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Adii Pienaar

Family man, seeker and learner. Revealing my inner-poet. Conversio is my current gig (previously co-founded WooThemes.).

The Problem With Ideas

I don't believe in great ideas.

I believe that some ideas are better than others though. And in that sense not all ideas are ever created equal.

I also believe that some ideas are just downright shit.

Herein though lies one of the fundamental flaws of ideas though: As an entrepreneur, how do you know which idea to pick and work on?

I might have a couple of questions to help me answer that question, but that too probably doesn't tell a complete story.

The problem with any attempt to answer that question is that it is almost impossible to determine on Day 1, whether the idea you're evaluating is good or bad. The reason for this being that ideas are a multiple of their execution, which means you'll only really know whether you're onto something once you start working on it and exploring the greater context around it.

"But, hold up there Adii. You - and others - often preach the need to validate our ideas BEFORE we start working on them. So now, you're saying don't do that?"

Yes. And no.

The challenge here is that any idea can seem problematic when you are looking too far into the future. As a second-time founder with PublicBeta, I found this to be even harder. Whereas with WooThemes, I was gung-ho and ignorant about whatever challenges I may encounter in future.

So yes, you do need to validate and test all of the assumptions you have around your idea. You should have a very clear idea about the problem or pain you're trying to solve (and for whom you're trying to solve that). And importantly, you need to know that that target audience are willing to pay you to do this.

Beyond that though, none of us are *The Nostradamus of Ideas" and your guess (about which ideas are better) is as good as mine.

I considered quite a few ideas before I eventually settled onto PublicBeta last year. And as my clarity (and optimism) gathers momentum, I'm yet again having loads of ideas.

It might not be tomorrow or next week, but somewhere this year, I'll make the decision to pursue at least one of these ideas.

How will I decide which idea to pick though?

Here's a few considerations I've set myself:

  • Entrepreneurship is about seeing opportunity. So any idea that is spawned in this way, is a good start.
  • How much of the risks and assumptions (related) to the idea can I mitigate on the least amount of work possible? Can I apply my ultimate validation technique? The greater the extent to which I can do that, the greater the traction that the idea will have in the early days.
  • Can I just put one foot in front of the other when I start executing on the idea? With WooThemes, I literally just marched to the drumbeat of the initial, early revenues.
  • As soon as I find myself being too cautious or conservative about an idea (instead of optimistic and ambitious), then it's probably not a good sign.
  • What happens if I just write an idea down and I allow it to evolve in my head? Some ideas tend to move to the back of my mind, whereas there's also those one or two ideas that keep shouting: You are fucking crazy not to do this right now! When you start obsessing about these things, it's a sign that the passion is there to try executing on the idea.
  • How time-sensitive is the idea? Does the timing make sense? Does it only make sense right now? Most ideas that are super-dependent on you rushing into it right now, rarely turns out well in future. There's never a real reason to rush.

This may not be a complete list of considerations or the ultimate framework to pick better ideas.

It does however serve as a great filter of new ideas.

Ultimately it's about peeling back as many layers of the ideas (you have) as possible. It's not about perfection (which doesn't exist anyway) or about picking the best ideas.

You only have to pick a better-than-bad idea, stick to it for a while and work as hard as possible on that execution.

The beauty of that is that it only takes one better-than-bad idea (that turns into a successful venture) to make you a successful entrepreneur.

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