Tech Entrepreneurs Need More Than an Idea

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It has been said inspiration is the mother of invention, and technology and innovation are her offspring. If that's true, entrepreneurship is the home where they are incubated, developed and encouraged to go forth and prosper. Idea take typically form in the mind of someone living day to day with a problem that needs solving. Undoubtedly, the wheel was invented by someone tired of dragging home their kill at the end of a vine.

Ideas give rise to technology, and technology to a "product" a stagnant market will see and desire.

Great ideas are not always profitable ideas, though. Great ideas do not always translate into products, services or technologies someone will buy at a profitable price. Sometimes it's ideas in the "Are you kidding me?" or a "Who would buy that?" categories that are the successful ones: Pet Rocks, Chia Pets and bottled water -- who would have thought people would pay outrageous prices for water ... in a bottle?

Well, someone somewhere had an idea. Even more importantly, they found an audience that had money and wanted what they were selling. I doubt market research told them there was an unfulfilled need for painted rocks, plant pets or water in a plastic bottle (OK, the latter might have been needed in a desert -- but you know what I mean). But Coca Cola ( KO) and Nestle ( NSRGY) are now among those profiting from it.

FROM IDEA TO MARKET Today's idea generators (aka inventors) come from many places. They may be corporate employees by day and garage inventors by night (this has its own perils, but more on that in a future article). They may be researchers in corporate, university and government labs seeking knowledge and understanding. There are soccer moms, hockey dads and kids with ideas for Apple ( AAPL) applications. They are rich, poor and every other adjective you can think of. Their discoveries may be tomorrow's innovative products.

What they want to do is solve a problem, fulfill a need and, in many cases, take what is imagined and developed in a lab to the marketplace as a product or technology with an impact, like Red Hat ( RHT) packaging the Linux operating system for computers. Internet routing and networking company Cisco ( CSCO) was founded in 1984 and survived its startup phase to become an S&P 100 and Nasdaq 100 company with a $122 billion market cap.

The catch for most inventors is twofold: They need money to develop a discovery into a product, and they need a market demanding a product that can come from the discovery.

TECHNOVATION ENTREPRENEURS Technology and innovation fit well in entrepreneurial companies. Innovative approaches and an ability to adapt and respond quickly are the hallmarks of successful start-up technology firms. It is why the smallest tech companies can have such tremendous impact on the market.

But building an entrepreneurial company is challenging and frustrating, exhilarating and frightening. The product and the business itself require equal attention. Look at Facebook, where public relations stumbles can be just as deadly as software glitches. One without the other is like a sandwich without the filling.

To be successful, entrepreneurs need an understanding of what business is and isn't. For entrepreneurs to have a successful business, they must focus on -- and learn from -- things that are not the "fun stuff" of research and invention (though those of us on the business side also enjoy what we do -- for us it better be fun, or it is just another job). Think of starting a business, a technology-based entrepreneurial company, as part adventure, part marathon and part Survivor with a bit of The Price is Right and Let's Make a Deal to balance things out. Are you ready to become a technovation entrepreneur?

Lea Strickland, M.B.A., is the founder of Technovation Entrepreneur, a program that helps entrepreneurs turn their ideas into businesses. Strickland is the author of "Out of the Cubicle and Into Business" and "One Great Idea!" She has more than 20 years of experience in operational leadership in Fortune 500 and Global 100 companies, including Ford, Solectron and Newell.

More from Investing

Podcast: What TheStreet's Interns Learned From Jim Cramer and Action Alerts PLUS

Podcast: What TheStreet's Interns Learned From Jim Cramer and Action Alerts PLUS

Bank of America, Tariffs and the Goldman Sachs CEO Change: Jim Cramer Rewind

Bank of America, Tariffs and the Goldman Sachs CEO Change: Jim Cramer Rewind

Alphabet Reports Earnings on Monday: 5 Things to Watch

Alphabet Reports Earnings on Monday: 5 Things to Watch

General Electric's Other Big Concern Besides Its Challenged Power Unit

General Electric's Other Big Concern Besides Its Challenged Power Unit

Goldman Sachs Really Doesn't Like Apple's Stock

Goldman Sachs Really Doesn't Like Apple's Stock