Understanding America – Part I – The Billion Dollar Sure Thing

I get asked all the time by European entrepreneurs what America is like. Many have seen it but to them it still remains a mystery (and so too for many Americans). So what is America?

Winston Churchill understood it quite clearly. He said: “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

So what does this mean? Simple. It means that America’s form of democracy is rather messy, problems need to become really big before they are solved or addressed in any meaningful way. It means there are lots of billion dollar opportunities just waiting for the right entrepreneur.

Here are a few examples:

  • Europe has better health care than the States (they live longer) and they deliver it at half the cost (about $3,500 per person versus $7,000 in the US). America is trying to solve this and the only way it knows how is to find the billion dollar sure thing. That means huge insurance premiums (billion dollar sure thing #1) and more money being spent on health care to satisfy the customers (billion dollar sure thing #2). But that’s not efficient you say. Who said anything about efficient, there’s no money in that, the profit is in the inefficiency. See. Simple.
  • Let’s look at another example: Diabetes. This terrible disease is of epic proportions in the US. What that presents is billion dollar opportunities to create clinics, insulin makers, and specialists of all kinds. But what about getting people to eat healthy. Well, we already have the billion dollar junk food business (i.e McDonald’s) and the billion dollar healthy food business (i.e. Whole Foods); what we need now is a billion dollar diabetic business. See? Pretty simple.
  • OK, one last example: Energy, oil, crude, Texas gold – a big multi-billion dollar problem. American just imports and consumes too much energy. So where’s the solution? Well, America’s working on it. A little wind here, a little battery thing there; but it still has not found a solution that has enough “B”s, as in Billions, to begin to be a solution to the existing BBBBBillion dollar energy business. So it keeps looking. Perhaps you have something?

You’re thinking that’s a pretty dumb way to do things. Well, maybe it is, but it’s the American way. It’s much easier to create a billion dollar solution to a problem to keep it in check than it is to solve a multi-billion dollar problem that is protected by as many special interest groups.

So, when you’re looking at opportunities in America. Look at the problems – the really big ones. In them, I’m sure you’ll find the next great billion dollar sure thing in solving them. Then come here, you’ll find the investors and you too could be on the cover of Forbes.

Oh, and if you haven’t noticed. Just because America eventually does the right thing doesn’t mean it stops doing all the wrong things, the wrong things, many times, just end up co-existing with the right thing.

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