Startup ideas

Tonight, I had the pleasure to speak to a group of students in a business plan class at CU/Boulder.

One of the students approached me after the class in order to tell me that he had a killer idea for a web startup, but he didn’t feel he had the ability to create it since he was not a programmer. He asked me if he felt this would limit his chance of success in general, or for getting into Techstars. Of course I told him it would not limit, but rather eliminate him from consideration for Techstars. I advised him to find co-founders who are builders and who compliment his own strengths, and then apply. It never ceases to amaze me how people overvalue ideas.

Another student told me that they had the passion and desire to be an entrepreneur, and wanted to do a startup. But, alas, he had no “great idea”. I asked him what he was passionate about. He said “travel and snowboarding.” I asked him if his experiences with travel and snowboarding were always perfect or not, or if he ever experienced problems when he traveled or carved it up. His eyes lit up a bit. Then he blurted out “and I’m into RFID, I think it’s really cool.” I told him to take all those passions, find a problem, poke for real pain, and figure out how to solve it. Many great startups got going because somebody wanted to solve a problem they had, and it turned out many people were like them and had that same problem.

Another person I talked to was concerned that their idea had “kinda been done before.” I told them to embrace competition, and go kick some ass. Do it better, smarter, or make it easier. If you are really the only person on the planet with an idea, it’s not highly likely that it’s a great idea in the first place. People don’t pay (or devote attention to) great ideas. I’m sure that several of the hundreds of MeeToobs out there had the idea well in advance of YouTube. But they didn’t execute as well now did they?

Don’t overvalue ideas – it’s all about execution. I have said in the past that I give away at least 2 or 3 ideas a month. Some really bright people give away even more.

file under: Blog, Startups