Ideas Are Worthless, Ideas Are Everything

Idea vs. execution: who wins?

Recently, I spoke about the relationship between vision and execution which brings up the question of which is more important for an entrepreneur, startup idea or business execution?

While there isn’t one decisive answer, many entrepreneurs have shared their thoughts on this question previously. Let’s look at some opinions from around the startup community:

FOR:

But the reality is that ideas do matter, just not in the narrow sense in which startup ideas are popularly defined. Good startup ideas are well developed, multi-year plans that contemplate many possible paths according to how the world changes.Chris Dixon

My view is that a startup is a continuum of ideas. The initial idea may bear some resemblance to the idea at any future time, but the actual instantiation of the idea can vary dramatically over time based on the learning that happens along the way.Brad Feld

AGAINST:

The value in an idea is found in the ability to execute and make it meaningful, not in protecting the idea from others. – Anthony Iannarino

Ideas don’t make money. Businesses make money. And businesses might be sparked by ideas, but they’re built on execution.David Berube

When entrepreneurs come to me with that “million dollar idea,” I have to tell them that an idea alone is really worth nothing.Martin Zwilling

Yes, unsurprisingly it seems that the general consensus is that execution trumps idea. Of course, it doesn’t have to be one against the other and successful startups should do both things well while successful entrepreneurs will have passion for their idea and inspire it in others to help execute. Unfortunately, this is all you get: an ambiguous answer at most; it’s up to you to put your idea and execution to the test as an entrepreneur.

However, I will offer this: either great ideas or great execution can lead to good startups. If you have a great idea that answers a need or solves a problem well, your startup can succeed. If you have a great team or set of skills which can help you with execution, your startup can also succeed.

Which path is right for you?

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2 comments

  1. Interesting article. I tend to agree that execution is more important than the idea, although the idea still needs to be important.

    If the idea really was more important then I believe first mover advantage would always lead to the innovative application (product, service, etc) becoming the dominant design. However, there are countless examples of a later market entrant becoming the dominant player, such as Facebook or VHS.

    Christian

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