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Developing new startup ideas (cdixon.org)
70 points by epi0Bauqu on Mar 14, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 25 comments

Well if he isn't going to share his spreadsheet, we can start our own.

Feel free to add your idea to http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=tOGIddn3rPdqKbHWsqaWb... and we'll see where it goes.

This is very cool. People are starting to vandalize though. I may have to make my own and close it to editing.

Love it, idea added. Thanks.

I think he is spot on.

BUT, the fact that he won't share his idea spreadsheet is very disappointing. My comment on his blog:

"While I agree completely with your thesis, this response makes the whole thing a wash in my opinion. Do you really think someone reading your blog is going to steal your idea, build a product, execute and deliver? I'd say the chances are almost non-existent.

Love the fact that you're telling people to share ideas and get feedback and be open, but loathe the fact that you won't eat your own dogfood. Saying it only applies when you show ideas to individuals is weak. But that's just my opinion."

Saying it only applies when you show ideas to individuals is weak.

The problem with showing your entire idea spreadsheet to the mob isn't that someone is going to steal one of the ideas. The problem is the signal-to-noise of the responses.

When you sit with one person, in person, and go through the list, you get to focus on one idea at a time, you both get to control the agenda, you can both react directly to each other's social signals, and you've got a rapid-fire exchange of sentences. If the exercise proves to be a waste of time for either of you, you can cut it short.

None of this applies when you post a list of N things on the net and ask for "feedback". An arbitrary number of people will respond to an arbitrary number of the things, in arbitrary order, with arbitrary levels of engagement. Most of your visitors will, at best, be drive-bys: They might type out their thoughts on one of the points, but they're unlikely to stick around for ten posts' worth of back-and-forth, unless they're already your friends. (And, if they're your friends, why not run the ideas by them in person, over drinks?) And there's a good chance that the ensuing thread will be dominated by critiques of your spelling, cheap jokes about the funniest idea on your list ("Blog posts with a 140-character limit? Don't you know how to type? lol."), or an exhaustive discussion of one of your points -- whichever one happens to be the best at generating free-form conversation, which is a metric completely unrelated to how good an idea it is.

And, of course, the responses will probably be largely context-free. You won't necessarily know if that insightful-sounding response is from a potential customer, a VC, an employee at a big company, an entrepreneur, a con artist, or the Vice President. As the original article takes pains to point out, knowing who is critiquing your idea is really helpful.

Free-format brainstorming meetings do not scale well at all, even in person. On the web they're even worse.

> BUT, the fact that he won't share his idea spreadsheet is very disappointing

I think you've fallen for the fallacy associated with "Ideas are worthless".

A lot of people assume that means "share it with everyone" - which is definitely not what this article is suggesting.

Share it with people you know, people you respect, people who you think will give input - but share it personally

If you are going to attempt to execute an idea throwing it onto HN (for example) does potentially devalue you it for you. The amount of extra input is potentially useful (though I doubt by much) but the chance of it being implemented by another shoots right up too :)

(of course; if you dont plan to execute now, or dont see yourself executing then sharing publicly is a good idea)

Fair point, but I dont think ideas are worthless at all. Given that he is not building startups to execute on these ideas (and alludes he probably won't be in the future), I thought it would make his case much more compelling if he did share. Maybe a few ideas... or just the headline idea without the detail.

I got into a bit of back-and-forth with him on the blog, but I did agree with his general thesis. FWIW, I think throwing out an idea on HN is not a terrible idea. The feedback and useful suggestions probably outweigh the risk, especially if you are already working on building the business (i.e. past the 'idea' stage).

FWIW, I think throwing out an idea on HN is not a terrible idea. The feedback and useful suggestions probably outweigh the risk, especially if you are already working on building the business (i.e. past the 'idea' stage).

I suspect it's a case of "each one on it's own merits". Some ideas would see benefit in being aired publicly. Others less so.

If you dont have people you chat to one-to-one (or in small groups) about your ideas then I can definitely see the benefit, yes.

