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Ideas are cheap

Execution matters.  Look at Joel, he is building a successful company out of fairly ordinary ideas.  Look at Eric Sink, same thing.  Look at countless other ISVs.  What sets these people apart?  They execute.

VCs will back a good team with a mediocre idea before backing a mediocre team with a brilliant idea.  There's a reason for that.

The more you share your idea, the more refined it becomes.  Don't worry about people stealing it:  Very few have the ability to execute.

Want some good business ideas?  Look who's hiring in the paper.  Follow the VCs & Angels and see where they're putting their money.  See who the business incubators are sponsoring.

Here's some ideas to get you started:

http://ati.ic2.org/main.php?a=9&s=0&PHPSESSID=688587e39e5d9f664950ec8468c291cf

I'm sure I've just struck fear into the hearts of all those company's founders. /sarcasm

robb
Monday, January 05, 2004

Or, for a more proven business model, check out the Inc. 500.

robb
Monday, January 05, 2004



I think you've hit on a few good points.

A few years back, I was in a distributed OS class and the professor started asking us what we wanted to do our project / thesis on.  I said something like "I don't know ... it seems like all the interesting work has allready been done." (Hey, it was a bad week, ok?)

He was strongly opposed to that.

Time passes ...

It seems that a lot of these new companies are delivering vapor.  XML, Web Services, Application Servers, blah blah blah blah.  I don't see anything new. 

The best of them - brickolage, blackboard, ActiveState, Fog Creek - that old ideas and optimize the heck out of them.  They hire great sales people and great developers, and _successfully compete_.  Offering a better solution to a specific market segment, or, sometimes, the world.

And the drones say 'Man, I wish I saw how big content management was in 1999.  I would have ...'

Of course, they wouldn't.  That gap between seeing it and doing something about it - the fear about not suceeding.  Hmm.  There's something there.

regards,

Matt H.
Monday, January 05, 2004

> That gap between seeing it and doing something about it - the fear about not suceeding. <

Amen. Using Fog Creek as another example, here it is 2004, and Fog Creek will be rolling out the 3.x version of their Content Management system, which is just getting ready for prime time. When did they introduce it... two years ago now? In 2002 they roll out their Content Managment system. Macromedia did the same about a year later.

The good performers will be good performers in any environment, the bad performers will be bad performers in any environment. Give a good performer a good idea and they'll implement it well. Give a bad performer a good idea and they'll sit on it until a few years later and then bemoan not having done anything with it.

Truly innovative ideas are few and far between, but then get widely copied, and several people will stumble on to the same idea if it's time truly has come.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, January 05, 2004

>The more you share your idea, the more refined it becomes.  Don't worry about people stealing it:  Very few have the ability to execute.

Is this really true? One of th things about writing my program, is that I really feel the need to keep it under wraps until it is done.
What if someone who is a faster coder takes my idea?
I suppose they can do that when it is released, but at least I will have the jump with version 1 out by then.

Am I being silly? Too over cautious? How true is this comment?

Aussie Chick
Monday, January 05, 2004

Aussie,

As an engineer, I agree with you. However, as a sales person, it's a terrible idea. Don't worry about someone getting done faster, worry about someone getting your potential customer to commit to their solution to the problem that you're trying to solve. Don't kid yourselve about building a better mousetrap. Better technology doesn't aways win. Sometimes lousy and first does.

pdq
Monday, January 05, 2004

"Don't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats."

- Howard Aiken

Mike Swieton
Monday, January 05, 2004

The people who say ideas are cheap are people with lots of money behind them. That money lets them ramp up quickly and beat any competition.

But if you don't have lots of money, you should keep your idea confidential as long as you can. (By the way, people with lots of money will crow that it's silly for you protect your idea.)

entrepreneur
Monday, January 05, 2004

robb, so are you saying it's not just about being smart, but also about getting things done?

Imagine that...

[g,d,r]

Philo

Philo
Monday, January 05, 2004

I think it just depends. I do agree that piracy of an idea is VERY unlikely *UNTIL* the idea is actually executed and demonstrated.

