Idea worries…!

I have tossed many ideas from my entrepreneur clients to the angels in my network.   I normally prefer an interface for my client with the Angel directly to  make his / her  pitch.  Sometimes such interface happens without my personal involvement.    A week later,  I get this call from the client asking me whether I got any response from the Angel.   Deep inside I  sense the pitch hasn’t worked.   On checking it out,  it turns out that beyond the sketchy power point presentations,   the Angel is left with nothing on the idea itself.   Mostly entrepreneurs are a paranoid lot and they are quite rightly so.  It’s quite  possible  that an idea may get hijacked.   But then at that stage of your business,  an idea is all you’ve got to offer.  You can intelligently couch it but not conceal it altogether.   And if you ever thought an Angel would sign an NDA for hearing your idea,  you better go hatch yourself.

So I thought,  let me put this up for future. 

Angels normally invest on people and their ideas collectively – not on any one of them.  Moreover,  ideas are not the business itself.  They keep evolving as you move along the execution curve.  It’s not uncommon that an original idea entirely transforms  into a totally different something while getting executed.  It may be due to reasons of executional difficulties your team faced or for the more practical reasons like shift in market trends, access to better technology or skillsets.   While the idea is important to be guarded,  it’s not something that one should be unduly worried about.  Here’s something that I came across on ideas. 

If you keep your secrets from the market, the market will keep its secrets from you — entrepreneurs too often worry about keeping their brilliant secrets locked away; we should all worry much more about springing a surprise on a disinterested market .   To quote Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing an idea. If it’s original, you will have to ram it down their throats.”  

Pay attention to the idea that won’t leave you alone — this is taken from Paul Hawken’s Growing a Business. Sometimes an idea catches hold of you and you find you can’t put it down. Pay attention to that! Just start working on it. Can’t get yourself to do anything on it? Move on. Find yourself waking up out of bed to write down new ideas about it? That’s a good one to choose.  

Immediate yes is immediate no — does everyone immediately tell you your idea is great? Run away from it. If the idea is that obvious, the market will be filled with competitors, and you’ll find yourself scrambling. One good test : when the popular searches throw up its list of  “great startup Ideas” and if your idea is figuring in there – dump it.   You’re already too late.  

Build what you know — this is the most basic advice of idea generation: scratch an itch you have yourself.   To make a great company,  stop and ensure that your need is broadly felt, and that your solution is broadly applicable — not everyone spends their life in front of a computer, remember.  

Give people what they need, not what they say they need — interviews are tricky. People will swear up and down that they would buy a product you describe if only it were available,  and then fail to do so as soon as it is.  Likewise,  in conversation an idea can sound terrible,  but in actualization the idea can become a compelling product.   You have to sherlock out the truth of the interest   people express,  and “yes/no” questions are usually less useful than “how much” or “how bad” questions.  

Your ideas will get better the more you know about business — engineers hate to hear this, but you can generalize up quite far from here:  the more you know about everything,  the better all of your ideas will get!  If you want to start a business and your strength is in development,  learning about pricing, sales, marketing, finance, and yes, even HR, all of it will make your product ideas stronger and better.

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