Yes, that’s a bombastic title. However, the prevalence of potential entrepreneurs who fixate on ideas over execution is also extremely outsized. In this post, I’ll start to explain why that’s wrong-headed, and will write more on this subject in the future.
I think this epidemic has been around for a while, and it’s likely that I’m just speaking with more and more early stage founders as time goes on. In any case, here’s something I hear all the time, that’s almost always wrong: I’m spending time researching and filing for a patent before I start my company. Another version of this is: I’m trying to come up with an idea that no one has tried before.
The issue with both of the statements above is that any idea you have has probably been thought of before. Someone has likely even tried it before. The odds are, someone, somewhere, is doing it right now. As for the patent issue, I’ll plan on having an expert write a piece about this in the future, but the long-and-short of it is, most patents are invalid and/or unenforceable.
When potential entrepreneurs get stuck in this thought pattern, I typically attribute it to two things: 1) stalling because of fear of failure, 2) fundamentally misunderstanding what makes a startup successful. I’m not going to solve the first issue, but I can shed some light on the latter.
Execution is what makes startups successful. Original ideas help, but excellence in the face of the struggle (aka executing) is what wins at the end of the day. Think of the flip side: a fantastic, truly original idea, with lack of direction, vision, and the inability to execute on a business plan. This idea, though truly unique, will not become a business. Taking this a step further, the person who sees this failure and says, “I could execute on that idea,” is the one who will build a successful startup from it.
I’ve written a ton of articles on ways to strategize and execute in the realms of hiring, scaling, creating culture, developing people and more. The moral of the story is: if you really want to launch a startup (and it’s okay if that’s too scary for you) do some research on how to build a business plan, an operating model, go-to-market, a product, get traction, and raise capital. I think I just made myself a list of future posts!
Have your idea, then focus on exceptional execution. Everyone has a lot of ideas; few people can execute. Don’t fear the “big players” in the space, they’ll pay you for your execution if you can get it done. Why do you think Facebook bought Instagram or Amazon acquired Ring? You got this (if you want it)!
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1 thought on “Your Ideas Don’t Matter”
Ideas truly are a dime a dozen. By the same token of a well executed idea can fail (often because it’s too soon or too late). The too soon ideas can, if you pay attention, be “re-launched.” I will forever remember pitching streaming music (as we know it today but with a better model for paying artists) to all of the major labels in 1996 and being told no one wants to buy one song at a time and that no artist wants to sell anything other than an album.
Timing can be more important than the idea or even execution and timing you cannot control, so execute as fast as you can and launch. Or if you realize the idea is “too soon” get it ready to go and then wait. Watching for the right time. But don’t spend too much time on the idea. Besides, many great “inventions” came from an attempt to do something else. The magic is in the doing not the thinking about doing!
There is a book coming out soon by Winston Perez about ideas and concepts that does a good going over timing and making sure you are actually working on a viable idea. For example working to invent a way to fly by copying how a bird flies is a bad idea (unless you are only wishing to make something the size of a bird fly, not humans).