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Overnight Successes Take Time

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As a business coach I talk to a broad spectrum of potential clients. My "sweet spot" is family-owned businesses in generational transition (parents retiring and sons/daughters taking over) but I also make room in my practice for entrepreneurs. I love the possibility of a start-up and applaud those who can make an idea a reality. But lately I've been asking myself: just how long does it take to become an "overnight success"?

One such "overnight" success has been at it for a relatively short time, about 3 years and, as far as I'm concerned, is a sure thing already. Even though I'm not an expert in the industry I immediately saw how this project would be a success but, just to hedge my bet, I talked to the actual experts plus one extra "expert."

Simply put, the idea is a live multimedia entertainment that kids design for themselves or, as the company's own release says, "a media company driving the intersection of the virtual to live experience" "the 1st Screen." Kids pick material from the internet, shoot it to a website where the kid-collaboration takes place, it gets screened by staff and after a few finishing touches are added it gets mixed into something somewhere between a kid-created TV show and a live performance event.

I even like the job titles, like Joe D'Adamo, Director of "Web Experience," who directs the site and its overall look and feel. This is the guy you get when you want your site to be the ultimate user friendly experience that flows into the live event. He came on early when the first idea was a much smaller concept, basically spotlighting local bands before they 'hit it big'.

One expert consultant who was tapped is a former superintendent of schools, 27 year middle school principal, now Associate Professor and Chair, Howard Bultinek, who "knows kids and sees in this idea the positive benefit of socialization," or as I put it, the place where the kids actually meet face to face to experience something they put together on the internet. Howard described this to me as a "win-win" where parents get the security that their kids are in a safe environment and kids have the answer to the ongoing challenge: 'What are you doing this weekend?'

Marketing guru Jim Martin, an executive producer with Fortune 500 clients, is expertly familiar with the intersection of commerce and culture. He understands that the "paradigm of entertainment for the next generation is changing and no one has a clue where that will go". In his view, DigitalONE has global appeal because American culture is in high demand and now, like no time before, the resources are there to take this project and "re-wrap it for a world market".

Similarly, Michael J. Halminiak, a senior broadcasting executive with a wide ranging background told me, "I've been trying to poke holes in this plan but I can't. It looks seamless and even more exciting, it creates a new relationship where advertisers are more like partners, there's a new bond unlike any we've seen before in marketing. It is exactly the new idea that advertisers have been asking for." A parent himself, Mike and I discussed our own motives for encouraging this project; kids will love that it's a site of their own -- a site kids want and deserve.

Paul Roston, "technology integrator" has been tapped to create the state of the art installations in existing (and often financially troubled) movie houses, giving them a new life and a bigger future. For the workings of the venues themselves there is theater operations veteran Buck Kolkmeyer who waits in the wings for this whole project to come together. I had the opportunity to meet personally with Buck and he impressed me with the revitalizing opportunity this new entertainment form could be for the smaller and smaller numbers of independent, non-multiplex movie houses.

And then there is the one extra expert I mentioned above who is waiting for this idea to develop.

That extra expert is my own 11 year old son, Liam. He is the reason that this project jumped out at me as a "must happen." Liam is one of those millions of pre-teens whose playground is the internet and a good time over at a friend's house usually includes shooting a short film and then editing it, including digital effects, before posting it on the web for friends to see. He is one of that group of pre-teens and tweens that command something in the neighborhood of $50 billion in potential spending on virtual games, computer equipment, movies and recreation. He is the expert I rely on most to decide whether or not this DigitalONE idea will succeed or not.

He is the guy who is primed and ready for this company and he looked at me like I was joking when I described this concept to him. His first question was, "How long do I have to wait for it?' and then, 'How could my dad be involved in something so cool?" I couldn't tell him that the original idea actually came from a guy my age; everyone likes to think that all great technical ideas belong to 20-somethings in jeans and t-shirts and that they get their ideas while riding a wave or a skateboard.

He doesn't really need to know the truth about who came up with it and, if you called into DigitalONE, you'd talk to staff and rarely talk to the wizard behind the curtain. You don't need to; his idea speaks for itself. It also speaks to me as a parent and that's what makes is stand out from all of the rest.

As I said, a lot of people come to me for help with a startup company or an idea and, as much as I'd like to help them all, I have limited time and resources. This company, DigitalONE, is a project I'm interested in for all the concerns of a modern parent: Will my son only be able to communicate with other people via text messages and not ever be face to face with real kids outside school?

With this project, I feel that I'm not only working towards the future of entertainment, I'm supporting a bridge between children learning how to feel at home on the internet (can you picture their employment future without that?) and the live, controlled and safe environment of a DigitalONE event where the kids all come together to celebrate the event they themselves have helped plan and produce.

The question still remains; how long does it take to become an overnight success -- even when the idea is a guaranteed slam dunk? In reality, I don't know the answer to that as it takes not only time and money, but a heroic perseverance to take an idea or concept into reality and for that I salute this team. They are amazingly dedicated and to me it seems more a question of when than if the company will take off.

At this point the team tells me it's just a question of pinning down that last bit of financing; let's wish them well or, if you're into investing in 'sure things' . . . No matter what, I ask them all, Joe, Howard, Jim, Mike, Paul and Buck to keep at it and to continue to develop this because, selfishly, I can't wait for my son and his friends to be in the first group of kids to proudly celebrate a DigitalONE that they've co-created.

Check them out at DigitalONE and please send me any 'overnight success' examples that you know of who are still working hard to make it happen. I'll check them out and maybe feature them here.