Two factors greatly inhibit the "motility" of raw ideas. For one, most people have very poor powers of visualization - other people's ideas generally mean almost nothing to the next person. The other factor is ego. Most people don't tend to accurately hear another's idea. It's the old saw about not listening because your mind is crafting a response as the other person is talking. Between these two factors, I consider it a wonder anyone even understands anyone else in normal life...

But, once the idea is proven, all bets are off. A working model and results (namely $$$) are the most powerful evangelical forces for ideas. 

Bored Bystander
Monday, January 05, 2004

All the interesting stuff has been done. BADLY.

Look at how long it took someone to get  the hand held computer right (Palm).

The real Entrepreneur
Monday, January 05, 2004

Under promise, over deliver.

Focus, execute.

Mitch & Murray (from downtown)
Monday, January 05, 2004

> One of th things about writing my program, is that I really feel the need to keep it under wraps until it is done. <

You never can know if someone else isn't working on the same thing as you. Also, once you release, you're going to have to tell *someone* in order to sell the damned thing.

If you think your idea is really original AND you're actively developing it, then sure, keep it under wraps. There will come the point though that you want everyone on the planet to know you exist, at which point you should pull out all the stops.

Then when you're developing 2.0, if you have new innovative features, it may again be to your strategic advantage to keep the under wraps. After all, everone is still catching up to the functionality of your 1.0.

Also, you don't have to reveal what's under the hood. If you're developing a 4x4 vehicle with a computer to determine which wheels are supposed to get traction, your competitors will reverse engineer it soon enough. There's no need to tell them how you did it, or how you calibrated it. All anyone needs to know is that it works and that it's the best one on the market.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, January 05, 2004

"But if you don't have lots of money, you should keep your idea confidential as long as you can. (By the way, people with lots of money will crow that it's silly for you protect your idea.) "

I wish had a nickel for every client that wanted me to sign a NDA before they would show me their "original idea" which 999 times out of a 1000 had already been done by someone else.

That didn't mean their proposition was bunk, it just meant they weren't the first one to do it and therefore shrouding the entire affair in secrecy accomplished nothing. At that point, their whole competitive advantage was entirely based on Business 101 issues such as providing it cheaper, with better service, etc, etc.

Mark Hoffman
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Ideas are cheap. Well, most of them anyway. And even more so with 20/20 hindsight.
It always turns my stomach to hear some obnoxious fartass in a too loud voice claiming how unoriginal so and so's work is because he thought up the same many times better a decade ago. Sometimes they even wrote a "paper" about it. Of course, they never executed anything or took it anywhere beyond the vague handwaving.

However, this does not mean YOUR idea is cheap and you should just trow it out there. If you are going to build a business on it then by all means keep your hand as close to your chest as possible. It's jungle out there and you need to exploit all the advantages you can possibly have.

Bored: The fact that most people are poor visualizers etc. is irrelevant. It is all about not waking up the one sleeping dog that will eat your lunch.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

> I wish had a nickel for every client that wanted me to sign a NDA before they would show me their "original idea" which 999 times out of a 1000 had already been done by someone else.

Oh yes, I agree with you here, even though I advised keeping good ideas to yourself unless you're loaded. People that present NDA's are clueless.

entrepreneur
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

> It is all about not waking up the one sleeping dog that will eat your lunch.

That is my thoughts, I don't want to post screenshots all over the place when explaining problems, because I (oh this is a stereotype I know, I know) fear some asian/russian chap will happen to see it, and decide "Hey that is a tiny program, I could do that.."

And well, call me naive and silly, but this is my first big shot at getting out there, and I want to keep every advantage possible.

Aussie Chick
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

I've had a few great ideas in my lifetime... Some of them I never really investigated, others I told some friends about and they said "Oh, you mean something like ____" which wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but was around 70% of the way there.

As other people have said, it's not the idea, it's the follow through. The execution of the idea. Take for example Real Estate. There's absolutely nothing new in Real Estate... Sure some people would argue with me there that maybe Skyscrapers were new, the various tricks to getting skyscrapers stable might be new, but this is really something incremental and not revolutionary.

