Myth: Startup success is all about the idea

As part of the continuing series on startups myth, let me address the concept that ideas make or break a startup.

A “good” idea

This is probably the largest misconception in the non-startup world. People usually say “I would do a startup but I can’t think of a good idea.” Ideas, in my view, are the easy part. With all due respect to Lewis Carroll, the 6 impossible things before breakfast can be seen as the entrepreneur ethos: an impossible thing is merely the root of a new solution.

At the end of the day, ideas are the start but an idea does not a startup make: turning that idea into a reality is what makes a startup real. In my mind, the people who see the idea as the thing needed for a startup are not really interested in doing a startup, they’re interested in having done a startup. Startups are about taking that idea and executing on it.

So are ideas important to future sucess? Only marginally so. I remember seeing facebook for the first-time and thinking “this looks like” Six degrees was an early social network (how early? it was part of the dotcom boom!) where people could connect to their friends and post updates. Sixdegrees begat friendster, which inspired myspace, which inspired Facebook. The main difference: execution.

The initial idea for Keepskor was good but nowhere near as good as what we’re launching with. As we refined it, improved on it, and then discovered other areas that were previously uncovered, we managed to zero in on something that is radically different from what I had originally envisioned.

Ideas are easy and a good idea generally attracts people. At this very time, I suspect that there are no less than two other startups trying to do the same thing we’re trying to accomplish at Keepskor. They’re toiling away in obscurity, as we are, trying to solve some of the same problems we’re trying to solve. And they may or may not get a product out in the marketplace before we do. But where I think we will win is because everyone at Keepskor is focused on delivering the product and making the necessary changes our customers will undoubtedly required.

If you’re having a problem about ideas, here are a few: find a way to create a reliable wireless communication system; find a way to provide foreign language kid TV series undubbed outside of their initial market; find a way to create add an internet connection to a TV or computer screen that doesn’t have one; Create airplay for Android; create a service that will merge my SMS, MMS, email, instant messaging and social network discussions in a way that makes them easily retrievable in the future; create a service that will allow magazines and newspapers a cheap and turnkey way to deliver their content to multiple platforms (ipad, kindle, etc…) in one felt swoop; offer a turn-key solution for renting trucks and getting all the necessary permits related to food-truck services… and those are just things that came off the top of my head as I was writing this.

I’m sure there is something that bugs you out there: make that thing better and there’s your idea. Then go execute on that idea.

But will all that, I still can’t put it as succinctly as Ashleigh Brilliant did: “Good ideas are common. What’s uncommon is people who will work hard enough to bring them about.”

Note: this is part of a 5-parts series about startup myths. You may want to read all the parts: ideaspathrisk, money, capital.

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