch.

And success awaits my friend. Maybe. With a little luck :)

Happy Tuesday โค๏ธ

Cheers,
~Swizec

PS: some of the most fun projects you can work on never make it past the prototype stage

Did you enjoy this article?

Published on April 21st, 2020 in Opinions, Personal

Learned something new?
Want to become a high value JavaScript expert?

Here's how it works ๐Ÿ‘‡

Leave your email and I'll send you an Interactive Modern JavaScript Cheatsheet ๐Ÿ“–right away. After that you'll get thoughtfully written emails every week about React, JavaScript, and your career. Lessons learned over my 20 years in the industry working with companies ranging from tiny startups to Fortune5 behemoths.

Start with an interactive cheatsheet ๐Ÿ“–

Then get thoughtful letters ๐Ÿ’Œ on mindsets, tactics, and technical skills for your career.

"Man, love your simple writing! Yours is the only email I open from marketers and only blog that I give a fuck to read & scroll till the end. And wow always take away lessons with me. Inspiring! And very relatable. ๐Ÿ‘Œ"

~ Ashish Kumar

Join over 10,000 engineers just like you already improving their careers with my letters, workshops, courses, and talks. โœŒ๏ธ

Have a burning question that you think I can answer?ย I don't have all of the answers, but I have some! Hit me up on twitter or book a 30min ama for in-depth help.

Ready to Stop copy pasting D3 examples and create data visualizations of your own? ย Learn how to build scalable dataviz components your whole team can understand with React for Data Visualization

Curious about Serverless and the modern backend? Check out Serverless Handbook, modern backend for the frontend engineer.

Ready to learn how it all fits together and build a modern webapp from scratch? Learn how to launch a webapp and make your first ๐Ÿ’ฐ on the side with ServerlessReact.Dev

Want to brush up on your modern JavaScript syntax?ย Check out my interactive cheatsheet: es6cheatsheet.com

By the way, just in case no one has told you it yet today: I love and appreciate you for who you areย โค๏ธ

Created bySwizecwith โค๏ธswizec.com