Yet people can make fortunes in Real Estate. There are also people who buy those Carleton Sheets courses and let they lay around the house - too lazy to even sell them on eBay.

Benjamin Franklin said it best. Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.

======LONG RAMBLING BIT. FEEL FREE TO IGNORE======

For example, some of you may have heard of Waste, a small chat and file sharing program released by Justin Frankel (of Gnutella & Winamp fame http://www.1014.org/code/ ). It's real claim to fame is that it was yanked by AOL (Nullsoft's parent company) 2 hours after it was posted to their website.

I happen to really like the idea. Rather than AIM, Yahoo, MSN, ICQ or even Jabber, it's completely decentralized - peer to peer, and ecrypted. Users exchange public keys & IP addresses. Your chat sessions never travel over a centralized server.

So I started reading up on it, learning the pros and cons, trying to learn about the protocol. I found one particularly scathing post on someone's weblog. He attacks the cryptographic protocol because it wasn't standards based. His argument was that standards based stuff has had more peer review and is therefore safer. Sure I'll agree with that point, and the Waste documentation even says it might be better to implement SSL, but this was for internal use, then released as open source and listed as beta. Waste uses Blowfish, but (sin of all sins) uses a less peer-reviews implementation of it.

Yet I don't see him creating any software to do something like this, nor do I see him taking up the mantle and re-working the open source code to something he would deem as being more secure.

I really don't know of anything else like Waste out there right now, so I would say it was a good idea. Justin Frankel *did* something with this idea. It's implementation may not be perfect, but given time it could be refined.

This pundit, on the other hand (who for all I know may be one of the best coders out there with a small army of applications to his name), could only scoff at something someone else had actually *done.*

Ideas are cheap. Words are even cheaper.

====== END LONG RAMBLING BIT ======

  Nothing in the world can take place of persistence.
  Talent will not;
    nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
  Genius will not;
    unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
  Education will not;
    the world is full of educated derelicts.
  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

    - Calvin Coolidge

www.MarkTAW.com
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Well, actually in a book I read something like that was said:

An idea takes 1 unit of effort from the individual, and produces one unit of value.

Development of the product takes 10 units of effort from the individual and produces ten units of value.

Mass Production of the product takes 100 units of effort from the individual and produces 100 units of value.

Mass Distributing the product takes 1000 units of efforts from the individual and produes 1000 units of value.

Now, in software it can be a bit skewed, because mass production and mass distribution are theoretically very easy. Nevertheless, it does indicate that ideas are pretty easy and common. I have plenty of ideas, some of them very good. Nevertheless, I realize that I need to somehow materialize them for people to respect me for them.

Shlomi Fish
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Hello Philo,

For entrepreneurial success, I would say that "emotional intelligence" or "soft skills" are more important than sheer brain power.  I would also say that the ability to execute in an entrepreneurial setting covers a lot more "gets things done", at least in the framework that Joel wrote about it.

I also don't think that just any programmer that is "smart" & "gets things done" is nessecarily cut out to be an entrepreneur.  I actually think that it might work against him, but that's just a hunch.

robb
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

"I [...] fear some asian/russian chap will happen to see it, and decide "Hey that is a tiny program, I could do that..""

If it is a tiny program that anyone really could reproduce easily, then you are naive and silly if you think you won't have competitors. If it isn't actually that easy to reproduce then worrying about people who think that it is would be a little pointless.


"And well, call me naive and silly, but this is my first big shot at getting out there, and I want to keep every advantage possible."

I'm amused.

If you know that as soon as you release your program it'll take a short time until you're driven out of business by all the competitors making a smiliar program, how on earth can you describe anything you're doing as a real "advantage" ? A business plan that says "In X months the company will close because competition will have driven us out of the market even though it was such a revolutionary market that noone but us even realised it existed" is not one that many people would take seriously.

