7 WAYS TO ENSURE YOUR STARTUP IDEA DOESN’T SUCK, Part II

We’re talking about tips on startup business ideas. This is part two, you can view part one here.

4) RESEARCH

There are hardly any truly novel ideas anymore. That great idea you’ve always thought of? There’s a great chance someone out there has done it. Don’t fret, this is normal. In many cases, this actually means your idea has a market. Now, look deeper. Find out about how your competitor is doing it. How could you make the idea more remarkable?  What other gaps aren’t being met?

Two years ago, I thought about the idea of starting an executive search firm, partly because STORM, our HR technology firm, was always declining when we were asked by our clients if we did headhunting. A longtime HR practitioner, I employed headhunters before and knew it was a crowded market. At the same time, I thought it would be an interesting prospect to introduce something remarkable to an industry which hasn’t really changed much in decades. I spent an entire year gathering data about the industry, trying to identify a strategic gap. The Starbucks near our office made a fortune off of me interviewing over 50 headhunters, trying to find out more and more about this industry I was very much exposed already to as a client. We finally launched this year, armed with a unique strategy. Its been working so far, thankfully. (truthfully, I think waiting a year was too long, there is a point where research becomes the enemy)

5) STEALTH ISN’T HEALTHY

When we launched STORM in 2006, my attitude then was to “protect my turf,” hence I never talked about new ideas to anyone, paranoid they might get stolen. I was in “stealth” mode. I realize now that that was a complete waste of time. First, no one was out to steal my idea. Check out this article.

Talk about your ideas with people whose opinion you value. Seek out experts and talk to them. Tell them about your plans. The feedback you will collect will be invaluable. And no, even if you blare your idea out into a microphone in the middle of SM Megamall, no one will steal your idea. Trust me. Now stop being paranoid and get feedback. Feedback will perfect your idea, and will likely even lead you to better ideas. Now, I have regular coffee meetings with a few people per quarter, with the goal of just bouncing ideas around – I bounce ideas around with fellow entrepreneurs, and I bounce ideas around with vertical experts.

6) DON’T JUST COPY, AUGMENT

I think this is what Steve Jobs does best. Apart from the Apple 1, which was the first personal computer, none of his other products were firsts. The iPod wasn’t the first portable player. Microsoft actually had tablets almost a full decade before Apple came out with the iPad. The i-phone certainly wasn’t the first smartphone. Each of these Apple-made, market leading gadgets were augmented copies of their originals.

How could you make an existing product/service better? How could that innovation they use in one industry benefit yours? What global idea could be done better locally? Imagine and improve.

7) ITERATION > IDEATION

If you talk to VC’s and experienced investors, they will tell you that they invest in the team first, not the idea. In fact, be prepared for the likely possibility that as you develop your startup, your idea winds up in the waste basket, dethroned by a better one. Paypal started out as a Palm Pilot accessory. Groupon started out as a mere side project. It’s really how you will continuously iterate and improve on your idea that will determine your success as a startup. If there’s one thing that’s suicide for a startup, its idleness. Once you think of an idea, you almost immediately have to think of ways on how you can destroy it and build a better one.

There you have it, some of my suggestions on the startup idea process. Do remember that ideas, and the idea formulation process, can often get seductive. I know some friends who have a “good enough” idea on their hands, but don’t want to jump in because the idea isn’t “perfect” yet. Wasted time. Select an idea AS FAST AS YOU CAN, then find a WAY TO TRY IT OUT as fast as you can. The sooner you can gauge as to whether your idea is a good one or not, the faster it is that you can progress, or move on to a better idea.

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