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Ask HN: How can I sell an idea to a FAANG company?
16 points by ethanpil 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 29 comments
I recently had an epiphany which, IMHO, would be a very attractive business which complements at least four of the FAANG companies.

Does anyone have any advice on how I could possibly sell them on the idea? My primary goal is to get hired as the product manager for this new business.

How would I go about exploring this possibility within these huge companies?

If you have an idea and no product right now you have nothing except your creativity. If you think your idea is valuable there’s two paths you could take:

If it’s novel, try to patent the idea and then license the patent. If you walk into a meeting with an idea and no patent, they could say thank you and then build it on their own. Look at what happened with the Winklevoss twins when they tried to hire Mark Zuckerburg to build their social networking idea.


Build the idea into a business and establish that it works. This changes the financial calculus for the companies.

Also realize that the bright people working at FAANG have ideas all the time but they may never get developed into products due to prioritizing other projects. Apple would have to decide whether to run with your project or spend the money on their next top secret gadget. You could get hired as a product manager at one of these companies, but those jobs are managing other people’s products and almost never your own. When they look for product managers they’re not looking for product ideas but for someone who can ship things already in the pipeline.

"My primary goal is to get hired as the product manager for this new business."

Pretty much the only ways this happens are:

A) Big company buys a startup that's already successful in some way, and the CEO of that startup becomes the Product Manager, or

B) Big company needs someone with deep expertise/knowledge in some domain/technology, because that person can execute better/faster on $initiative than anyone already at the company.

A couple of other thoughts:

- there is plenty of advice online and in books, about how to be a PM, and how to get a PM job at a FAANG company

- even if you were already a PM at a FAANG company, it might still be hard to both (i) take an idea that wasn't on anyone else's radar, and get enough buy-in to form a new team, and (ii) become the PM on that team. If you were at Google, the two most obvious routes would be (a) using 20% time to demonstrate some success, or (b) applying to their internal incubator (Area 120).

Do FANG PMs ever instigate taking the company into a totally new business? At that scale, I was under the impression that's the exclusive domain of the (S)VPs and marketing/BD execs.

To clarify - when I said PM, I was referring to anyone in the PM job ladder, whether they're an APM or a SVP of Product.

> I recently had an epiphany which, IMHO, would be a very attractive business which complements at least four of the FAANG companies.

That's an awesome position to be in! Congratulation.

> Does anyone have any advice on how I could possibly sell them on the idea?

Time to press the "New Project" button on your IDE and start working on an MVP. Good ideas are a dime a dozen, great engineering and working code is where the true value lies. Time to start building in public, pitch it to your friends, order pizza and break out that white board.

There is a 0% chance you had a business idea that none of the tens of thousands of engineers, product managers, marketers, scientists, and inventors at big tech companies have had.

The path you're describing (have an idea, get hired to build it) doesn't happen at big tech companies or any other companies that I've ever heard of. Having an idea says nothing about your ability to execute (or whether it's even a good idea).

If you want to get hired as a product manager, either build something yourself and get acquired or go the conventional route of working for someone else.

I disagree, that's a pretty pessimistic take, it's certainly possible to have an idea they didn't have. Not very likely, but possible. It's even more possible that they quickly entertained the idea but never pursued it, for a myriad of reasons.

I do agree however that the idea alone is not going to get you anywhere.

When someone says something has '0% chance', I interpret that as 'less than 0.5%', rounded to 1 significant figure.

Taken this way, smt88's estimate seems reasonable.

For many thousands of years people argued that everything that can be invented has been invented and everything else had already been considered. Such a mind set can only be sustained by someone severely limited in creativity, inspiration and curiosity. With limited I mean 0%

"Everything has been invented or considered" is not even close to what I said. I literally do it for a living -- I only work on new products.

I said that OP does not have a novel business idea for other people's companies that have (collectively) 500,000 people working for them.

It's wrong to say that no one will invent anything again. It's also wrong to say that, without deep/insider knowledge of a company, that you are smarter and more creative than 100% of their employees. It's laughably arrogant and/or naive.

