I had a bad idea …

Written by Tyler Kastelberg

August 22, 2021

Happy Sunday!

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A little birth control before we get started …

My wife spent yesterday at a friend’s bachelorette party, and I was in charge of my seven-month-old son. He’s in a particularly strong “mommy” phase, making the day full of whining and staring at cars from our front window …

… with a scotch in hand, and I’m ready to discuss bad ideas.

— Read to the end of this email for a list of my personal recent bad ideas. —

What’s a bad idea? Bad ideas are solutions to problems that aren’t fully thought out and shared without fear of consequence.

My family, friends, and team constantly talk about bad ideas.

Why? It’s fun, and conversations about bad ideas have a tendency to lead to good ideas … new ideas for Bullpen, or other startup concepts that we might incubate in our business.

There are a few ground rules when we discuss bad ideas …

  1. Every bad idea must come with a problem. No matter how cool a bad idea is, if it isn’t solving a problem, then it’s a worthless bad idea.
  2. Don’t Overanalyze your bad idea. If you overanalyze a bad idea before sharing it in a group, you can talk yourself out of a potential diamond in the rough.
  3. No judgment allowed. By definition, all bad ideas are bad and not fully thought out. Grab a drink, sit back, and try to get into the person’s brain.

A number of bad ideas have shaped Bullpen, and some of them have led to explosive growth. A few that come to mind …

– Problem: Employers were ghosting jobs on Bullpen’s prior self-sign-up platform, and the quality of freelance applicants was dropping, creating a bad experience for both employers and freelancers.

– Idea/Solution: No longer allow employers to post jobs, and route all employers to Talent Managers. Originally, this seemed like a bad idea. How can Talent Managers scale like software, especially when employers were ghosting jobs? It turns out, employers prefer to work with a Talent Manager who handpicks a person for their role, and ghosting became non-existent after we instituted a $500 down payment to hire from our network.

– Problem: We didn’t have enough freelancers with varying backgrounds in different locations to meet the broad demands of employers hiring on the platform.

– Idea/Solution: Stop pre-interviewing freelancers before they join the network. At first, this seemed like a terrible idea … how can we ensure good quality of freelancers if we don’t interview them before they join the platform? We actually sat on this “bad idea” for months.

However, we realized that we were duplicating our interview process … first when someone joined the platform and then when we pre-interviewed them for jobs on the platform. We also observed that top-quality experts didn’t want to have to interview to be on a platform like ours, and we lost about 60% of them in our onboarding process.

Now that we only conduct freelancer interviews as part of our vetting process for jobs, we have a much greater pool of freelancers to choose from, and our team isn’t duplicating work … a big win-win.

I’ll leave you with a few bad ideas that I’ve been bouncing around with my friends and our team. Remember … not fully thought out.

– Problem: Carbon emissions are negatively impacting the planet.

– Solution: Build a herd of cattle, goats, and chickens to march through deserts and spoiled farmland, pooping along the way, to regenerate the land. Land regeneration through livestock herds is a proven way to capture carbon in the ground, which is shown to reverse climate change. Perhaps you’ll be able to talk governments into issuing the fossil fuel industry carbon credits when they sponsor this herd …

– Problem: Real estate management is a risky part of investment performance.

– Solution: Create a portfolio of land leases. Purchase a property, then turn around and sell the property on a land lease to a new buyer. You’ll have to sell the improvements at a discount to the full property, but the economics of the land plus the lease income might be really good. 

– Problem: The wealth gap is growing, and homeownership is out of reach for most middle and low-income Americans.

– Solution: Buy a B or C-class apartment building, tokenize the right to occupy the units as NFTs, and sell them to your tenants. Reduce the monthly rent (to give value to the NFT), but charge a percentage of each trade to make up for the lost income. Tenants become owners and owners get lumpy cash flow (as I warned, not fully thought out).

My thesis. Foster a culture in your business where bad ideas are rewarded, and you might find yourself holding a diamond in the rough.

That’s all for this week. Reply back with a bad idea you have. I’ll include the worst one in next week’s email.

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