Tag Archives: innovation

Talk about your idea as much as possible

Creating something from nothing is a special process. Inspiration becomes an idea. An idea gets refined, work is put in, and eventually out comes something that creates value for yourself or others. Whether you are creating something for others or something just for yourself, I strongly urge you to talk to as many people as possible about what you are creating. Unfortunately many people are hesitant about talking about their ideas even though the benefits are numerous.

1459198455_ideaNobody is going to steal your idea

One of the most common reasons that entrepreneurs do not tell people about their ideas is because they think somebody will steal it. That is not going to happen. Likely you are not the first person to even have the idea.

Most people are too focused on their own ideas to steal yours. Besides ideas are pretty close to worthless without execution. The idea is the easy part. Now you have to work harder than you ever have before and smarter than any of your competitors.

People will want to help you

When you tell people about your idea they are going to try to help you if they can. They are going to be your users and your first evangelists. When they hear your idea they will say, “You really should talk to my friend. Let me connect you.” Early on those will be some of the most valuable conversations you have.

Your idea will get better

Early on you might think you have a clear vision of what you are creating. But more than likely it will morph over time due to the work you put in, the challenges you face, and, in particular, the feedback you receive.

Your idea becomes more refined as you talk through possible issues the you will face. People in your target industry or tangent industries will have a wealth of experience on which you can draw.

And of particular importance is to talk to potential customers early and often. Call them up or email them and introduce yourself as an entrepreneur. Ask them how they handle the problem you are trying to solve and shut up and listen. Follow up their response by asking why and then why again to really get past the problems or obstacles and to the root of what they are trying to accomplish.

You will get better at talking about it

The more you talk about your idea the better you get at telling your story. When looking for partners and investors, when hiring, and when making sales calls to prospective customers you are going to be saying who you are, what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it (your pitch). You’ll be a lot better the twentieth time you do it than you are the first time. And even better the hundredth.

Startup Stock Photos

You will remain excited about it

Some people warn against talking about an idea because it can feel like a substitute for progress. I think if that is the case then you are actually daydreaming rather than serious about building a product or business.

After having a good conversation about my product I usually want nothing more than to get back on the keyboard improving my product. That excitement needs to be leveraged and not let go to waste.

You will start building a list of potential customers

Those potential customers you have been talking to will be the first people you reach out to when you are ready to launch your product. Continue to engage them throughout your development process so they don’t forget about you and so that they will get excited to hand over money when the product is ready.

Make notes of your conversations

I really like carrying a small notebook and pen around in my pocket. While typing a quick note on my phone is good for one-off notes when I am by myself, I don’t think it is good to do when having a discussion with somebody. At best it is distracting from what is an engaging conversation. At worst it is rude.

Even better is to not take notes during a conversation and to find a way to be alone for five or ten minutes after in order to write your notes down. The person you’re talking with will respond more to your full attention and ideas will happen more rapid fire if they aren’t slowed down from you taking notes.

Wait a couple of days before implementing feedback

Wait a couple of days after getting feedback to implement it to make sure that you still view it as worthwhile. A lot of times you hear something, particularly after a few beers, and it sounds great at the moment but might not with the light of a new day.

Feel free to disregard feedback

Sometimes the advice you get isn’t good advice. The trick is knowing which advice to act on and which to disregard. Being able to tell which is which only comes from experience so get out there and start talking to people!

Business Books: Zero to One

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel was a quick read and a worthwhile one for any entrepreneur. I also think it would be a good read for any investors. At times while reading the book I found I was learning as much about an investing philosophy as about building a business.


Zero to OneTo innovate you need look at the past, question ideas, rethink business. Secrets of nature (undiscovered aspects of the physical world) and secrets about people (things they don’t know about themselves or hide) are what great businesses are built on. Look for those where no one else is looking.

The most valuable businesses of coming decades will be built by entrepreneurs who seek to empower people rather than try to make them obsolete.

When you have your idea you need to focus on it as long as you think it will be valuable long term. Long term thinking is important for all aspects of your business.

Your product should not be an undifferentiated commodity. It is very difficult to create a monopoly around a commodity. If you are creating a product exactly like or very similar to an existing product your product should be ten times better than what is currently available.

Once you have a product that creates value you need to start capturing that value. Creating a company is the next step.


Startups operate on the principle that you need to work with other people to get stuff done, but you also need to stay small enough so that you actually can.

The most crucial decision you’ll make for your startup is who to found it with. You should start your company with people that you already know otherwise you’re rolling the dice on whether it will be a good fit. Thiel does not believe that you can fix a startup that is messed up at its foundation.


Your startup should start with a small market. Niche down until you are in a market that is small enough that you are able to dominate it. Large markets are very competitive.

The perfect target market for a startup is a small group of particular people concentrated together and served by few or no competitors.

Every business should aim to be a monopoly. Companies fail because they can’t escape the competition. Monopolies result in profits for the creator. Competition results in no profits for anybody.

Every monopoly is unique, but they usually share some combination of the following characteristics: proprietary technology, network effects, economies of scale, and branding.

Become a monopoly in your small market first before expanding into adjacent markets. And when you do expand avoid competition as much as possible.

You will not have a successful company if you have a great product with no distribution channel. Even if you have a commodity product sales and distribution can create a monopoly. Sales is hard work and finding a great distribution channel is important.

The Future

Our task today is to find singular ways to create the new things that will make the future not just different, but better—to go from 0 to 1. The essential first step is to think for yourself. Only by seeing our world anew, as fresh and strange as it was to the ancients who saw it first, can we both re-create it and preserve it for the future.

Innovation is the Only Way Out

Innovation is the Only Way OutTo round out the year I’m happy to announce the release of Innovation is the Only Way Out which is the seventh volume of notes on Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders. It contains advice from 23 lectures including talks by Phil Libin (Evernote), Brad Feld (Foundry Group), Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), Daniel Elk (Spotify), and Drew Houston (Dropbox).

Innovation is the only sustainable competitive advantage any company can have. – David Friedberg (The Climate Corporation)

Happy New Year! May 2015 be a great year for you and your business.