You either have a reasonable plan to deal with the fact that you will have competitors in which case there's a difference between being paranoid and simply not over-hyping your product before it's finished, or you know that you won't survive the inevitable competition in which case you've got serious problems that won't be fixed by keeping your idea secret because competition is ineviatable. Well, ok, you could go after a market with no money in which case not many other people will follow, but that wouldn't really help.


Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Hey, fair go.

I am having a go, and I am learning (hence participating in discussions like this).

I have never written a commercial program before, and never spent much time around people that have. So the best I have to go on is comments and discussions and articles I read. In leui of any hard evidence, I just do what I think will work.

Will my program have competitors? Who knows. I don’t, someone in this forum would probably have a better idea, not me. Like I said, I am taking this program very seriously, and doing the best I can, and yes in the eyes of others what I do may be naïve, it may be silly, this is because it is my first run, and well I am naive, green etc. As serious as I am taking it all, it is also a big learning curve.

Aussie Chick
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

"Will my program have competitors? Who knows, I dont"

Well, the good news is that I do know.

If your program isn't worth buying, it probably will still have competitors but it wouldn't really matter much anyway.

If your program is worth buying, then it absolutely and definately will have competitiors.

There is nothing at all that you can do about this. No patent, no trademark, no copyright, no trade secret will do anything to change the fact that once you've found a market worth exploiting someone else will want to join in with you. You might try for government regulations that forbid anyone from competing with you, but that doesn't usually work so well these days.

Can you think of a single good reason why a proven profitable market would never attract a second player? Even "firmly established competition with 95% of the market" won't stop some people going after that last 5% and trying to take some of your market share away from you. Hell, 100% of the market isn't going to stop the competition if you lose your "official government mandated monopoly" status.

This is, of course, all assuming you've even managed to find a genuine market that noone else has noticed before. That can happen, but it's not all that common - and it suggests that even if you did tell us what the secret is, the vast majority of people will simply laugh and dismiss it as nonsense up until the point where you make a boatload of money off it.

If the market is already well known then worrying about the possibility of competition would be quite silly because the competition is already there.

People seem to be terrified that they might face some competition - this is quite silly when the fact is that competition is guaranteed, not just a possibility.


Wednesday, January 07, 2004

>People seem to be terrified that they might face some competition - this is quite silly when the fact is that competition is guaranteed, not just a possibility.

Given, just that I want the jump on them. I want to start first.

My program, well it has mostly been explained (with no real hesitation) already (I am not going again, because it would take too long), is not something  nobody has thought of, just a variation on the theme.

Do I expect competition, I kind of like to fool myself and think not, well at least for a while, unless I turn out to be some sort of brilliant market strategist, or the program becomes a huge ‘must have’ university student fad. Neither of which I think will happen (though I do like to daydream).
But yes, in reality it will happen eventually (or in fact is already out there and I just have not realised it yet!!).

But I still don’t see why I should tell everyone what I am doing? It seems like a dumb thing to do. And for all your arguments that it is fine and ‘you are going to have competitors eventually…’, well why not stave them off as long as possible? Or ‘nothing you say is going to be of any interest to anyone’, well not to you at least.

You are kind of trying to make me feel bad/dumb (?) for not freely telling everybody. Well I have already professed to being new to this game, and I am interested in how much ‘idea nabbing’ goes on and in what stages etc, but being new does not make me dumb or even silly (yes despite the fact that I used that term) because I won’t share.

‘Need to know’ works for me. When it is time to market the product, well I guess the ‘need to know’ just gets applied to a much grander scale.

Aussie Chick
Thursday, January 08, 2004

Aussie Chick,

I wouldn't advocate necessarily going into your business process in detail, I'm just saying it's not a big deal to tell your value proposition.

It's the difference between "we deliver a good pizza to your home in under 30 minutes, or it's free" and going into details about store layout, oven types, supply chain, etc...

robb
Thursday, January 08, 2004

Yes, well this is pretty much what I have been doing.

i.e. alot of people here know about my program and what it does, but they haven't read the code.

Aussie Chick
Thursday, January 08, 2004

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