We love working with startups and good people. In fact, the majority of people we work with are people who have initially come to us with a wicked idea or are starting a new business. I mean, can you blame them? It’s an exciting time to have a fresh new idea. With blogs announcing more and more companies being bought out by big-name companies or getting millions of dollars in VC (venture capital) funding, people are jumping from their seats and headfirst into entrepreneurial ideas. The market is getting increasingly saturated with ideas, and it’s making it more difficult for great ideas to make it big. And half of the ideas that make it are incredibly simple in concept – so anyone can make it as a successful entrepreneur, right?
Now, I’m not going to tell you how to be successful, the next Zuckerberg, or come up with the next Twitter, but too often I see startups that fail before they even start. Too many people see this rush of people with big and bright ideas and decide to jump ahead 10 steps instead of taking the first few steps at a calm, steady, pace. Everyone is worried that someone, somewhere has their exact same idea and is building it right now. Well, I’ve got a little bit of something to remind you:
It’s not about the idea
Yep. That’s right. Your idea is worthless. Everyone has an idea, because everyone has a problem that they’d like to fix. It was more apparent than ever to me at the startup weekend I recently attended where somewhere near 70 people came up with different ideas of things they wanted to build over the weekend. What made it even more interesting is that people had more than one idea. So now imagine this: you’re not only competing with thousands of people with ideas, you’re dealing with that same amount of people with two, three or even more solid ideas.
Now, that doesn’t mean that even half of those ideas are any good. Those same VCs that seem to have so much money to invest into great ideas get hundreds if not thousands of ideas put on their desk every day, but you don’t see all of those ideas getting funding. In fact, I bet if anyone initially went to a VC and said “I have this wicked idea for a site that lets people post updates on their life in 140 characters or less”, it would get lost in the pile and ignored because it doesn’t have anything behind it.
It’s not about how much money is invested
I don’t care if you’ve got $100,000 or $100 in the bank to build your idea, a bad idea is a bad idea. I’m glad to know dozens of people who have been featured in big-name newspapers, seen on T.V., and have won big shiny awards for their ideas, and they’re not here because of how much money they’ve saved up or who they found to fund them.
And hey, I’ll be the first to say it (okay, not really): you don’t really need funding. There’s all this hype around investment and VC funding, but I don’t think people should be wasting as much time as they do thinking about it. Sure, a 6-figure budget can help loads with hiring a crack team of designers and developers to build your idea, but it’s still missing something.
It’s about people
Hell, you might not even have an idea yet or where to even start but you’re already on a better track than some of these people with “great” ideas and heavier pockets. By reading this article, by going out and doing your research and finding out about what and how to do things from other people and not thinking you can do it all yourself, you’re showing initiative and passion for what you want to do. For you it’s not about the initial idea – it’s what it becomes that excites you.
All too often ideas are made in board rooms and over coffee or dinner with friends or family and go straight to pitching and development. What do your potential customers have to say about the product? You do know who your potential customers are, right? Heck, if you don’t know someone who would be interested in using what your making (even if it’s you), as far as I’m concerned you’re in it to fail. Make sure you’re thinking about who you’re selling to, and as tough as it is unless those people are your friends or family then you shouldn’t be going to them. Look for real people and make real sales, even if you don’t have anything finished yet.
I’m convinced dead ideas can be brought to life and built into successful products by good people and good teams, and ideas that are out there can be done better by better teams. I mean, Facebook wasn’t exactly the first idea of it’s kind!
Build as you go
This concept took me a little while. As a perfectionist, I couldn’t take my hands off of a project without feeling like it had everything it needed. What ended up happening in my designs was a ton of feature overload that ended up in 100 different things being done at 75%.
If you have the motivation to get things done, get things done. You’ve got an idea, and you need to start getting it out there. Not a technical person and surprised you even know how to open Google in a browser? That’s fine. Build something – whether it’s sketches or wireframes, or you create an Unbounce page and start advertising it to your friends so you can get some initial interest and get more response, make yourself look busy. At this point you may also know the design and development team you’re working with but can’t afford them – that’s fine, as soon as you’ve got some customers to show you’ve got an idea worth building, all those problems will find their own solutions.
Let the 80% determine the 20%
Not only that – let your 80% be 100% of 80%. If you’re building a feature, commit to it. Make sure it aligns itself with your idea’s key values, and it can be used by users.
So, let’s put an example on this: if you’re building a community of any sort, you’ll likely have some sort of a comment field. Now, just because you’ve got this comment field doesn’t mean you need all sorts of formatting options – build the base out (simple textarea with a submit button), and let the the 20% be determined by the people who use your site.
Your customers will let you know what they want. Heck, if you’ve built 80% and you’re not getting feedback on what your customers want, you’re doing something wrong.
“Good people can fix bad ideas, but good ideas can’t save bad people.”
Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, though. A bad idea is still a bad idea, and unfortunately Rome wasn’t built in a day by people who didn’t know what they were doing. Make sure you listen to the people you’re selling to, and make sure that you always look back at the core of your idea and make sure the things you’re doing are in line with them. These ideas might not ensure your idea is going to be successful and be bought out by a fortune-500 giant, but hey, if they do, be sure to grab us a coffee next time you’re picking up a big cheque from one of your customers in Toronto!