So you have a startup idea that you’re very excited about. You believe it’s going to be the next big thing. You passionately share it with few friends asking for their opinions. And you spend your lunch hour daydreaming about TechCrunch’s post on launch day, and on acquisition day.
Then comes this little voice saying that the idea may be silly. May be someone else is already working on it, and may be you’ll end up making a fool of yourself, leaving a secure job with a monthly paycheck to chase a phantom of your own imagination.
How do you know that your idea is good enough before you add it to your "may be someday" list, or leave your job and spend several months in the corner of your bedroom learning Rails and coding it?
The answer is:
You don’t! And no one else does.
Stay with me.
Few months ago, I wrote a post about how I launched a profitable product in 3 hours. The part that I left out was that I had that idea for more than a year before deciding to finally sit down and do it.
Was it a good idea? In retrospect, yes! But no one could have told me so. I had to do it to find out.
Since launching Keynotopia, I received several emails from people telling me that they had that same idea before, and they wished they’d acted on it. I definitely feel for them, since I’ve had hundreds of ideas in the past that I didn’t act on. What made all the difference this time around is that I actually did it.
So what you do when you have a startup idea?
Shut up and get to work! Do your research, brainstorm solutions, sketch alternatives, prototype it, and test it. Find the minimum feature set you can launch with to solve the problem, and find a way to deliver it the fastest way possible. If you find a trick or hack that makes an existing tool deliver that solution, go ahead and share it. The idea for Keynotopia started with a single blog post on how I used Keynote to prototype iPad apps, and 37 user interface components.
I had a notebook full of sketches and ideas on creating the best prototyping tool ever. It would have taken months to create the initial version of that tool. It took a weekend to create the first version of Keynotopia.
By minimizing the time between an idea and a prototype, and by testing your prototypes cheaply and iterating quickly, you are taking the shortcut from the land of subjective imagination to objective reality. From something you’re fantasizing about to something that people use.
As exciting as the idea is, chances are it’s going to evolve and morph after you launch it. Few ideas survive contact with customers, but the good news is: having customers is better than having ideas. They will tell you what they want and what they like, and they will help you create the best product for them. Then, and only then, your idea evolves into a real product.
If it’s a bad idea, you’ll know early enough and save yourself time and money. You can then return to your daily job regretting nothing, and waiting for the next idea to hit you. Or may be you’ll get some insights from talking (and listening) to customers that help you spin off few good ideas.
On the other hand, if it’s a good idea, you’ll move forward with confidence. But until you move on from that idea stage, you’re living in our own little world.
No one can tell you if your startup idea is good or not, so stop asking and start doing.