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How New Ideas Almost Killed Our Startup (viniciusvacanti.com)
136 points by revorad on Dec 22, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 27 comments

I think you can go further, this post talked about ideas that are completely unrelated to your company.

In my experience, completely related on topic great ideas can still kill your startup, its an easy thing to bury your head in code and produce feature after feature without looking up and evaluating what that feature gave you apart from more code to manage. Microsoft can afford to make massive bloated software that does everything and the kitchen sink "decently" startups can rarely afford to do anything more than one thing very very well.

The OP is writing about choosing that one thing you want to do very very well, which I think is a bigger problem than feature creep.

People usually "fall in love" with ideas, which is why its so hard to pull away from it. Its hard to be rational and objective when you're in love. This isn't so much of an issue in a relationship (in love with a person) because how you feel is what matters. However, in a startup, what matters is how the customers feel, and that love potion will be your Archilles heel if not treated carefully. I generally try to fall in love with problems before an idea (solution). When the idea comes before the problem, its been disastrous. Customer Development helps, but its still a rough ride.

"I generally try to fall in love with problems before an idea (solution). When the idea comes before the problem, its been disastrous. Customer Development helps, but its still a rough ride." i think that's a great way to put it...the problem will remain until somebody fulfills, but there can be a variety of potential solutions to just about any problem.

reminded me of a quote i tweeted recently & then saw @bmull include today: "As long as I listen to my customers, I never need to have another original idea" -@nielr1 in Do More Faster

Sometimes advice sounds perfect for any situation but actually needs to be applied judiciously. It is easy to succumb to the "wow" factor of another person's story of their success. I will use Henry Ford to counter nielr1:

"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."

agreed. the way i interpreted neil's quote was that a startup has a certain trajectory in mind, but once they release and start collecting feedback (surve.io anybody?), then the inspiration for the pivots will come from the users of the product.

of course you can't listen to what everybody says, but as a team, take all of the generated ideas and determine which are the best. i think it removes a lot of the assumptions that are present going in.

ha, I just bought that book yesterday (Do More Faster). I'll get to that quote soon.

great book. get your highlighter out ;)

lots of memorable quotes. stuff that makes complete sense, but until somebody phrases it a certain way, it just never clicks...ya know?

Sometimes ideas are necessary intermediates to the next-big-thing. SimpleGeo comes to mind: The original plan of CrashCorp was to create mobile games using augmented reality, but the young company soon learned that the hardest part was developing the back-end geolocation infrastructure that would support their applications. Thus was born SimpleGeo. [1]

[1] - http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/most_promising_company_...

Thanks for this link; it could not have arrived at a better time. Need to go paste this into a couple email threads... ;)

no surprise this topic comes from yipit's founder as i think it's pretty ironic that so many of the daily deal startups started as something entirely different.

plenty know about the groupon story, but who remembers when livingsocial was emerging by having people share their top 5 lists on facebook? what about scoutmob which began as a wifi provider?

both of those companies noticed that they were sitting on an large amount of consumer data, and they both figured they could use it to pivot their model towards the emerging group discount space.

Or that Twitter started as something completely different? And Microsoft? Google, Apple, and Facebook are counter-counter-examples.

But the point remains - don't be fooled into thinking that the grass is always greener. Unless it really is.

Apple and Facebook also both started as different things than they are now (computer manufacturer, college social network). It becomes increasingly hard to recognize the pivots/changes over time because people tend to be very forgetful/associate brands with their current product or service.

I bet the guys at Twitter are glad they didn't take this advice.

Twitter is a different situation. Their previous biz was regular blogging. They thought higher-engagement audio blogging was the next step. They tried it and discovered it was not. Why? Because it took too much energy to create content.

So they went in the opposite direction, again from the starting point of regular blogging, toward micro blogging (less energy, lower fidelity, whereas audio blogs are higher energy, higher fidelity).

Since it was based on fundamentally different (in fact, opposite) assumptions than the business they had raised money for, they offered all investors their money back and created a new legal entity to keep the paperwork clean.

That is not the same as being distracted by a flashy idea, where you have neither good evidence that your current idea is bad nor concrete evidence that the upcoming idea is an improvement.

The article is also talking about jumping to ideas unrelated to your current focus, which aren't able to leverage what you've already learned and built. Twitter was invented entirely in response to what they learned from their experiment with audio blogging.


Read up on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odeo ... Twitter was a side project that ended up taking over.

As entrepreneurs I believe we are hardwired to search for the "next big thing." I agree with this article in that it can be detrimental to our success as entrepreneurs. With my first business we launched and had decent revenues for almost two years. Then things started going south and instead of searching for a solution within our business, we tried starting another company to support it. And when that didn't work and I returned to "tie myself to the masthead like Odysseus" my ship had already sunk. Moral of the story: Stay focused!

Argh, this article is so true and should not be ignored.

I have recently been building projects, when in the middle, I suddenly get an idea for another project, I would down all tools to kick start something new with the belief I could multitask and do both.

The truth is, you can't! Give your initial project 110% and get it out of the door before you try anything new. That way all of your products will have the quality they deserve.

Great article.

I discovered notepad really helps me when new ideas sweep me off my feet. I write down my idea and a few key nots about it. That way I don't lose the idea and spend a lot of time thinking about it. If the idea still sounds good after a month or so, then I might spend a few more hours clarifying the idea into a more concrete concept.

I've developed this habit, too. One problem I've run across (which I'm thinking you also might have) is I end the day with a whole bunch of notepads open and it is a pain to save/close them.

If you have that problem, too, you should check out a program I wrote called Notepad Consolidator (https://github.com/jaredsohn/NotepadConsolidator) that writes the contents of all open untitled notepads to an autonamed file.

I converted the lean startup worksheet into a Freemind mindmap. For new ideas, I simply open this mindmap template, fill it out, and store it in my main SVN repository under ideas. It makes documenting a new idea and running a quick feasibility analysis a matter of a few minutes.

Definitely beats notepads :)

It's the time that helps you.

that graph is my new desktop background. I hope it will help fight these distractions!

You don't want to make any absolute statements. Sites like flickr are siren-like ideas that turned out very well. It's always a tough judgement call for when to get distracted.

The important thing is to make sure you're pursing this other idea because it's actually something worthwhile not just as an escape from your startup not doing so great... Basically, think about things rationally and not emotionally.

> You don't want to make any absolute statements.

All categorical statements are bad, including this one.

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