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Winklevoss syndrome (startupblog.wordpress.com)
39 points by davidst on Feb 18, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 20 comments

I'm getting tired of this constant back and forth about "ideas vs. execution." It seems plain as day to me that you need both a good idea and good execution to have the best chance of success. And a healthy dose of good luck probably doesn't hurt either.

Sure, the world's best idea, with no execution, is worthless. And sure lots of people have "great ideas" that are just pie in the sky fairytales that aren't implementable. But look at the flip-side... how many hackers are there in the world, who - in 2003/2004 or so - were talented enough to build, say, Facebook? I'd venture the number is on the order of "a metric shit-ton." Now how many had the idea of building something like Facebook? And then the flip-side to the flip-side is to ask "how many had the idea and the talent, but not the initiative?" And we could keep going back and forth... the point being, you need both the idea and the execution.

And executing a bad idea well isn't necessarily going to lead you to any success. What if I invented the world's most amazingly advanced and mondo righteous new model of buggy-whip, tomorrow? I could setup a factory, produce them, source the components at a great price, use six sigma and all sorts of fancy statistical process control and empower my employees and use the kaizen approach and churn out a constant supply of really high-quality (but inexpensive!), super advanced mondo righteous buggy-whips... which would all promptly collect dust until my factory went out of business, I went bankrupt, and I had to burn them as firewood.

The point is that if you had created the best buggy whip, you could corner the market for S&M products. You'd be making millions.

Idea and execution are 2 parts of the same thing. Start with idea, then you execute, you get stuck after which you tweak the idea and then your back to execution.

You can also start with execution: do consulting for a bunch of companies in the same space. Figure out a common problem to all(ie idea) and then you execute a solution.

Idea Is Execution.

I don't really like the "ideas vs. execution" debate either, largely because it reaffirms that an idea and the execution are separate things. I think that by the time an actual application is written and deployed, the idea and execution are nearly inseparable - in other words, it's nearly impossible to determine what is idea and what is execution.

In this sense, I'd say an idea for a piece of software would be much like an idea for a novel. The idea is formed through the act of writing.

I think the point that people are trying to make is that ideas are important, but not nearly as important as the execution of those ideas. And from what I can tell, the OP is arguing against the ridiculous concept that someone can "own" an idea.

I believe the Winklevoss claim was that Mark committed to build facebook for and with them. Then, he cut them out of the deal, without terminating their agreement. "Who had the idea" is less important than "we were business partners, but you cut us out without terminating the agreement first."

It's even worse than that, he kept them on hold believing he was working on it. If he had made it clear from the beginning that they weren't a priority they could have hired someone else and had a chance. I would consider what he did sabotage.

It for these reasons that it's ridiculous to use the Winklevoss twins in an argument about ideas versus execution. If what Zuckerberg did was considered ethical or even the correct way to do things, it would be impossible for businesses to function. Imagine Zuckerberg hiring a lawyer to register Facebook as a trademark, and the lawyer registers it for himself. Hey, ideas count for nothing, it's all about execution.

That's true. I can imagine how bad it would hurt to be in Winklevoss' place. But wasting their entire lives suing fb isn't the best course of action. They should forget what happenened and focus on other things and try and make a mark of their own in whatever they're interested.

They seem to be making good money doing what they're doing. 65 million so far. Next round, who knows?

From a monetary perspective, it seems very profitable and whatever makes them happy.

But if I were in their place i'd rather go out and build something and get known for it than be remembered as someone who kept suing a person just because that guy stole an idea of mine , especially when the guy's already paid me 65 mil.

AFAIK there were no formal contracts signed. I'm betting had FB not just settled they would have won the lawsuit, but I'm sure they determined it'd be cheaper in the long run to just settle.

Ideas aren't entirely worthless, but execution is so significant that it can kill a good idea or rescue a bad idea.

Consider what would be necessary to fully detail an idea so completely as to make it difficult to screw up the execution. You would need to provide a lot of material to fill in all the details, thousands of words perhaps.

Consider an example of this: the adaptation of books to movies. Books are ideas that are enormously thoroughly detailed, far more detailed than the vast majority of ideas in business. And yet, what is the success rate of the translation of good ideas (in book form) to good movies? It's pretty spotty, and utterly dependent on good execution. How many excellent books have been executed as mediocre or horrible movies?

Good ideas can help (some of the best movies ever have come from books, for example), but they can just as easily be a length of rope from which to hang oneself.

Oh, Christ. Not again.

This idea circulates every now and then, often as a result of a VC post somewhere. Look: VCs sit on the other side of the table from the founders. It is their job to convince the founders that their ideas have little value and that the value lies in what they bring to the table. Your are a fool if you believe them. One rather notable startup invester has gone so far as to state that if you tell him your idea it is perfectly acceptable for him to give your idea to another group of founders to execute. It's not stealing, because the idea is of no value.

See how that works?

He has apparently executed on this threat, too.

But if you start negotiating for serious money (valuations of tens of millions or more), you need a strong barrier to entry for the competition. Often, very often, that is a patentable (or patented) idea or technology.

On the flip side, maybe you can think of products whose initial execution wasn't so great but whose idea was so compelling that the product was a success anyway. I won't list what comes to my mind because I don't want to start a fanboi flamewar here, but you may be able to think of a few.

Believe the "execution is everything" myth at your own risk. Ideas are very important. Ideas are what change the direction of how we think about ourselves and how we live in the world. In fact, I would say that some ideas compel their execution. So, in my view, the moral is: if you have a good idea you better be able to execute it, because if you can't somebody else will.

>One rather notable startup invester has gone so far as to state that if you tell him your idea it is perfectly acceptable for him to give your idea to another group of founders to execute.

Please cite a name so we can be sure not to go to such a clown.

I don't want to do that here, but it may come up again. Keep your eyes peeled.

Lebedev has good article on the topic: Idea worth minus a million. http://www.artlebedev.com/mandership/161/

I can say this is not true for myself, the problem really is coming up with something that people will buy, i have no idea what sort of things people would pay for, i see a lot of things that i think are useless that a lot of people pay/use.

IP = Imaginary Property

Winklevoss syndrome a.k.a. IP copyright?

I'm pretty sure they didn't own a copyright on the concept of social networking.

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