Making Money Out Of Nothing At All | Bruce Turkel

Christmas Eve morning 2010. We’re jogging along School House Road approaching Sunset Drive on our way back to the cars and breakfast. As we reach the red light, it switches to green and we cross Sunset in front of the lines of cars now stopped on the much busier street.
Gliding across the intersection, my running partner wonders how the traffic light “always knows we’re here.” He points to the marks in the asphalt on the opposite road and says, “I know there’s a very sensitive metal detector under the street that senses when a heavy metal car drives over it but how can it recognize us?”

There are two problems with this assumption, of course. Number one, it assumes that the sensor “knows” or even “cares” about us. Nothing could be further from the truth. The light changing at our arrival was purely coincidental. My friend’s assumption was a clear case of a flawed causation model, specifically confusing the apparent features necessary to create a certain result with the features actually required to cause that same result.

Number two, how can a casual observer even know if the proper equipment is buried under the asphalt? Perhaps the contractors simply scored the blacktop to make it look like they had installed the equipment and instead saved thousands of dollars on the job.

That thought got me thinking about all the profitable businesses that could be created with this model.

Remember the last time you bought a new car? I’ll bet the salesman offered to sell you a LoJack, the hidden tracking device the salesman said police departments could activate to find your car if it was ever stolen. If you opted for the LoJack, did you see the dealership install it? Of course not – part of the reason they say it works is because its location is a secret – otherwise carjackers could simply remove the LoJacks and avoid detection.

Well, how do you know they actually put the device in the car then? Maybe they didn’t install it at all and what you really bought was a NoJack, saving the dealer hundreds of dollars.

How about health care? Our managed health care company clients always have a slot on their cost containment spreadsheets for “over-utilizers,” those hypochondriac patients who come in the office almost every day, taking up space, using up services and generally wasting everyone’s time.

At the same time, every few years there’s a scandal reported in the press about a fake doctor who’s charged Medicare millions and millions of dollars without providing any services.

Here’s a thought – why not let the fake physicians examine the hypochondriac over-utilizers? Granted, the doctors aren’t real doctors but then again the patients aren’t really sick. Think of the savings! I’ve even got the name for our new business. We’ll call it an HMNo.

With the revenues we make from health care, let’s invest in the bottled water business. The expensive water we buy in bottles probably comes out of the tap anyway. If that’s the case, why even bother to incur the handling and shipping costs of moving water around in the first place? Let’s just sell fancy empty bottles that people can fill up from the hose in their yard. We can call our revolutionary product H2No.

I even know where we can headquarter our new company. In South Florida there’s a town called Miramar, Spanish for “see the sea.” Those of you familiar with the area’s geography know that Miramar is just west of Hollywood. And in Florida, the words “west” and “ocean” are mutually exclusive. The only way you could see the sea from Miramar would be if you were flying over it on an airplane. But because waterfront land is worth much more than landlocked property, Miramar was the name the developers went with.

Let’s recap. We’ve got traffic detectors that don’t detect. Tracking systems that don’t track. A health care company that provides neither health nor care. Bone dry bottled water and a seaside location that’s nowhere near the sea. In short, companies that could make lots of money without producing anything at all and overvalued real estate.

Sounds like a pretty good description of Wall Street to me. And I’ll bet if we hired the right firm to take us public we could roll up all these bogus businesses and sell them on the street. Of course we’ll call it an IPNo.

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