Polaroid, The Impossible Project and The Success of Being Risk Neutral

It's times like these that I just can't help but smile.  It's those moments you find out about people who see all the reasons something can't be done, listen to all the logic of why they'd be nuts to do it and then - with all the passion, commitment and focus in the world - move forward and do it.

Note:  This is not and do it anyway.  It's simply that they do it.

That's because they're risk neutral.  They have their eyes wide open, know exactly what they're dealing with and then make it happen.  And succeed.

That's exactly how I reacted when I first heard then read about The Impossible Project - a company which has brought back a technology that was thought dead and gone.

Polaroid, the iconic instant-camera company that was established in 1930 by Edward Land, went bankrupt in 2001 and closed its doors completely in 2008.  A few months later, a group of engineers got the necessary funding and started to create the film again.

After all, with an estimated 300 million working cameras still out there in people's hands, there was clearly a market for the film.  It's just that the film no longer existed.

Nor could it - or so it was said.

The materials that were required to create the film were no longer produced.  So, these guys took their smarts and created a new formula for the very arty black and white film so beloved by both professional and amateur photographers.

But they're not stopping there.  Color film will be available later this year.  They've got their distribution channels - online and in major bricks and mortar stores - and went live yesterday.

They estimate that they'll sell somewhere in the vicinity of 10 million packs of film a year - currently at $21 a pack.

Not a bad deal for a technology that is, supposedly, dead.

That's the thing about being risk neutral.  You're not scared - because you're realistic.  You're not thrill-seeking - because you're pragmatic about the possibilities as well as the risks.

You're risk neutral.  Because you see what it will take - objectively and dispassionately - and then you do it.  Even though everyone says it will be impossible.

By the way, that's why they named their company "The Impossible Project."  That's what they were told by everyone - including the current holders of the Polaroid brand name:

The plants were closed.  The materials weren't there.  It couldn't be done.  It was impossible.

Yeah, right.  Just look at them now.  Less than two years in and the impossible has become more than possible.  It has become reality.

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