I read Paul Graham's latest essay - "Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas" - over the weekend and found myself wondering how many prospective startup founders were lapping up his every word. Heck, I found myself thinking nostalgically about solving some of the world's biggest problems and making billions from it.
But when the initial excitement waned a little, I realized that a case needs to be made for the "not-so-ambitious" startup ideas. Founding a billion dollar company sure is an exciting prospect for any entrepreneur worth the title, but the law of averages dictate that only a handful of us will be able to do that in every generation. That however doesn't rule out that you can build a company that is worth a million dollars.
I can tell you that WooThemes is neither an overly ambitious startup, didn't possess the sexiest startup idea when we started and we'll in all likelihood never get remotely close to a billion dollar valuation. As far as things go, we're a pretty run-of-the-mill type startup.
That has however not deterred us from building a great business that has paid our salaries (and then some) for more than 4 years now and we're still going from strength to strength. On top of that, our success has spawned a whole bunch of other opportunities across the board.
My advice: Don't be blinded by chasing the frighteningly ambitious startup ideas. It's definitely not a bad idea to pursue a lesser idea, smaller opportunity and less profitable / significant market.