Shed Simove is the Machiavelli of monkeyshines.
His approach to inventing could best be compared to a boxer willing to tank four punches to land one. The U.K. born ‘Ideas Man’ has no reservations about having his Chiclets rattled by a few stinging jabs of unwanted outcomes, precisely because he possesses an entrepreneurial granite chin that buys time for those punches he eats to illustrate the perfect place and time to land a single decisive haymaker that pays instant dividends. In fact, in the time it likely took him to read that sentence, he more than likely conceived an app that projects a fighter’s chances of scoring a knockout blow based on how many shots the pugilist subject has already taken.
To men and women like Simove, there has never been a ‘worthless’ idea. What anybody else would call ‘failure,’ they turn to as a long and insightful path to some individually defined measure of success. People like us ask, ‘Why?’. And creatives like Simove answer by assuring everyone around them that, after carefully and thoughtfully weighing their odds of success against the chances of getting in catastrophically over their heads, they decided it would be fun to go ahead, anyway. Simove’s own epitaph will probably read, ‘It was worth a try.’
That isn’t to say there have never been colorful consequences to follow on from some of his ideas. As a motivational speaker, product designer, author and self-described ‘charlatan,’ the realm of the outlandish is often his stage for one continuous social reconnaissance mission that demonstrates just how few substitutes there are for the perspective of falling on one’s face. That being said, every single one of these seven milestones in misadventure has been a touchstone for the virtue of picking up one end of a stick and managing to make the best of the other one that comes with it.
The ‘Rampant Rabbi’ Toes The Line
It would be a hard sell to convince anybody that Simove hadn’t entirely considered the possibility that a vibrator styled called ‘The Rampant Rabbi’ styled after a cleric bearing a traditional prayer cap and religious tome would rub somebody the wrong way.
Surprisingly enough, the most noteworthy objection sprang from the adult-novelty chain Ann Summers. As it turns out, the potential sacrilege of providing ‘the modern woman with a religious experience’ ruffled feathers because its name fell one letter short of infringing on the trademark for Ann Summers’ best-selling stimulator ‘The Rampant Rabbit.’
Short of a mix-up attributable to some unfortunate typo, was there a legitimate likelihood of confusing the two phalluses? Probably not. Did Simove assume a significant business risk by having his trademark application ultimately scrapped by his local trading standards office? Absolutely. When you generate a public legal spat that serves to send word of your cheeky product viral, is it worthwhile to continue advertising it without legally protecting its name?
Head over to www.Masturpieces.com and see for yourself. Carefully calculated risks can certainly turn what appears to be a ‘loss’ into a long-term win.
As experiments in religious ridiculousness go, Simove’s sexy semite almost pales in comparison to this endeavor: after reading renowned atheist evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins’ best-selling book ‘The God Delusion’ with contemplative fascination, he decided to explore the widespread significance of the divine proper noun by legally sharing a name with the Almighty.
Ultimately, it wasn’t Simove’s Alpha and Omega namesake that called ‘foul’ – it was HSBC Bank. When his bank of 20 years informed him he would need to list both a first and last name on his credit card application, he suggested ‘Almighty God’’ The branch countered that he would have to legally use the name his parents gave him, and he reluctantly acquiesced. However, he viewed the entire brief period as an illuminating window into the minds around him.
“Life is a succession of trying new things that people don’t normally do,” he told the media at the time. ‘I was simply questioning how much division is caused by religion by examining the word ‘God’ in its simplest form.
“I thought [a credit card issued to ‘God’] would be good to show girls at parties,” he added.
Google Is Not Shed’s Friend
The takeaway from Simove earning the ire of the world’s most influential search engine: yes, it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission – as long as the other side you have to ask is of an understanding mind.
It could be said Simove crossed a few lines by launching Nigeria Google, a parody website that parodied the unmistakable presentation of the revolutionary tech icon Google to promote his then-newly developed job recruiting and video interviewing platform PowerMeeter.com by mocking the immortal phishing trend of ‘Nigerian prince’ solicitation emails. Instead of Google’s own authentic search bar, Nigeria Google displays a field designated for your bank account number and a button to ‘Search for Inheritance.’
The 12-page document Google dropped on Simove’s head drove home a few points: first, unauthorized emulation of a company’s iconography to promote a for-profit enterprise is looked down upon as domain infringement. Second, as he himself knows from experience, everyone has a right to dictate that with which their brand is associated, and massive global organizations do not see even jocular implications of being associated with fraud as anything even remotely resembling a laughing matter.
Once upon a time in America, newly elected President Barack Obama vowed to shut down his country’s enduringly controversial military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. His initial 2008 election victory over Republican opponent John McCain could be attributed in no small part to his condemnation of reports of tortured suspected terrorist detainees dating back to its establishment by George W. Bush in 2002, and he had heard the sweeping chorus of human-rights censure loud and clear.
All of a sudden, Simove asked himself a question: what would a Gitmo going-out-of-business sale look like? Since he just happened to have a book called ‘Ideas Man’ and a 21-performance stint at The Edinburgh Festival to drum up anticipation behind, the world got a little peek behind the curtain at Guantanamo eBay, the wacky Welshman’s take on liquidating 700 ‘slightly soiled’ orange jumpsuits, assorted ‘suitable for feet, nipples and testicles’ electrodes and an unused copy of the Geneva Convention. Everything must go!