> it's certainly possible to have an idea they didn't have

No, it's not.

It's possible to have an idea they didn't have, but not a good one. It's incredibly arrogant to think you, a random person who doesn't work for a company, has a good and novel idea that their 100,000 employees didn't think of.

And what is the value of an idea with no understanding of their internal operations anyway?

> that's a pretty pessimistic take

OP is asking how to accomplish something that is so uncommon, I have never heard of it in 20 years in the software industry. Never. It doesn't even make logical sense for the company in question.

It's not pessimistic to tell them it isn't going to happen. It's just basic reality. Reality is deflating sometimes -- sorry.

> It's even more possible that they quickly entertained the idea but never pursued it, for a myriad of reasons.

Yes, this is absolutely possible. If it's a good idea, it's actually likely.

And that means it's even less likely that OP is going to be the magical key that opens the lock.

No FAA(M)G-size company has ever said, "Well, this is a great idea, but we just don't have the one person we need to pursue it!" They have the people, and if it were a good idea, they'd pursue it.

And yet on the front page we have an article about how tech got so big through acquisitions. It seems likely that among the hundreds of companies that were acquired, there were at least some that had novel ideas those thousands of people didn't think of or didn't execute, and that's why they bought them. It can't be just to remove competitors or acquire talents. I would argue something like Instagram fits the bill.

Now again, I'm not saying the idea of just going to a FAANG and saying "I've got a good idea, hire me and give me resources" is going to work. I agree with you on this, the chance here is 0. I'm just saying that it might be arrogant, it's likely the OP doesn't have such a brilliant idea, but history shows it is possible to have a good novel idea that matters to those companies.

An acquisition proves only that the acquirer needed to hire people, needed customers/users, wanted to kill a competitor, or didn't want to execute a business model. It doesn't say anything about whether, during the hundreds of millions of person-hours of work that they buy every year, those companies failed to come up with an idea.

The startup world is mostly a oroving grouns for execution, not ideas. Successful companies are almost never novel. There is usually an earlier competitor that failed.

Plus companies like Google, with their 20% Time policy, actually encourages their employees to try it out. And they understand their own problems better. So they're very likely to have a head start on anything that is easy and likely.

The acquisitions are usually projects that have been better executed externally, like YouTube and Android.

Sorry if i break your pink glasses )

#1. Idea worth nothing unless you can patent it.

And even most of the patented ideas worth nothing.

#2. FAANG companies don’t need your ideas, they need product managers who can execute specific functions.

There’s room for creativity etc.

But even most startups are bought to hire good people (and put them to specific functions).

So if you’re sure your idea is that great — go execute it and make money, then FAANG will fight for you, or your product.

Your idea may be stellar, but it’s very very unlikely to lead to a PM job. PM is a professional discipline, like engineer, UX designer, etc. Even if they loved your idea in the interview, the hiring manager would probably just steal it and tell you to go screw. Conversely if you could demonstrate in an interview that you were a great PM, you wouldn’t need any amazing business ideas.

Note that a common question in PM interviews is “Pick a popular product and tell us how you’d improve it”; they’re not looking for grand inventors, they’re looking for people who have the aptitude and skill to manage the process of development and optimization of products.

If you truly believe in your idea, and want to get it built, probably best to do an honest assessment of your abilities, figure out who you need to help you, and go for it as a startup. If it’s good and you execute well, someone will buy it.

I don’t intend to be mean or to dissuade you, but most great business ideas address specific problems, and it often helps to know a lot about the domain you’re problem solving in. The fact that you know so little about a key job function within those companies (moreover one you want to take on) should give you some pause, you may want to do more research before moving forward.

My advice would to think about the idea more for the next month or 2. I often get ideas that sound awesome, but after a week or 2, the interest either evaporates, or it didn't really sound as mind-blowing as I thought.

> My primary goal is to get hired as the product manager for this new business.

Then the first step is to apply for PM jobs at those companies.

