Craig Venter became very frustrated with the progress of the $3B United States Human Genome Project. The project goal was to sequence the first human genome and map the approximately 20,000–25,000 genes. Venter believed the slow pace of progress and research approach could jeopardize the success of the 15 year project. It was 1997 and the project was only funded through 2003.
Venter believed the shotgun sequencing approach would be fastest and most effective way to sequence the human genome. This method was dismissed by many scientists as not accurate enough for something as complicated as the human genome. He was unable to get any of the $3B of government funding to test his big idea.
Venter did not give up. He reached out to investors to raise $300M of private funding to launch the company Celera Genomics in 1998. The company goal was to sequence the human genome in less time and cost than the Human Genome Project.
Venter was a brilliant scientist, yet raising money from private investors and getting a new company off the ground was new territory. He was confident is his scientific approach, yet had to risk his credibility and future to prove it. He had to convince investors, scientists and other executives to share many of the same career altering risks to create this start-up company to test his big idea.
In 2000, President Clinton announced the first sequencing of the human genome along with both Craig Venter and Francis Collins. Collins led the Human Genome project. The breakthrough project was completed 3 years ahead of schedule. The competitive race between the two teams rapidly accelerated progress and both organization received credit for the discovery. The shotgun sequencing technique, the key component of Venter’s big idea, became accepted by scientists as the de facto standard.
To make a dream, breakthrough innovation or a big idea like Venter’s happen, it is helpful to have insight into each of the following enablement components:
People – Who are the people? Decision makers? Beneficiaries? Aspirers? Stakeholders? Supporters? What do they need to support you?
Communities – industries (like private investment, scientific communities), companies, political communities, etc. Which communities do you need an understanding of how they operate?
Knowledge – functional knowledge (legal, engineering), domain knowledge (science, technology), industry knowledge and skills/expertise. What knowledge and skills are necessary?
Development Tracks – Communication (marketing platform, message for investors), Solution (design, build, test), Operational (establish business entity, business plan, hire people). Which components have to be in place?
Resources – location, equipment, products, services etc. Which resources will be required?
Funding – raise money through investors or debt. How much money is required? How do you get it?
Timeline – What is the timeline to efficiently align the components? Also to establish credibility and competence by demonstrating regular meaningful progress.
How do I make it happen? If there was an easy way to answer that question, the world would be a different place. If we had confidence in a step-by-step answer, many more dreams and big ideas would be realized making our world more prosperous.
How many dreams or big ideas like Craig Venter’s never get started? Insight into determining each of the components required in the enablement of a dream or big idea may instill enough confidence to start. It could be the beginning of making almost anything happen.