Flashback to the turn of the millennium – the early 2000s and the rise of the internet…
This was the digital equivalent to the wild, wild west.
It was unregulated and it seemed that the entity was developing different capabilities every hour, but ignorance for this new technology was rampant.
Anyone who knew what the internet was knew that it was going to be big, and anyone who didn’t think it was going to big didn’t know what it was.
But for me, it was the land of opportunity.
I knew straight out of the gate that it was going to change the world. I remember being 16 years old, and going from not having internet or any true knowledge of it to my best friend living in England.
For someone who had never left their state, for them to create a friendship with someone in a different country was extraordinary. And on top of that, I met him in a forum where I could talk to people my age, all over the world about likeminded subjects.
It began to revolutionize relationship building and communication.
Fast forward to my college years and the birth of Myspace and a little video sharing platform called YouTube.
The internet was getting faster and the ability to create relationships online was getting easier, and people were feeling more and more connected with one another.
People were beginning to make money on the internet. I didn’t know anyone who was, but I knew that they were out there and I wanted in.
That’s when my professor assigned our class the project of putting together a business plan.
That’s when the idea came to me. I was going to bring to the class something that no one had ever heard of or seen before.
The Age of Information
The internet was this vast source of information – where you could find out and learn just about anything from anyone. And I was going to sell what I was good at – high level jumping programs for athletes to improve their athleticism, speed, and jumping abilities.
As a 7x ACC Champion in high jump and olympic hopeful, I knew the pain of not having access to coaches and programs that taught me the proper jump technique. Coming from a small farm in Virginia, these things did not exist where I lived, and if they did, there was no way that my family would have been able to pay for them.
My plan was simple, but concise.
I was going to create document-style workouts (which were free for me to make with no personal cost involved upfront) with a plan to later offer video course workouts. From there I was going to go back into those forums and leverage my athletic career to attract customers. Since I was already uploading videos of my dunks and high jumping competitions, I had all the proof I needed that my technique worked.
For once, I was excited to turn in my work. The school system had failed me in high school and higher education was no different. I was a terrible student and gave no effort when it came to my schooling.
But this was different. I wanted to do well. I knew that I had something truly different and revolutionary. I knew that this was my million-dollar idea.
It took a week for me to get my grade back, but it felt like forever. In that time, I kept perfecting my idea, adding new workouts to the product as I trained. (To make this clear – as a competing athlete, I could not sell any of this information while in college, otherwise I would risk violating NCAA rules and really jeopardizing my lifelong dream – An Olympic gold medal).
Finally, the day came. I showed up early for class that day, which I had never done before for any class, and eagerly waited for the end when we received our final project grades.
With the paper finally in my hand, I glanced down and was in complete disbelief. Along with a paragraph written in red ink was a large, circled “F”.
Failure? This couldn’t be right. This couldn’t be my project. There must be some mistake.
But there was no mistake. She had failed my project. My million dollar idea had been reduced to less than pennies in her eyes.
As I read her paragraph of why she couldn’t see the future of information like I could, I felt less awful about my grade.
This professor didn’t get it. She, like so many others, didn’t understand the internet and what it would become to the world.
The 3 Objections
In the paragraph, she outlined 3 major “objections” that she said I didn’t address and just simply would not work.
Objection 1: Relationship Building & Trust
The first objection was the lack of trust between the customer and the company. That “people would not buy or feel comfortable putting their card information on the web to purchase.” She failed to see that in my project, I had authority positioning and relationship building addressed.
Forums weren’t just Q&A pages. They were communities of like minded individuals united under a certain cause. Relationships were built within them, and it went beyond just friendship. You could truly build a customer base and following from those forums. I knew that if I wanted a thousand customers, I had to have a thousand conversations.
Beyond that, I further gained trust by showing that I was no fraud. I had the accomplishments to prove it and I could do exactly what I was teaching. It was all documented on YouTube.
Objection 2: Target Market
The second objection was that my target market, children and teenagers, did not have credit cards, and therefore couldn’t pay for the programs anyway.
That one, also, seemed to be a no brainer for me. Whenever I wanted something as a child, way before I ever asked my parents to buy it for me, I had done all my research. Why they should buy it for me and how it would benefit me (and them). I just had to sell the kid, and the kid would sell the parent.
Objection 3: No Value In Information
The last objection was to me, the most ignorant of them all. “People would not pay for information, they put no value on it. They want a tangible product.”
The internet now made learning information that you typically couldn’t possible. Information was most desired assets possible and it was paying for the source. You could get free information on the internet, but to get information on an ACC championship high jumper on how to jump higher was where the true value was, regardless of it’s form.
The irony of this third objection could be seen sitting at my desk in that classroom. The college model was built off of paying for information, but I had just been failed for trying to charge for it on the internet.
I walked out of that classroom discouraged, but not defeated.
Sticking To The Plan
I went on to win more championships in high jump and qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics before a pulled hamstring brought me and my gold medal dream to the ground.
I had come up short, once again.
But this time, I knew what I was going to do. If I couldn’t achieve my dream, I was going to help others achieve theirs by selling my techniques and skills online.
7 Figures Later
From there, I Love Basketball TV was born. From failed college project to now the largest online basketball training platform in the world with 1.4 million subscribers on YouTube and 2.4 million fans on Facebook.
An idea birthed on the campus of Clemson University now reaches tens of millions of athletes looking to improve their game.
In the fast-paced world we live in, there are a lot of uncertainties. The internet allows us to dream bigger, communicate louder and farther, and attempt ideas with minor consequence.
Don’t let ANYONE, especially your college professor, tell you what you are and are not capable of. You must ALWAYS trust your instincts.
You’re capable of much more than you, and especially those judging you, realize.
What people may view as your “failing idea” may be your life’s purpose. You and only you need to make that decision.
Oh and P.S. – Hey Clemson, think we can adjust my GPA?