Perhaps the jokes came a bit ‘too soon’ before the comedic fruit had been allowed to truly ripen. After all, there’s light schadenfreude, and then there’s giggling at implications of unlawful detainment, interrogation and torture without the courtesy of due process. Still, inability to make light of something is sometimes tantamount to insisting on sweeping it under the rug as though it had never happened in the first place. Nobody wins when that happens.
Tinder and Schindler vs.Shinder
If Shed Simove’s name instantly rang a bell when you read it, this is quite possibly why. Simove had no trouble admiring the all-around genius UX that made the global swipe-left-or-right dating app Tinder such a spontaneous success. There was just one thing keeping him from diving into the hook-up pool: he wasn’t exactly enthused about competing with anyone else for a date.
Thus, Shinder was born. His custom takeoff on the wildly popular property delivered a slightly retooled iteration of the proven-appealing interface but offered members of the fairer sex the only option any red-hot lover should ever need – himself. Amazingly, Shinder was a roaring success. Amused and intrigued folks who had stumbled across it quickly contacted Simove to inquire about having a version built using their own profiles. A few charmed users actually expressed interest in a date or two. As you can see above, even the BBC caught onto the story and followed the smoke to a curious kind of fire.
Yeah, about that last one. The creators of Tinder weren’t exactly taking any chances with the future value of an innovation that was rapidly becoming ubiquitous. Simove soon became the proud, oddly flattered owner of a ‘Notice of Threatened Opposition’ denying his trademark application. The Rampant Rabbi might have hit a wall over one simple letter of the alphabet, but in this instance, he had to defend the issues of presentation, performance and a name that all capitalized a bit too closely on an already-established brand’s appeal. On top of that, the Swedish elevator and escalator manufacturer Schindler raised their own objections out of fear that potential clients might confuse a satirical romantic hub for a manufacturing interest founded in 1874.
This particular moment in Simove’s history brings up an interesting point, though. Never be afraid to follow up on someone else’s idea by blazing your own alternate trail through charted territory. After all, what if nobody else had ever ventured into space after Neil Armstrong landed on the moon? How different a world would we inhabit if nobody looked at Henry Ford’s earliest automobiles and thought, ‘I think I could top that?’ Simove might have gone a bit too far to see his way through to a full trademark, but if your ‘rival’ product gets the direct attention of your most formidable potential competitor, you just might be onto something.
The Shoe Meets The Other Foot
One thing needs to be made clear about Mr. Simove: he has never been maliciously duplicitous. He might invoke parody and site using familiar iconography in the name of making a point or simply having a little bit of fun, but he always exudes a sense that he assumes on some level that he knows he’ll be noticed and eventually told to cut the gag short. There was never a pretense that ‘Nigeria Google’, ‘Guantanamo eBay’ or ‘Shinder’ were anything less than parodies or satires.
Then came the day he crossed paths with an Indian floor-tiling firm that co-opted and digitally blackened his portrait for use in an advertisement. There was no mistaking the handsome image photographer Umit Ulgen had previously captured for use alongside Simove’s media and press materials, but he certainly didn’t recall lending it out to pimp stain-free flooring literally half a world away.
‘A stain on your floor is a blotch on your image,’ the tagline read. Well, that was one way to describe Simove’s feelings. Ulgen himself had no explanation as to how the image had landed somewhere in India. To put a finer point on it, he was similarly indignant about his work popping up randomly in an advert and on a company website (StainFree.in) where he had never authorized it.
“It just goes to show that when you send an image out into the world, or when you launch any creative endeavor for that matter, you can’t have complete control over how it’s used,” Simove remarked.
All Of The Above, And Then Some
Go ahead. Peruse the gallery. Do these strike you as the antics of a man averse to risk? To Shed Simove, failure is little more than misunderstood success. He has never stumbled into trouble without walking away the wiser for it. That’s because those who set a hard cap on the number of times they are willing to fall on their faces have ostensibly announced to the world, ‘I refuse to attain any degree of knowledge greater than what I accumulate after precisely this many unwanted outcomes!’.
Past a given point, we cease to grow from victory alone. We exhaust the benefits of positive reinforcement. What’s worse, we forsake excavating the furthest depths of character that can only be entered when we reach our lowest points. Simove and other eccentric, mischievous rascals like him learn to see a downhill stumble as a lengthier running start to launch themselves upward. They often ponder the shoulders of giants and wonder how much higher they could reach. Their endeavors sometimes remind us through laughter to give a second thought to some of the things we take terribly seriously.
Sure, a few entrepreneurs have probably bettered themselves plenty without having a few off-kilter stunts backfire to some degree or another. Unlike those rare unblemished heroes, Simove has been socked his share of times. In the most admirable possible way, he is a product of his pratfalls.
The difference being, every blow he takes represents one more of its kind that he’ll know how to duck.
Once he times his weave, watch for that hook. It’s usually a doozy.
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