Max Zamkow

@MZamkow

What’s an idea worth?

I was at the Startup Grind Global conference a couple weeks ago hoping to get a pulse on startup trends — surprise surprise, blockchain & AI are hot right now — and learn from some seasoned investors. I’ve already forgotten most of what I heard (my memory sucks) except for one thing that’s still stuck in my head. While throwing out a ton of incredibly honest and pithy advice from his experience as both an entrepreneur and investor, Zach Coelius gave possibly the best answer to the question of what an idea is worth:

Ideas are worthless. Validated ideas are priceless.

I’ve never heard it summed it up better. It’s really the perfect fusing of 3 truths that have become almost sacred in Silicon Valley.

  1. Ideas are a dime a dozen. I know it’s a cliché outside of the valley too, but the fact is that ideas are almost never unique — it’s guaranteed that for every good idea someone has, 10 other people have all had that same idea. That’s why investors don’t sign NDAs, we hear multiple variants of the same idea all the time.
  2. It’s not about the idea, it’s about the execution. Having an idea is easy, every human on the planet comes up with new ideas every day. Executing on those ideas on the other hand is incredibly hard. Turning an idea into something real takes time, effort and perseverance.
  3. It doesn’t matter how perfect a product is if there’s no market for it. As hard as it is to turn an idea into a product, it’s 100x harder to make a product that people actually want. So on top of all the grit you need to build something, layer on top all the time and effort it takes to research and truly understand a market — talking to customers, identifying a real problem, designing a solution, testing it, etc. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Few ideas make it this far which is why they have little value. Most never get built; only a fraction of those that do solve a real problem; even many of these never penetrate their market. But once you’ve gotten your idea this far, once you’ve created something and validated it in the market, you’ve found that ever elusive thing, a truly viable startup.

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