April 14, 2012

Startup Success Step #1

Your idea is not as important as you think it is.

Most people starting up a business believe that having a “Great Idea” is central. They were inspired by a brilliant breakthrough while showering one morning, so they believe success is a matter of executing that vision.

That optimistic energy is essential fuel for the entrepreneurial mindset. Belief (vision without evidence) ignites innovation, and should be celebrated. Confetti and noisemakers, everybody. Break out the bubbly.

Experience tells us, however, that belief is often a delusion. That “wow, nobody ever thought of this before” exhilaration might be deflated by some digging to reveal that it was indeed thought of by some guy in Bumdoodle, Montana, in 1997.

As success factors go, in fact, having a Great Idea is at best number three or four on the hit parade.

Why? For one thing, you can’t patent an idea. You can’t trademark an idea. You can only protect the expression of an idea. Your competitors will, in the future, copy your concept, quite legally – so what will matter more than the idea is how you execute, how quickly you grab market share, and whether you can “own” the category.

Besides, ideas have a way of morphing during the evolution of the startup from vision to launch. What you wind up going into business with may be a lot different from what you imagined in that eureka shower moment.

So, if the Great Big Idea isn’t the biggest factor, what is? On to Startup Success Step #2.