You look at a successful entrepreneur and amaze how lucky he or she was to get that big idea that brought him all the success.
But my feeling is they were not so lucky as you think of them to be. Rather I feel, in the entire process of being an entrepreneur, the role of idea is highly overrated.
An idea is just that: An Idea! It is only a starting point in the entire journey. The success depends upon the following 3 factors:
1. The underlying problem that the idea is focusing on solving.
2. Execution of the idea. And that is directly affected by the people behind it and their passion and belief in the idea.
3. Letting the ‘big’ idea evolve and/or even change at each stage of the startup.
Look at any successful startup, go back to their idea stage and you will realize that most startup’s idea that got them success is not same as the initial idea that got them started!
The reason they start to look different at a later stage is because of either of the following reasons:
Case A – Either they found a better solution to solve the same problem
Case B – Or They found a better problem to solve
Case C – Or People buy their solution to solve a different problem
But why is that?
Here is the big secret!
While the entire world thinks that the startup is working on their golden idea, they are actually working on the underlying problem.
Let me explain each of the cases.
Case A – Either they found a better solution to solve the same problem.
As the initial idea is just one of the solutions for the problem that the startup is passionate to solve.
The startup continues to hold the belief that there are good number of people facing the problem and would be ready to buy the solution. They are focused on offering the best acceptable solution to the particular problem. So they continue to work on finding better solutions.
The day they find a better [& viable] solution, they alter their offering.
e.g. Paypal was started for mobile to mobile payments but ended up as an Online peer-to-peer payment system.
Case B – Or They found a better problem to solve.
As the startup is trying to solve an important problem with their idea/solution, they learn a lot new things related to the current problem and the targeted people.
While working on the problem and the solution, they realize there exists another related problem, which might or might not be a superset of the previous problem but is surely a bigger problem to be solved.
By bigger I mean a more important problem for a much larger population and solving it would have much deeper impact on people’s lives.
The key is to have same amount of, if not more, passion to solve it.
e.g. Microsoft’s original plan was to make money selling programming languages, of all things. Their current business model didn’t occur to them until IBM dropped it in their lap five years later.
Case C – Or People buy their solution to solve a different problem.
Though the startup offers a solution for a predefined underlying problem, yet [some or all] people (targeted or otherwise) accept the solution to solve a different problem.
When that happens, it’s best for the startup to study and tweak the solution, if required, to make it apt for the new problem.
Passion to solve the new problem will also be a key factor to help in making a decision.
e.g. Twitter was never meant to be used as an amazing marketing tool it is today. It was just to tell others what’s happening with you.
Most of the startups have to face one or more of the above situations.
The startups that resist the change, are the firsts to exit (without an investor!). If you are an entrepreneur/startup passionate about your initial idea and not the underlying problem you are solving, you should begin to do the final countdown.
So my suggestion is, address the problem with a lot of passion and belief, and consider your initial idea as just one of the ways to solve the problem. You may marry the problems you want to solve, but Ideas are only good for dating!
“Evolve or Perish”. That’s the universal law of nature!
Wanted to add something in the story, do in the comments!