Thoughts

Whose Idea Is It Anyway?

Original ideas don’t exist anymore

While writing my previous post Somewhere Between NDA And PDA, I started thinking about the originality of ideas. Most ideas have been done before, one way or another. Ideas come from problems or opportunities in everyday life, and other people and companies have been around for way longer than you or I to solve them. With new technologies, we can offer new solutions to replace old ones. It’s still the same idea. Look around the web and I guarantee you’ll find your idea in some shape or form, always different but slightly similar – or vice versa.

No big deal, though. It’s up to you to make your idea stand out, whether in the way you communicate or deliver your solution. In order to do that, you must ask yourself why. Why have previous solutions failed? Why is your solution better? Why is your team the best to create this solution? And so on… The point I want to make is that you shouldn’t expect your idea to be unique; no one does. Customers, investors, and employees included, they expect your idea to be sound.

Who cares about being original anymore?!

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Straight Up Startup

Defining a startup and what that means for an entrepreneur

Startup is a term that is hard to define and that’s because most people don’t agree on a single definition, not even among entrepreneurs. I’ve read about many different criteria for classifying a company as a startup and not a small business, but the truth is that the real difference is merely the image. Startup is a brand, it’s sexier and feels premium, while small business, well, it’s just a smaller-sized version of a business, which doesn’t sound quite as appealing, right? It’s superficial, really.

A startup can be defined by its growth as proposed by Paul Graham and Daniel Tenner or by its business model as suggested by Steve Blank. It can also be a feeling, a culture or a state of mind, or any of these definitions by various founders. Let’s look at other possible definitions and analyze the different points of view:

Company that sells users(‘s data)

A startup uses data provided by the users themselves to make money by selling it to the highest bidder, which is usually advertisers and other times bigger companies (as some may argue is the case of Facebook’s latest string of acquisitions).

Company without business model that is in search of monetization

A startup creates a great product for free and then struggles to incorporate a business model into its core, generally through advertising. Startups like this can be extremely successful without making a cent simply because of high adoption rates and incredible growth. In the end, they still need money either from its customers or from its investors.

Company that is small and (possibly) in the tech industry

A startup is simply a small business, more often than not operating in the tech industry. In this case, any business can be a startup, even a blog, a freelancer, a consulting service, or a local shop.

Company that creates a market through innovation

A startup launches a product and also a category. It creates a new market and drives demand for its product. In this case, the startup is an innovator and its product is first-to-market; investors will take a gamble and competitors may wait by the sidelines before jumping in for a piece of the pie.

Company with one product that grows into a business

A startup is built around one product which needs to scale by building a business around itself. Sometimes, these are single-feature products; think of mobile applications. These apps are built purely focused on the product offering and either eventually make money which forces them to shift focus towards business or eventually realize that they need to make money to keep going and then shift their focus towards business.

Company that makes no profit and is VC-backed

A startup offers a product or service at lower pricing than the market and often operates on a loss but is covered by venture capital. Startups like this are usually in a rush for land grab, competing for market share rather than revenue.

Startups are evolving and so is their definition

Startups should be defined by their ability to fail, their ability to grow beyond expectations. To challenge and overcome paradigms. A startup is a modern day David fighting the Goliath of today’s corporations. That’s the way I like to see it. How does that affect us entrepreneurs? We have the opportunity, and even the duty, to shape this definition. We are leading the charge of innovation and building the future of business. Be part and be proud.

What does a startup mean for you?

Why $10 Is Better Than $1M For Your Startup

Here’s why we should change the way we think about money for startups

Ten dollars is, of course, a nominal amount. But, the point is that if someone – anyone – is willing to invest even the smallest amount of their own money on your product, then you know you’re onto something. The bigger implication here is that money for startups is, most of the time, synonym to investment when money for startups should mean support; so stop searching for that big paycheck and go find what will really boost your startup.

Many startups have been successful by charging for their product from the very first day. Although that may not work for every startup, charging upfront means more than just having incoming revenue, it means receiving support from people who care. Another way to get support straightaway is through crowdfunding, where every contribution counts no matter how big or small because it’s the power of the community that makes a difference. This means, again, receiving support form people who care.

Besides being a great way to validate your startup idea, charging for your product or asking for contributions will get you real, genuine support as opposed to an investor looking to make a quick buck off your idea. Bootstrapping might not be a possibility for every entrepreneur, but startups should pay more attention to alternative opportunities for growth. While a large investment might help market the product and increase user base, a small number of paying users can help improve the product itself and strengthen communication.

One million dollars is a dream, a mirage in the desert, and worst of all, it’s a distraction. An entrepreneur has to think about every dollar cent his startup earns – and to fight to earn it. With every cent comes great support (yes, I’m borrowing from Spider-Man) and you would do well to collect all the great support you can because it will make a huge difference for your startup. Your customer is your biggest supporter and when you do cash out, it will be more fulfilling knowing that people have supported you along the way than filling your pocket with money.

What would you do with $10 (from a loyal and recurring customer)?

Ideas Are A Dime A Dozen, Invest In More Than One

Debunking the startup idea

Startup ideas are overrated. They are like weird relatives: everyone has one. And since ideas are so easy to come by, why not invest your time and effort in more than one? The more, the better! After all, ideas are a dime a dozen, right?

Ideas don’t cost money – not initially, at least. There are even ways you can validate your idea for free. If you’re a technical person, you can build your own product; if you’re a suit businessman then you can build your community. All it really costs you is your time. Now, you might have a family, a job or other commitments, but you can always decide how much time you want to invest in your ideas.

