‘Ask me what I will give you if you could wave a magic wand and give me my youth back. The answer would be everything I own and everything I will ever own.’ – Felix Dennis.
I’ve spent most of my youth building businesses. Some of them failed, some were acquired, and others turned into multi-million dollar companies.
When I was younger, I’d often dream up these ‘unique’ business ideas and jump in headfirst. I would spend months working on them and then realizing only later on that it was a waste of time.
These days I’m much more intentional and I get a lot of joy from working on existing projects.
That being said, if you are in the early stages and have a promising business idea, it’s important to remember that all new ideas feel exciting in the beginning. Usually, after a couple of months, the initial excitement fades. The idea that once seemed promising now all of a sudden feels like just a lot of work.
When you come up with that new business idea, don’t rush to create that logo, buy a domain name or hire a team. You first want to figure out if it’s worth spending your time on.
If you look at most internet businesses (even the funded ones) I always wonder if the founders spent 30-minutes thinking about before launching into execution mode with blinders on.
For instance, Quibi, a short-form streaming platform. Somehow they were able to also convince investors that it was a good idea, and after raising $1.75 billion they shut it down after six months. Sure, there were many reasons why it failed, and pandemic was blamed, but I’d argue that wasn’t a worthwhile idea, to begin with. Just imagine the time cost for the team members, founders, and investors.
You probably want to build something more useful than Quibi, so here are a couple of things to consider.
Do people want it?
What matters is that you make something people want. It sounds so obvious, but there should be an actual market for your idea.
The best way is to start talking with potential customers/users. Learn from them, ask questions, ideally face to face, if not, there are niche communities for almost every umbrella category you can think of.
This is the best way to find out if your idea has legs.
Will it scale?
If you feel like your idea has legs and people would be willing to pay for it, consider the scalability of your idea.
If you think about someone who starts a local pizza place versus someone who starts some sort of internet company, both founders have to work hard to get anything off the ground.
If you are interested in making a lot of money, you want to work on something that has a higher ceiling to start with. Not all ideas are created equal.
Do I care about it?
Starting a business is hard, but it’s even harder to keep it going for a long-time, especially when it’s a small team, or if it’s just you.
This is the time, to be honest, and reflects to see if you care about the business and the industry it’s in or is it something that just feels exciting at the moment.
Uber for Tanks (on demand) or a new social media scheduling tool can sound pretty cool, but let it marinate for a couple of weeks. If you feel excited about it today, you’ll feel the same way about it in two weeks.
Go alone or partner up?
There are plenty of successful companies that get a lot of media attention because of the single founder story. That being said, companies with at least two founders tend to do better and have a much higher chance of success.
Having someone to bounce off ideas with, keep each other accountable, and be motivated to keep going when things get hard can mean life or death for an idea.
What if it doesn’t work out?
Even with an amazing team, product, and a fast-growing market, your idea might still fail. If it does fail, consider what you’ll get out of it? I like to work on ideas that even if they do fail, I’ll either learn a new skill or get to work with people that I admire.
The one key takeaway is to be cautious of what ideas you execute, and what ideas you let go of. Once you do find a worthwhile idea, you have all the work ahead of you so try to enjoy the journey.