Community | Winter 2019

100K Ideas aims to lower barriers to entry for entrepreneurs

100K Ideas
(Photo courtesy of 100K Ideas)

Ideas can change the world.

 

That’s the premise behind 100K Ideas, whose name was chosen because there are 100,000 people in Flint, Michigan, and, “If we got one idea from every person in Flint, we could change the world,” says David Ollila, co-founder of 100K Ideas.

The organization has a unique view of entrepreneurialism and a novel approach to turning ideas into reality.

“With entrepreneurship in this country, we start too far down the line, and people are already somewhat successful before they get the opportunity to try entrepreneurship as a way of making a living,” says Ollila.

To change that approach, his organization supports entrepreneurs from the very earliest step—the idea.

Ollila speaks from experience, having raised some $20 million over 20 years for ventures that include a video-sharing website and helmet cameras. He also started Invent@NMU, an idea incubator at Northern Michigan University powered by students and led by professionals. That’s the model upon which 100K Ideas was built—a model fueled by ideas.

Innovative model

Potential entrepreneurs, whose ages range from 12 to 94, enter the nonprofit’s 5,000-square-foot location on the ground floor of the Ferris Wheel building, where 100K Ideas is an anchor tenant. Would-be Flint entrepreneurs present their ideas to a team of college-aged employees. Ollila staffs students as project managers, engineers, marketing specialists, and designers, both because he enjoys working with them and to help develop the future workforce.

Once an entrepreneur presents an idea, staffers work to understand the problem the client is attempting to solve, the proposed solution, and where it might bump into existing patents or products. They then present their findings to the client, who can, if the idea is viable, launch it on their own, augment their talents with those of the students working at 100K, or have introductions facilitated with investment groups or other incubators and accelerators. So far, the organization has processed more than 468 local ideas in just under two years.

“The average time that someone keeps an idea to themselves is five years, so the entire population of the country has a bunch of stale ideas in their pocket,” he says. “They didn’t have a place to take those ideas to investigate if they’d be worth pursuing, so they never get released. Now we are receiving two or three ideas a day.”

The first 30-minute consultation with 100K Ideas is free, then entrepreneurs pay $200 for a student team of project managers and subject matter specialists to research the idea. In addition, they can hire specialists at $40 an hour on a contract basis as the idea gains validity and moves toward the market; 100K Ideas keeps no stake in the ideas it helps develop.

Critical support

Ollila says that support from Huntington is helping 100K Ideas reach its goal of developing success stories. "Huntington has given us this ability to connect the financial institutions with the entrepreneurial process," says Ollila.

About the organization

Name: 100K Ideas
Website: 100kideas.org
City: Flint, Michigan
Phone: (810) 213-4720
Mission: 100K Ideas is a community of hobbyists, thinkers, and inventors with a mission to help passionate innovators create products, services and startups of their own through mentorship.

How you can help

Contact 100K Ideas at hey@100kideas.org to learn how you can support the organization.


Make an impact

Learn how Huntington can help make a positive impact in the region. Contact your Huntington relationship manager.
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