It’s already been done, or has it?

As soon as we think of an amazing startup idea the first thing we often do is trawl the internet to see if someone has already built the app, the service ,the hardware device. We want to know if it has already been done. Oft times, we are deflated to find out it has been. But if we have to search, has it really been done? If no one knows about a concept in market it raises a lot of interesting questions:

Did they execute well against the idea?

Is their product good, but the distribution poor?

If the distribution is poor, does that mean the product is actually bad?

If the distribution is poor, does that mean it’s not solving a real problem?

If the distribution and product are both good, are the switching costs too high?

Did the team have the right funding?

If they had the funding is the timing too soon – is the market ready?

The truth is we’ll never be able to answer these and other questions. And so it brings us back to the very first moment of inspiration. We thought it was a great concept and maybe that is enough. We know most things change their shape in the development process anyway. Maybe we should build it regardless of what is out there. Build our version of how things could be. Remembering of course that most fortunes are made with old ideas done better. Property is the oldest business in the world and still to this day creates the most millionaires. Even Youtube, a new kinda business, arrived when there were already over 400 video sharing websites (that we know of).

It’s another reminder our world is big on ideas and small on execution.


The truth about the home town

There is a phrase which comes from a best selling book*

I tell all of you with certainty, a prophet is not accepted in his hometown. 

The economics of this statement are simple. If we want to get paid for you knowledge & skill, then we ought travel to a location where we are the unknown quantity.

*No, I haven’t read the book in question.


the end of Monday

I’m pretty convinced that a sign of us living a good life is when all days seem to be created equally. When a Friday is equal to a Tuesday is equal to a Sunday is equal to a Monday. Entrepreneurship is about a lot of things; achieving something, recognition or maybe even wealth accumulation. But surely it’s about what the actual days feels like. Does it feel good in itself, or is it only serving those achievement type things mentioned above? When generating our next startup idea maybe we need to add another criterion to the expected market demand and business model considerations:

Would we be happy spending the 300 Mondays doing this?

If the answer to this is yes, then maybe the other factors don’t matter as much as we thought.


Forging ahead

When we are forging our own path in life and in business, doubt is the key enemy. It’s even bigger than fear. The reason it is a serious enemy is because doubt always happens before fear does. So when we sense self doubt, we need to fight it and forge ahead, or fear might just take hold. We must ensure we don’t stop what we are doing. We need to keep writing, keep coding, keep building, keep creating and just keep doing whatever it is we ought be doing.

Even when we are not sure of the next steps. Even when we can’t see where we are going – we must continue to move ahead. It’s a bit like walking in the fog – the path only reveals itself if we continue walking. If we instead stand still, nothing is revealed


Does the world need changed?

It’s not uncommon to hear about an ambition startup or entrepreneur wanting to change the world. But does the world really need changing? Is everything we live in so bad that some of it isn’t worth keeping? Are we that limited in our thinking that change is all we can come up with?

Maybe what we really need to do is improve the world.

And sometimes improving the world might just mean keeping some things exactly as they are. Some traditions, physical locations, products, services, events and attitudes are just perfect the way they are. What might be needed is the fortitude and vision to maintain the things of great beauty we are already blessed with. Maybe that’s where the next important opportunity lies. Human endeavour, and startups for that matter aren’t all about change, and certainly not change for changes sake. They’re about problem solving and creating value for others.

Yes, I like the rain forests just the way they are.


Better questions

I recently met someone at a conference I was speaking at. Afterwards we exchanged some emails on a new project he was working on. He needed a developer, but was nervous about sharing his idea with anyone. After I assured him that there is rarely currency in ideas, and having them stolen was a low risk, I offered to connect him with my development team. Which from my talk, he would’ve known they were overseas. He sent back an email which said:

Where are they based?

This was my response:

Based overseas…. Moldova to be precise. I’m sensing that might by why you asked…. 

Here’s a some better questions:

  • How good are there?
  • Are they trust worthy?
  • What do they cost?
  • How do I connect with them?

Often our perception makes us ask questions which are for the large part irrelevant.


Digital Intention

In our omni connected era, people seem to have no qualms in telling us what they are doing and where they are. But what I’m starting to see in digital forums is people starting to tell us where they’ll be, what they are going to do, and what they intend to buy. Event organising forums, pinterest pages, wish lists, I’ll be here this Friday style tweets…. But the one that really sticks out as a massive opportunity for me is an on-line an open diary. Yes, it would require radical transparency. Yes it sounds kinda crazy and risky, but maybe fully public diaries can give back some control to the user by being removing the middle man social media marketer. A kind of open source arbitrage to fight back against the data industrial complex. Such a radical flip could give people back their power and allow self monetization.  Most users of social media are currently being sold by stealth, and sold with a large amount of guess work. Why not take it to the next level and go open source on our future locations. With an open source diary we could sell the benefits of sharing our intended activities and let traders compete for our patronage and attention.

This is a startup idea I’ve got on my radar. Would you sign up to it?