Too often, entrepreneurs get caught up in thinking about the money, how much it would take to build something and how much to market it. Well, normally you should be to do at least one of those with your time. You may then need to think about finding a partner for the other part or, at this point, consider the money that would be required. Either way, that’s less money you need to invest, and more time you can invest.

Entrepreneurship is risky and investing all your time in one idea can be a bad idea (no pun intended). It’s like they say, you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. So, think about trying out different ideas to maximize your chances of success! Another reason for doing more than one idea at the same time is purely to stimulate your brain by exercising it with different tasks and pumping it with creativity. Get your juices flowing!

The idea isn’t really the idea. It’s just another idea. Another in a long line of ideas. Some will work, some won’t. Why limit yourself to one only?

How many ideas do you think you can juggle?

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?

Vision And Execution, But Where Is Direction?

An entrepreneur must have vision, they say… Vision is nothing without execution, they say… What they don’t (need to) say is that direction is crucial for getting anywhere. To go from idea to execution, you need direction. Direction is what connects vision to execution, it makes your idea come to life in several successive steps. You absolutely need it to know how to get from one step to the next.

Idea is a plain description or image, a mental visualization, while execution is a task or result, a checklist that’s been checked. Direction is knowing where you want to go and what you need to do, it’s a plan with clear steps that’s in your head, it’s a checklist that needs to be checked. That’s what makes the real difference between success and failure. Does that make an idea any less important? No.

It’s important to know where you’re going and also how you’re going, but we often forget about how to get there (which is understandable since we practically depend on our GPS for getting around). However – and somewhat unfortunately – a GPS won’t guide us to our final destination in entrepreneurship. If you want to achieve success, map out how you’re going to lead your startup there from early on.

Entrepreneurship is a chaotic ride with ups and downs all along the way; it’s all about the journey, isn’t it? That doesn’t mean we can’t choose which roads we take, what turns we make, and when we need a pit stop. Think about direction as well as vision and execution. Be prepared for everything. Readiness is a virtue!

Will you stop to ask around for questions or do you have a road map?

Entrepreneurship, The Ultimate Man-Made Tool

Some say entrepreneurship is a trait you’re either born with or not, others that it’s a skill anyone can learn. I think it can be even simpler: entrepreneurship is a tool. Just like our early ancestors before us developed tools made of stone, we too have developed a modern, more complex tool. We use entrepreneurship to improve life around us. A tool, contrary to a trait or skill, can be used by anyone for anything.

Entrepreneurship is like a Swiss-Army knife. It’s adaptable: you can use to build a business from scratch or to lead a project within your company. It’s upgradable: you can build upon it and improve it as you go, adding new features every day. It’s durable: you can use it over and over again, endlessly, and it will not let you down if you use it properly. Now pick up that tool and use it for everything, not just business. It’s handy and that’s the power of entrepreneurship.

How will you put this tool to good use?

Passion, First And Foremost

I think passion is the most important trait for an entrepreneur. Without it, a team will not follow, investors will not join, users will not pay. Passion is all that matters and success depends on enough passion: whether you muster enough passion for your startup or whether you garner enough passion from your team. Passion alone won’t make or break a startup but it can determine its success.

Most will say that the main predictor of success for any startup is product/market fit where the focus lies on having a product that satisfies the market or founder/market fit where the important thing is having knowledge of the market; it’s not that I disagree or dismiss these concepts – they are important and I believe both can (and should) be worked and improved on – but I think we need a new predictor called passion/market fit. It looks like this: a founder or founding team must be passionate enough to satisfy the market.

In theory, it will predict whether there’s enough interest from the people involved to get the idea off the ground, before you even think about product- or founder/market fit (which you should, by the way, so I’ll write a post about that later on). It will determine whether you’ll have success in moving to the next stage of building a product and growing your startup. Knowing this right from the get-go is key to surviving in the future, or shifting your focus.

Passion is what makes you believe, try, fail, persist, conquer. It’s the best driver of success, it’s the strongest motivation an entrepreneur and his team can have, it’s a dream worth chasing. Passion is a lifetime hobby, an endless energy source and a personal religion.

What dream are you chasing?

Everything Entrepreneurship

We’re all entrepreneurs in one way or another. We constantly fix things, change things, take risks and reap rewards. Whether it’s in life, family, career or sports. It’s just the human way. Successful entrepreneurs generally take a hands-on approach towards life. Problems can be solved and the rest can be improved. It’s this mindset that sets them apart.

Entrepreneurship can be applied to anything and everything in life. Freelancers and independent workers act like one-man businesses; politicians also act like entrepreneurs – they campaign for their ideals and causes; in the corporate world, it’s called intrapreneurship when an employee undertakes a venture within the company – this is common when people feel the risk is too great to set off and start a business on their own. Generally, entrepreneurs tackle big challenges so we associate entrepreneurship with big things.

But it’s the little challenges, the everyday things, that make us better, that make us grow. Some of those might turn into businesses and eventually into success; some won’t. What’s important is what you put into it and what you get from it. Doing even the smallest daily tasks with a can-do attitude turns you into a dedicated and passionate leader, solving the tiniest problems with an out-of-the-box perspective helps you become a creative and innovative problem-solver, and making the slightest improvements in your life makes you an analytical thinker. It starts there but is so much more too, and it all adds up to entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship is in everything so embrace the challenges you face. Entrepreneurship is everywhere so open yourself up to the opportunities around you. When you start doing that, you’ll see how simple and easy being an entrepreneur can be.

What do you think about everything entrepreneurship?