The bad news is that your idea has a value of $0 right now, no matter how good it is. Companies don’t buy ideas, they buy businesses and/or patents. You could try to patent your idea but that path usually isn’t as simple or as lucrative as it sounds. You could try to build a company around your idea, but if it can’t stand alone as an independent company then that’s a dead end.

The good news is that FAANG jobs pay well, so simply getting one of those jobs might let you achieve your goals.

Don’t let this idea get in the way of actually making progress, though. It’s better to actually land a well paying job than to hold off on applying while you try to perfect an idea.

Start a successful business and get acquired. Otherwise impossible.

Source: FAANG PM

Proof of concept by exercising the idea outside FAANG.

Write a sci-fi book outlining your concept. And ship the book to executives of relative departments. Make it look real.

Pitch the idea in person to those executives. But poke them at how they suck for not being able to do something similar.

Then show the limitations of working on this solo and only if a FAANG was doing it how much better it could be.

I'd start it as a startup. Create a landing page, get some attention, get some signups. Raise a pre-seed. Build out an MVP. If you start getting traction, see if you can get someone to acquire you

Very simple. You just apply to a PM role, tell them about your idea, they appreciate your creativity and you negotiate a slightly higher signon bonus. An idea alone isnt worth more than that. If on top of that idea you add some unsuccessful business with employees and customers, you can get hired as a manager or a director at most. If you figure how to make that business successful that brings some real money you should aim at a VP role at least, with a custom contract that lets you retain control over this or other businesses.

FAANG does not care about idea - they care about spreadsheet. If you have something that they wanna buy, it also should make their spreadsheet works much better.

Anyway, if you wanna get hired by those companies, just apply for a job.

Have you validated the idea?

Run it by anyone in the industry? As the saying goes, good ideas are worthless, bad ideas are worth 10x less.

That typically only happens if you have a successful company they buy.

I don't think Google or any one of those companies needs just your idea.

Register provisionary patent and then you'll be in a better position to negotiate anything.

Companies meant to be bought,not sold.

You should first check if somebody else came up with the same idea. The first place is usually a patent database. Even if you are a complete novice, you can glean valuable information by searching for patents which have keywords related to the crux of your invention. Most inventions are enhancements of existing ones, so don't be discouraged if you find patents describing similar inventions. As long as you have an aspect which is novel, it might be patentable.

However, what other people said about patents holds true: most are worthless even after you get them issued, and statistically individual inventor patents are even more likely to be worthless. Getting a patent issued with a professional help can cost over $20k. Doing it yourself might be possible, but be prepared to spend months educating yourself in the intricacies of the patent law.

The situation is further complicated by recent changes in patent law which devalued patents significantly and had especially detrimental effect on high-tech patents applicable to FAANG. Just do a search on AIA, IPR, Alice... These changes were pushed through by these same companies because they started their businesses on the shoulders of other companies which had patents. So instead of paying for using other people's technology, they sent lobbyists to Washington and got laws changed. All this couched under the slogan "patent trolls are killing startups!"

You might try getting them to sign an NDA before you show them your idea, but they usually ignore individuals and refuse to sign NDAs with them, AFAIK.

There might be a way for you to talk to them without an NDA and still have a measure of protection. If, after doing the patents search, you are still convinced you have a good idea, and your idea is not "abstract" (ask Alice what that means and good luck finding an answer), you may file a "provisional" patent application. You basically describe your idea in as much detail as you can and file a patent application in a "provisional" form. This means that Patent Office will not start examining it for more than a year. Filing a provisional application is rather cheap (basic fee $75) and you don't need to craft claims, which can be tricky and expensive. After you file the provisional application, you have at least a year before you need to start the hard work on prosecuting your patent. Within this year, you can try talking to FAANG and you can rightfully say you have filed a patent application for your invention. This allows you to share with them the same information already filed in your provisional application.

If you find no traction within this year, you can give up without loosing much. You will have gained some knowledge and experience though.

I am not a lawyer and this advice is not legal advice and is worth as much as you paid for it, eh.

Ideas are worthless, execution is everything.

If you want to prove your idea is worth something, execute on it.

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