Your Ideas are useless…still…

I was sitting on a plane today while it was undergoing maintenance for a fuel line electrical issue that was taking over an hour. I knew the flight would be cancelled or we’d get shuffled onto another plane. Fuel and Electrical issues == flight cancelled.

While sitting there I started reading a book I brought just so I looked smarter to my travel mates. Do More Faster by Cohen and Feld. I had read most of the book already but apparently I forgot a lot of it. I recommend this book to everyone. The book is contributor-based with short lessons and stories that are 2-4 pages max. I really appreciate the shortness of it and it’s easy to cherry-pick a much needed lesson.

Enough already..enjoy this:

Trust Me, Your Idea Is Worthless

Earth-shattering and world-changing ideas are a dime a dozen. In fact, that’s being too generous.

I’ve had hundreds of would-be entrepreneurs contact me with great news: They have the next big thing, but they can’t risk telling me (or anyone else) about it until I sign some form of idea insurance, usually a nondisclosure agreement (NDA). Like every other sensible investor on the planet, I decline the request to sign the NDA, forgoing the idea, often to the shock, awe, and dismay of the stunned entrepreneur.

Why do I avoid this conversation? Because entrepreneurs who behave this way clearly overvalue ideas and therefore, almost by definition, undervalue execution. Brainstorming is a risk-free, carefree activity. Entrepreneurship in the literal sense of “undertaking” is not. Strap on your seat belt if you’re signing up for a startup. It’s a high-velocity experience.

If you have a brilliant idea, it’s safe to assume that a few very smart people are working on the same thing, or woking on a different approach to solving the same problem. Just look at the number of travel apps on your iphone or the number of diet and exercise sites on the web for an example of this.

Overvaluing the idea is a red flag., Particularly in the absence of tangible progress. Sure, I miss out on investing in some truly great ideas with this attitude, but that’s ok with me: I don’t invest in ideas. Nor does Warren Buffett. I’ll lose less money than those who do. I can largely control my downside by investing in good people who, even if they fail this go-round, will learn from mistakes and have other fundable ideas (ideas I’d likely have access to as an early supporter). I do not have this advantage when investing with ideas.

One popular startup dictum worth remembering is “One can’t steal ideas, but no one can steal execution or passion.” Put in another light; there is no market for ideas. Think about it for a second: have you tried selling an idea lately? Where wold you go to sell it? Who would buy it? When there is no market, it is usually a very sure sign that there is no value.

Almost any can (and has!) come up with a great idea, but only a skilled entrepreneur can execute it. Skilled in this case doesn’t mean experienced; it means flexible and action-oriented, someone who recognizes that mistakes can often be corrected, but time lost postponing a decision lost forever. Ideas, however necessary, are not sufficient. They are just an entry ticket to play the game.

Don’t shelter and protect your startup like it’s a nest egg. If it’s truly your only viable idea, you won’t have the creativity to adapt when needed (and it will be needed often) in negotiation or responding to competitors and customers. In this case, it’s better to call it quits before you start.

Your idea is probably being worked on by people just as smart as you are.

Focus on where most people balk and delay: exposing it to the real world. If you’re cut out for the ride, this is also where all the rewards and excitement live, right alongside the 800-pound gorillas and cliffside paths.That’s the fun of it.

David didn’t beat Goliath with a whiteboard. Go get amongst it, and prepare to bob and weave.

Check out the book on amazon. A must buy!

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