Let’s End the Myth that Ideas are Worthless
Conventional Wisdom spreads here like wildfire. A blog post from an influential VC about how to run your startup can go from thesis to gospel truth practically overnight. Because every entrepreneur is ultimately, making it up as they go, there is an incredible and legitimate attraction to insights that seem to give us an advantage. The conventional wisdom gripping the Valley today that I most disagree with is that “ideas don’t matter.”
Y Combinator is the most influential institution in the Valley right now. It focuses on developer centric teams and rapid development that gets products in front of customers fast. YC doesn’t fully push the “ideas don’t matter” line, but because of its prominence and the extremely early stage of its companies, their changes, developments and “pivots” are often played out in public in front of an audience hungry for tips on how to make their own companies work.
What is an “idea” for a startup? A startup idea is an assertion about two things; a problem that people have and a way to solve it. Embedded in that “idea” are beliefs and insights about individual and/or collective behavior and psychology. For many problems, this is immensely complicated, and when we assert that “ideas are a dime-a-dozen” (a phrase I’ve heard and read countless times in the last six months), we fail to recognize how much observation and interpretation of behavior goes into good ideas.
The point is that great startups need great ideas and great execution. Of course you can’t just have an idea. You have to do something with it. But it doesn’t follow that you only need execution so stop focusing on ideas. You simply cannot fail on either front. Period. I want my peers to be building the next generation of world-changing startups. The more we can move away from these reductionist conversations that say “this, not this” rather than recognizing the complexity of creation, the better we position our whole ecosystem to amplify innovation.