Startup Ideas versus Startup Execution
You’re a proud parent of a new gorgeous startup baby girl. She’s beautiful, she’s brilliant (compared to the other babies in the Hospital Nursery). That’s it, you’ve won! You’ve worked for 2 to 3 months to get pregnant. You made sure you ate the right foods, you learned how to breath in Lamaze class. You’ve done it. It’s done. Congratulations! All your hard work has paid off…. unless you count the next 25 years of navigating the rocky shoals of infancy, toddler-hood, adolescence, high-school, college, career.
In the last couple of months, I’ve run into multiple technical founders, engineers, who claim to have valuable IP. They may be PhDs, they may have patents, they may have superior IQs, but what they don’t have is any idea what it takes to get their new borns and in some cases, newly conceived unborn babies safely to adulthood.
Yet they value their ideas through the lens of la la land. Believing the value of their totally dependent fetuses should be comparable to the through-the-roof valuations garnered by companies like SnapChat and WhatsApp. These silly academics believe their ideas should be valued at $20M – 50M. Yes, $50 million for an idea that has yet to be prototyped. Yup, $30M for an idea that only exists on a PowerPoint and a patent application.
These engineers place little to no value on taking an idea to market. No value on strategy, execution, customer acquisition. These engineers are use to being the smartest person in the room… when it comes to numbers… when it comes to ones and zeros, when it comes to using a slide-rule (or whatever the hell you kids use today). When it comes to EQ, empathy, building a multi-faceted, multidisciplinary team, competitive positioning, leadership, generating buzz, selling, going to market, building a company around the idea, they’re clueless.
An idea is just an idea. Everyone has them. A patent is just an idea protected by the government. An idea is not a company. An idea is not a startup. If you can’t build build that idea, sell it, deliver it, support it… you’re idea might as well be a new born baby in the wilderness.. with no one to feed it, protect it, and change it’s diapers. It takes an incredible amount of work, capital, support, and luck to get a baby from birth to CEO of Apple or Supreme Court Justice, or Congress Person (although most parents and investors would consider that a failure).
Putting too much value on the idea and not realizing the value in the work required to build the next Apple is why your baby’s not going to make it. It’s why you’re not going to be able to build a team, It’s why your startup will ever be anything more than a startup idea.
Your idea has a shelf-life, and finding the right sucker of a CEO two years from now doesn’t mean you were a shrewd negotiator. It means you found a dumb CEO for your depreciating assett.
Lastly remember, when recruiting a team and investors, you only have this one baby. All your eggs are in this one basket. You’re committed. But to the people you’re recruiting, you’re idea is just a bus. One of many buses. If they miss this one… there’ll be another one by in 15 minutes. So go ahead and be unreasonable.. reasonable people will wait for the next bus.