I like to think of an idea as a seed or germ of the real idea. It's from the most important part - the founders, their execution, market & product positioning are all much more important, but this also doesn't mean that every idea is a good one. I think that a really great founding team will eventually pivot and morph an initially not-so-great idea into something decent and viable, but really great startups must also come from pretty good initial ideas, or at least the initial idea has to quickly lead to a relatively good idea.

That's how I went about it and it was absolutely awesome. Look at it this way:

What are the odds that someone steals the exact idea you choose out of the many you have, sticks with it long enough to matter, AND executes past the first iteration? You're more likely to get struck by lightning. Let's say the roles were reversed with Facebook and those two twins supposedly took the idea from Zuck. Do you really believe they would have had the vision to iterate beyond a social network for college kids?

On the other hand, you can tell as many people as much as possible. You'll get a ton of feedback, find flaws, meet new people, and have opportunities present themselves you would have never had happen otherwise. The odds of that? Very very likely.

While getting as much feedback as possible from a diverse group is great, you need to be fair with peoples time. Engaging people (VC's, etc) to help vet your laundry list of ideas seems beyond realistic, unless these people are already your friends.

This sounds reasonable, but wouldn't I look like another "idea guy" if I keep bouncing off a list of different ideas to other entrepreneurs or VCs?

Wouldn't they would like to see me being passionate about one market, one idea, have detailed research about it, being committed about it?

It's very easy to bounce of bunch off ideas with VCs or entrepreneurs - if they are your friends. But it doesn't seem to be very logical approach for first time entrepreneurs.

I think it's a widely accepted fact that, as a guy with an idea and a laptop you are worth zero without proper execution. So you have everything to gain by sharing your idea.

Things get trickier as you build value. There's still plenty of information you'll benefit from sharing, but it starts mixing with stuff you definitely don't want to share.

I see a common trait in a lot of successful companies: they found a healthy balance between too open and too closed.

“Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats.” -Howard Aiken

ok, consider this quote "An idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of the old inputs" (don't remember exactly who said it), so, when you share your idea to others and receive feedback, meaning you'll gather more inputs, and therefore you'll can have more ideas by combining them and you can also develop your initial idea into a better one (again, by combining your initial idea with the new inputs)

What should you do if you want competitors to run off and start with your idea? I already have my main thing.

Show that it's profitable!

God damn it. It's going on the spreadsheet.

Where is his spreadsheet?

I absolutely would NOT put my ideas in a Google spreadsheet. That's a sure way to share it with everyone you don't want to have it -- like google.

Why on earth would you recommend putting your ideas in a system owned and controlled by someone else. Put it in a spreadsheet on your own computer or in a text file.

NOT google spreadsheets.

Paranoia much? Do you really think some evil genius at Google is reading your idea list, waiting for the right one to pop up so he can steal it?

Funny, from another post, In his classic book, Only the Paranoid Survive, Grove details the story of leading Intel through the dramatic transition from the memory business to the microprocessor business.

There are also studies of rats where the paranoid rats who lurk in corners and study the environment more are more likely to survive than those who are not paranoid.

So, yes, I'm paranoid -- and proud of it!

Yeah, I think that. In fact, I'm almost positive of it, because to show me "relevant" ads, they have to read my spreadsheet.

I don't trust google at all. They've shown repeatedly that they are not not evil. Regardless, their stuff isn't very secure. I read about all kinds of backdoors people find into their apps. Putting your ideas into a google spreadsheet is sharing it with the world and you'll never be able to delete it from their lightning machines.

In fact, I'm almost positive of it, because to show me "relevant" ads, they have to read my spreadsheet.

Its an algorithm that scans through the text to pick up keywords in order to target advertising. There isn't a person literally reading over your content.

Aside from your paranoia, why do you think your ideas are worth stealing anyway? I could care less if someone came across a document of my unpursued ideas. If they can execute them or germinate them better than I can, they deserve to have them.

They are worth a lot. I implement many of them. And thanks for explaining to me how the google ads work. I thought they had an army of people looking at all the web pages and clicking check boxes by the ads that should show there. It's amazing that they can automate something like that! I have new respect for google now. That's awesome!

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