startup

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?!

Somewhere Between NDA And PDA

An entrepreneur’s biggest fear

Unfortunately, we have this belief that when others hear our idea, they will take it and run. They will make all the money in the world. And, somehow, they will get it just right. I’m not going to argue whether an idea is important or not; I’m going to address the elephant in the room startup world: a hidden fear found in most – if not all – entrepreneurs that others want to and will steal their precious idea.

Once we have our idea, we tend to hold on to it and keep it to ourselves. Why is that? Probably because we think someone will copy it, steal it. We don’t realize that one day someone will do the exact same thing and that someone is a competitor. So why do we focus so much on keeping it secret in the first place, why are we so competition-averse at first but not later, why are we paranoid and afraid?

It’s stupid to think that talking about an idea means giving it away; it’s naive to think that our idea is original and no one has done it before; it’s short-sighted to think that someone won’t copy it sooner or later; it’s undermining to think that we can’t do it better. Facebook wasn’t first, and neither was Google. Elon Musk isn’t afraid to publicly discuss his ideas (see this image of him talking about his plans for Hyperloop on Twitter) and I doubt he ever feared telling people about his idea to build a high-performance electric vehicle. And you know what? He’s doing just fine.

Just because you think your idea is great, it doesn’t mean someone else will. And even if they do, they may not take a huge interest in it. And then if they do, they will not have the vision you have. You can always do it better than others; you have to if you want to be successful. Think NDA’s are going to save you? Think again. I’m not telling you to start flashing your idea around like a couple engaging in PDA at the bar, but do try to be more open about it. Don’t be paranoid, but don’t be careless either.

What’s an entrepreneur to do with an idea if not tell the world about it?

Obsession Is Your Enemy, Keep Him Close

A dose of obsession

I’ve talked about an entrepreneur’s best friend, so today I’ll talk about your enemy number one: obsession. Obsession, according to Dictionary.com, “is the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc”. Successful entrepreneurs obsess over their idea (and over every detail of their startup), unsuccessful entrepreneurs obsess over their idea as well (and every other detail of their startup, too). So what’s the difference??

Obsession isn’t all bad; Google offers the following synonyms for obsession: compulsion, infatuation and even passion. It’s also a strong desire, belief or love for something. It’s the kind of desire, belief, or love that gets you going, motivates you, encourages you, and drives you. In part, it takes a bit of obsession to get into entrepreneurship; an entrepreneur has to be a little bit crazy, right?

On the hand, obsession can be bad, it can be a disease, and perfection is often a symptom. Unfortunately, perfection is an inhibitor and it may lead to analysis paralysis, a state in which over-thinking actually stunts a startup’s growth by impairing your decision-making abilities. How can you sell your product if you’re spending too much time preparing a demo? How can you ship your product if you’re analyzing its design too deeply? How can you ship your product if you’re afraid of people’s reactions?

The good side of obsession is persistence, the bad side is blindness so beware tunnel vision. Find the balance that is right for you and steer your startup in the right direction. Use your obsession to push yourself forward, but don’t let it hold you back. Obsession is wanting to make dreams to come true, but is that really so crazy?

Can you tame your obsession?

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?

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?

CVdoo: From Paper To Pitch

Today’s the perfect day to talk about CVdoo. It seems like only yesterday all I had was an idea and some notes jotted down, but today, no more than three months later, I’m set to pitch CVdoo at the Innovation Masterclass organized by the European Young Innovators Forum. It should be a great opportunity to showcase the project and get feedback from experienced people like Xavier Damman (xdamman), co-founder of Storify, Fabien Petitcolas, Director of Innovation at Microsoft Europe, and Bruno Wattenbergh, founder and CEO of ImpulseBrussels, and it’s a major step for my startup.

CVdoo aims to create a better connection between jobseekers and recruiters through video. The idea came from my desire to make my own video CV and my inability to produce one. This fascination inspired a curiosity for how successful video CV’s are made and led to the realization that the majority of video CV’s online – as well as tools available to build your own – are, simply put, bad. This brought about the question as to why and so I set out to analyze the problem and find a solution.

Once I had an idea, I started talking to recruiters to hear their opinions and reactions, which was easy because I knew people in the recruitment industry, and I had an overall great response. I knew I was onto something so I started looking for a partner; I found my co-founder on Westartup, a community for entrepreneurs. Then it was time to get to work: we set up a landing page and ran an online survey. Unfortunately, the survey didn’t go far; it proved much more difficult than expected to get answers so I scrapped it to start again from scratch. However, I managed to conduct a couple of very insightful, formal interviews with recruiters to get their thoughts on paper and my co-founder is now hard at work on a prototype.

Regardless of our startup’s status, I thought we had a pretty innovative idea and it couldn’t hurt to get some visibility at a conference so I applied. A week later I received confirmation we’d been selected and I couldn’t have been happier; on the other hand, I was also nervous. Of course, we’d have to push ourselves. We still had no logo, let alone a pitch deck. I took some time to draw a logo by hand and eventually got something that looked nice but that was also simple enough for me to make on the computer. I worked on the pitch deck for a few days until I found a compelling way to present CVdoo and, finally, I rehearsed and practiced at home.

There isn’t a perfect way to go from paper to life and there isn’t a shortcut either, but you stack up together enough little things and you start getting somewhere. Today’s pitch is no more than the result of the work put in during the last couple of months and tomorrow’s success won’t simply come knocking on our door unless we keep it up.

Push yourself to get results.

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by Diego Palmeiro
http://diegopalmeiro.wordpress.com