Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ideas - important for an entrepreneur?

I was at an Open Coffee Club Bangalore (OCCB) meetup a few weeks at the Thoughtworks premises on Airport Road, when one of the Thoughtworks employees asked a question which has been on my mind for ever.
"How do I get the idea for my startup?"
Certainly something that, in various forms, many of us ponder, in those moments when we read of Sabeer Bhatia and Hotmail, or Steve Chen and Youtube, or perhaps in the future, Prateek Dayal and Muziboo ;).

But after being in 1.05 startups, I feel that the idea is a very romanticized version of the startup reality show. Primarily because it's the easiest thing for an outsider to relate to. The idea of an idea as the prime mover is very easy to fall in love with. What's easier than having a brilliant idea, and then quickly working it out to make it the best bang since the Big One?


Reality is very different IMHO. In reality the idea is probably fifth in the list of things responsible for the success of a startup. I'd put the order thusly,
  1. Execution
  2. Marketing
  3. Sales
  4. Iteration of your idea
Execution here means operational and execution excellence. Something that you'd be hard pressed to get funding for, but you can't get success without. Marketing and sales are so much more important than most of us engineering types estimate that it's not even funny. Good marketing and sales people will drive the creation and iteration of the product to something that will make money, as opposed to being simply amazing technically.

Iterating the idea is critical. You must be prepared to shape, reshape, sculpt, and re-sculpt your ideas and implementation. Practically no company has become a success with their first product idea. Most went through multiple iterations, before coming up with something that worked, sold, and made money.

What does this mean? If you don't have what seems to be the idea of the century don't worry. If you really want to start a company, go ahead and do it. Make sure you have an awesome team. That'll probably carry you further than any thing else. Keep working on things, and get better each time. Survival is a key attribute of successful startups.

Vet your idea and the execute the hell out of it. Do it to the best of your teams abilities. If there's no way to sell it, shelve it or salvage enough out of it to start on your next shot. That's the long, tough, arduous way to success. You can start with anything, but go at it enough, with good enough understanding of the market and you will succeed.

Best of luck starting up :)


Dallin said...

When I talked to other people regarding a business I was running, they would be surprised to know that it is surviving. They had the idea before but did not push through thinking it was such a bad idea, for me you can always figure out ways to make a good idea into bad business or a bad idea to a successful business.

Do you know about the Young Entrepreneur Society Plenty of stuff you can learn from.

GeekBeyondRedemption said...

Hi Dallin,

That's exactly what I've seen. Most of the success or failure in business is rarely attributable to the idea.

I'll look up your link. Thanks.

Ishwar said...

"Iteration of the Idea" - Absolutely true. I am glad someone put that down on paper. To come up with a concrete idea which finally looks like it will work took me and my team at least 6 months.

When I mention that we have been developing on the idea for that long, people give us the "Tortoise" look. In other words, Get up and start moving dude.

I think iteration is the key to a successful plan. Can't say that with authority right now, since we are nowhere near starting, but i do see how the idea has developed from a "this sounds like this should work" to "This has to work".

Whether it will actually get there, is a question that time will answer.

Pranav Bhasin said...

Couldn't agree more.

I have seen so many people say that they are waiting for a perfect idea to start up. In my experience, the perfect time to start is "now" - if you have the courage to start and the will to execute, everything else will fall into place.

GeekBeyondRedemption said...

Don't forget that depending on whether you're B2C, or B2B, you will need to iterate on your revenue generation too. And you need to get from "This has to work" to "This works". Then from "This works" to "This is how we make money off of it". The second step can take some time, but needs to happen :)

Yep. Gotta agree with you there. However, B'lore in this day and age is expensive to startup in :| Making the barriers for a startup to succeed so much higher.

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