Startup Skills Vs Startup Ideas?

I’ve started eight companies, invested in about an equal number, and pitched more times than I can remember or count.

The idea only matters if other investors are following it.  Investors are sheep. They follow trends in business ideas because trends mean over-investment that they can participate in.  Instead of ideas, they care about the returns on the idea. And most entrepreneurs spend too much time on their idea and not enough on  how they will market, sell, distribute and create their product and service, and who they can exit to if they succeed.

Ideas are cheap, and plentiful. They are everywhere. The problem is not coming up with an idea. it’s coming up with an idea that customers will pay for and which provides an exit strategy.

After you have that idea, the next problem is execution. Can your team demonstrate an ability to execute by getting customers, and producing results. The most common problem I come across is confusing learning with producing results.  No one will pay for learning. That’s just a cost. They pay for products and services. For “deliverables.” Customers and investors included.

And then there is  the problem of cost.  Can you execute and create enough profit that an investor can see a way out, by tripling their money in three years?Or do you not expect to need an investor?

I’ve probably answered this question a thousand times in my career, but people keep asking it in the futile hope that someone will provide them with an alternative answer.  But that won’t happen. 

And, using facebook is an interesting analogy.  They started by making a dating tool for exclusive universities, and ended with one of the worse IPO scams in recent history.It’s an outlier.  Outliers don’t teach us anything. It’s the thousand companies that follow a fairly standard path that we learn from.

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