Entrepreneurship is hard. REALLY hard. But with countless tales of how entrepreneurs made it big with almost nothing, it’s easy for a budding founder to jump into the startup world full of unbridled enthusiasm.
Luckily, Startup Misconceptions is here to clear up the myths, delusions, and fancies surrounding entrepreneurship, with useful advice from experts. So, sorry if we rain on your parade, but we believe a successful entrepreneur is a prepared entrepreneur. You’ll thank us later.
In this installment, we focus on the common belief among "wantrepreneurs" that a great idea is all you need to launch a billion-dollar company. While conceiving a solid idea is crucial, it is certainly not the end all and be all of entrepreneurship.
Myth #1: An Idea by Itself is All You Need
Reality: Nope. As American humorist Arnold H. Glasow once wrote, "An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied." In a Forbes article, "Why Great Ideas Are Worthless", Joshua Steimle emphasizes this sentiment, stating that ideas are inherently useless until they are actually implemented:
An idea combined with successful execution can change the world. An idea by itself is worthless. [...] If you’ve got a great idea then get busy and launch it. Start executing. You’ll be infinitely better placed to land an investor.
Myth #2: The Best Ideas Are Original
Reality: Not always. Countless neophyte founders believe that the best startup ideas are completely original. Hate to break it to you, but the vast majority of successful startup ideas are not unique. Even if your idea is one-in-a-million and hasn’t been done before, it really is the exception to the rule.
In an article by Janet Choi titled "8 Myths Startup Founders Hate", Phoebe Espiritu shatters the myth that a startup needs to have a unique idea to be viable:
Many of the best startups are based on a meaningful tweak to how business as usual is conducted rather than on a unique idea.
Similarly, in a Forbes article titled “10 Myths About Successful Entrepreneurs -- Debunked,” Steven Berglas negates the notion of novelty:
Most business builders look at the world, see things that can be improved upon, break the mold, and add value.
In other words, stop wasting so much time searching for that diamond in the rough, because someone has probably already found it.
Myth #3: Successful Ideas Don't Need to Make Money
Reality: Yes, they do. Even if you’re passionate about implementing your idea, unique or not, it mostly worthless if it’s not monetizable. According to Berglas, even the most promising ideas can fail if they’re not serving a need in a specific market:
There are countless ‘good ideas’ that die on the vine for one reason: lack of necessity. Without a market hungering for your product, however innovative you may think it is, or it may actually be, it won’t sell.
Sure, you can point to many examples of companies that didn't have any revenue stream and still were successful (Google, Twitter, etc)... but relying on that strategy of growth is like buying a lottery ticket.
In a recent article featured in AlleyWatch, titled "Hard Startup Wisdom from VC Ben Horowitz" by Justin Danford, Ben Horowitz offers perhaps one of the most important pieces of advice for budding entrepreneurs. Simply put,
If you can’t raise money... reevaluate your idea.