I’m involved with several startups and am often invited to get involved in more. It’s wonderful to see so many people working on ideas they believe in. Innovations are exciting but how do you know which ideas are really worth putting your time into? These are two questions I ask to help me decide.
1. Does the idea solve a real problem?
Belief is important. Without it, no idea, however brilliant, will succeed. Belief kicks you out of bed in the morning and pushes you to unreasonable limits. It makes you more inventive than your peers, more determined and more resilient when things don’t go your way. Every startup needs a founder with unshakeable faith in what they’re doing.
Belief alone, however, is no golden ticket. It’s simply the price of entry for any aspiring entrepreneur. I’ve met plenty of startup entrepreneurs with super-sized self-belief who don’t stand a chance of success. Why? Because their innovations don’t matter. No amount of belief compensates for an idea that no one else cares about. Don’t solve problems that people don’t have.
2. What makes this idea better?
Please don’t think that ideas need to be new to be successful, they just have to be executed in ways significantly better than the previous incarnations. Mailchimp was hardly the first EDM system, iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player, nor was Youtube the first video community or Facebook the first social media platform. Innocent weren’t the first folks to make healthy smoothies, nor was Tesla the first company to make electric cars. But they were all a massive leap forward in their execution. They’re all innovations that do their thing much better than their predecessors and peers. Which is no small thing. As Jonathan Ive put it, “it’s very easy to be different, but very difficult to be better.”
If you ask these questions and answer “yes” to both of them then there’s a chance your contemplating an idea you should commit more time to. If you come up with a “no” then you’re sure to have better things to do with your time.