Growth

Why a good startup idea means nothing if you can’t execute

Mark McDonald /

If you’re an entrepreneur chances are you might have some failed ideas under your belt.

And if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur you may have heard of ideas that failed or maybe you’ve learned that your current idea has been tried before with no success.

Does that mean the idea is hopeless? Should you move forward or keep it a thing of the past?

Not necessarily.

An idea alone is not the key factor to success – execution is. You’d be surprised how many times a not-so-great idea that’s well executed has worked.

Take Facebook for example. Before Facebook, there was Six Degrees that failed in 2001 and then Friendster and Myspace that followed and failed later on.

It was Facebook’s execution that catapulted them to success. It launched gradually, starting with universities where it could leverage network effects. The way it was designed made it more addictive than any other social networking platforms – it leveraged on emails to grow virally and was perceived as a prestigious club everyone wanted to get into.

But what if the execution was great and the idea failed anyway? If an idea fails because of poor execution, there’s still always a chance to make it work.

There was Toyota Prius before Tesla, AltaVista before Google, Couchsurfing.com before Airbnb, hundreds of group buying websites appeared before Groupon, Nupedia before Wikipedia, Webvan before Instacart, PalmPilot before iPhone, and Microsoft Tablet PC before iPad.

All of these great startups were started on a foundation of an average idea. Marc Andreessen, who built a $2 billion company and runs one the most prominent VC firms made an excellent comment about it:

“A thing I believe that few believe: almost all Silicon Valley startup ideas from qualified founders equal great ideas. But some are too early. Track startups over multiple decades; what you find is that most ideas do end up working. It’s much more a question of ‘when’ not ‘if’.”

Business books often talk about first-mover advantage. This concept has been around for ages but the times are changing and the innovation seems to have outpaced the market. Today, it’s called the ‘first-mover myth’ and the business world talks about ‘the last-mover advantage.’

What it means is that just like Google is the last search engine, Facebook the last social network, Uber the last taxi company and so on.

Entrepreneurs should no longer strive to be first mover but rather the last mover.

Andreessen also said:

“When you have the timing right, you almost always feel like you’re too late. Terrified you’ve missed the window = great sign. When idea X has been in the air, with repeated attempts to build X, yet most customers are not yet doing/using X, it’s never too late.

“Founders by definition live in the future, see a world that doesn’t yet exist & try to make it so. Nailing timing = hardest thing – which is often why more pragmatic founders end up building the big & important companies – the idealists were just too early.

“Therefore, most of the great ideas for the next two decades are already known – in labs, in failed startups, in big co prototypes. Those ideas are being dismissed now since the early attempts haven’t worked. This has the opposite predictive value versus what people think.”

Just because an idea failed doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

While an idea isn’t the end all of a business, what matters more is the execution and timing.

If the timing is right and the market for an idea exists all you have to do is not screw up to make your business idea a success, no matter how many times it failed in the past.

Mark McDonald is the co-founder and co-CEO of Appster, a leading mobile app and product development company with offices in Melbourne and San Francisco.

You can download his free whitepaper on how to raise $50k in 50 days here.

 

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