I was triggered by this Quora: “What are some of the most ridiculous startup ideas that eventually became successful?”. I have been pondering how to recognize and/or validate a great idea. Moreover, what does it take to follow through when you are on to something? Google, Facebook, Twitter, Paypal all made the grade according to Quora for various reasons. Even iOS got mentioned, while I still believe Google Wave was amazing on many levels. So when is an idea really great?
Genius is in the eye of the beholder
Good ideas are all around us. Yet, even some of the most successful people have been either notoriously good or bad at picking winners. Bill Gates famously admitted that Steve Jobs was really good at recognizing them. But even Steve had a checkered past and acknowledged on his part that Jeff Bezos is a “giant“. Even the greatest innovator in the history of mankind has seen the rejection of his brilliance. So I believe one conceives great ideas by actually having the gift to recognize the good ones and putting them together.
Resilience not Research
As the story goes the world’s first scientific pocket calculator, the HP 35, from Hewlett-Packard was condemned by market research stating the high cost and the absence of customer needs. Legend has it HP co-founder Bill Hewlett said, “I don’t care, I want one of these things” and pushed the project through. The rest is IEEE Milestone history. If it had gone the other way, a committee would have rejected the idea based on the research or common sense. It would have died quietly or worse: is resurrected as a cautionary tale at every gathering. Bill Hewlett, however, did not only have the gift of sight but also the perseverance to stay with the idea and the power to execute it.
Will you use it and will you buy it?
Now, why would you persist? Your idea might fail miserably in the market place. There is a simple litmus test to find out if it is actually great. The question for consumer products is: will people use it? And business products: will businesses purchase it? Simple VC wisdom I caught in this video. The business market is a rather strange universe because they follow different rules than a consumer market.
So I’ll take the consumer market. How can you verify if people will use your product? Well, have you tried it out yourself? As with Bill Hewlett and all of the above mentioned: they build products they would love to use themselves. And contrary to Google Wave, not only geniuses will be able to operate it. So will you use this product yourself? Do you have one at home? Would you recommend it to a friend?
Will you love it?
Ultimately I only found one true measure of a great idea: if the promise of the idea connects with me on an emotional level. If it’s something I would love to own myself. If that’s the case then I would bet others will too. What it is, what it does, and how it does it will be the result of the promise the original idea conveys and the pleasant feeling it conjures when you think and talks about it. Next, I’ll detail a unique theory to ensure the love is not lost after launch.