Thursday, February 17, 2011

What Are Billion-Dollar Ideas Worth?

While I'm really not the type to get hyped up for a reality television, I admit I am excited for the premiere of NBC's America's Next Great Restaurant. It's Top Chef meets The Apprentice, and the show is searching for the next "billion dollar" restaurant idea with the winning restaurateur receiving enough capital to start up a three-location chain. For a marketing guy who loves his fast food, America's Next Great Restaurant feels like it could be television gold. However, I'm worried that the promise this television series has will not equaled by the success of the entrepreneurs it produces.

While I'm sure all the contestants are extremely smart and talented, the concept of converting an idea into a billion-dollar enterprise on an NBC sound stage is a bit misguided. On a reality show where competitors compete for one ultimate prize, the focus will remain on the prize at the end, instead of focusing on the daily (or hourly) process that's necessary. I cannot help but wonder if there are a few entrepreneurs out there who now feel like their time could have been better spent refining their business models and marketing plans instead of competing for immunity on the next episode.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid that the "be an instant somebody" mindset, which the faux reality programs all cater to, is reinforcing that it's perfectly acceptable to skip steps along the way. The danger is becoming mesmerized with an outcome and having no clue about what steps to take to make it happen. That requires a whole different kind of reality thinking.

So, to me, the real show will start once the director yells cut and American's Next Great Restaurant leaves its incubating sound stage. Only then can we find out exactly a billion-dollar idea is worth.

This post also appeared on Talent Zoo Media's Beneath the Brand blog.

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