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How to come up with startup ideas

Whats makes a good startup idea? Execution, validation, time and much more, we delve further here into idea generation and validation
Sean Obedih Ndiho

/ Last updated on 5th November 2017

A lonely entrepreneur coming up with business ideas while sitting at a desk in a workspace.

In a world bristling with budding entrepreneurs, eager to form their own Startup, launch a product or revolutionise an industry, good ideas are often seen as the most important factor. But this is not the case as even good ideas fail with poor execution.

Related: 100 business ideas you can start today

Execution is getting a product or service to market, reaching the largest number of potential customers and convincing them of the value your product has. It involves marketing, product development, communications, team formation, funding, book balancing, business planning, growth strategy and delivery of high-quality products/services. High-growth Startups always have excellent execution, the idea is of secondary importance.

This article seeks to help potential entrepreneurs avoid the trap of the unattainable ‘good’ startup idea needed to form their own Startup idea by examining the origin of ideas and focus instead on examples of execution in action. Examples of the value of execution over idea are available for us to see everywhere. For the kings of execution, you need to look no further than the infamous Samwer brothers.

Ruthless execution

Labelled by many in the tech industry as ‘cloners’ or ‘copycats’, the Samwer brothers have an indisputably impressive track record when it comes to creating profitable, high-growth Startups. They began in 1999, creating Alando, a German-speaking online auction site which dominated their 18 other competitors in Germany. Within 100 days of going live, it was bought by eBay for £35million. The secret? Execution.

Following this initial success, their execution model took them to the sale of Jamba! a mobile phone content platform, for £176million in 2004. The Samwer’s have a good idea, the idea of ruthless execution. They have taken this idea a step further with the creation in 2007 of Rocket Internet Accelerator, a Berlin-based incubator. Many detractors deride the output of their Startups as copycats, even anti-innovators, saying they serve to promote the quick-flip for fast cash instead of progress and innovation.

There can be no denying the rampant success the Samwer’s have had with their model. Whatever side of the fence you sit regarding their methods, their principles can be applied to any innovative Startup just the same. The value is not solely in the ‘good’ idea it is founded on. What makes an idea ‘good’ in the first place? There is no market for selling a ‘good idea’ so, in essence, it is worthless. What is made from an idea can be deemed good by the resulting impact on the market.

Nicki Sprinz, of Made by Many, works with businesses to co-create highly social products and networked services for the web and mobile. She suggests that the long-held belief is false, good ideas do not spring into the mind of a Lone Wolf figure who toils singularly to force it into existence. Instead, startup ideas are sparked by the individual who then uses a group of personalities to refine, shape and push the idea into existence. Even the Samwer brothers required the combined skills of the three.

Good ideas and value

Another falsehood is that good ideas are wholly formed from their very first incarnation. The World Wide Web is a great idea, all agree, but if you asked Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the Internet, to recall the birth of the idea, he would explain that it took a series of ideas formulated during a period of 10 years. According to W3’s history of the Web, Tim’s journey began in 1980 with ‘a notebook program, “Enquire-Within-Upon-Everything”, which allows links to be made between arbitrary nodes.’ but did not acquire the name ‘World Wide Web’ until 1990.

Tim’s spark of an idea took time, proximity to tech experts, a large amount of determination and a series of other ideas to finally flourish as what we know today. People are needed for ideas to form. Given the right combination of stimulus and people, good ideas flow, quickly taking shape as viable products with strategies for marketing and development as everyone involved shares the same level of excitement.

This has been the core reason as to why Startup accelerators such as Y Combinator, SeedCamp and Springboard have been so successful. The investment and interest given to Startups joining incubators and accelerators allow incredible teams to be built around ideas. Working in such a team yields a huge boost to the quality of execution, leading to the result of ‘a good idea’. But not all Startups are lucky enough to get into incubators and accelerators.

The wild success of organisations such as StartupWeekend, who hold regular, timed events for the generation of ideas, team building and Startup launches, indicates that more and more entrepreneurs see the sense in working together to execute ideas.

It is likely that the over-simplification of a good idea’s value will continue to purvey among the majority, which is a great help to the minority who place larger value in the execution, such as those who approach. As the late, great Steve Jobs so finely said, ‘To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.’

Related: 60 online business ideas

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