Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Startup Ideas - Not Even a Dime a Dozen

I've long had a habit of coming up with random ideas for startup companies. I have a few friends who do the same thing, and often we do so together over coffee or a beer. One of my friends told me about a blog with a startup idea a day. I did a search, but accidentally found this essay by Paul Graham called Ideas for Startups instead. I love that I can still serendipitously encounter wonderful things in the web. In any event, here's a great passage from Graham's essay:

I think people believe that coming up with ideas for startups is very hard-- that it must be very hard-- and so they don't try do to it. They assume ideas are like miracles: they either pop into your head or they don't.

I also have a theory about why people think this. They overvalue ideas. They think creating a startup is just a matter of implementing some fabulous initial idea. And since a successful startup is worth millions of dollars, a good idea is therefore a million dollar idea.

If coming up with an idea for a startup equals coming up with a million dollar idea, then of course it's going to seem hard. Too hard to bother trying. Our instincts tell us something so valuable would not be just lying around for anyone to discover.

Actually, startup ideas are not million dollar ideas, and here's an experiment you can try to prove it: just try to sell one. Nothing evolves faster than markets. The fact that there's no market for startup ideas suggests there's no demand. Which means, in the narrow sense of the word, that startup ideas are worthless.

This is so great. In the back of every entrepreneurs mind is this fear that if they openly discuss their latest great idea, it will instantly get stolen by someone. I now feel motivated to write up my last 30 startup ideas. We'll see if I actually do.

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