October 14, 2013

You Had the Greatest Idea Ever, Now What?

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I always have brilliant ideas. We all do. Those ideas that “if I would do it, if I had the time” would change the world. Or those ideas that someone else put in practice that I had before they did. I used to have these ideas and felt cheated by fate every time someone else did something similar. Because “I knew!” that it’s gonna work.

There are lots of reasons this way of thinking is wrong, but I am gonna focus on the more palpable things: what do you do to put your idea into reality?

I am often talking to students, people that want to be entrepreneurs, and it seems like going from idea to project is really difficult. And it’s not because they don’t do something about it, it’s just they’re going at it completely randomly and it’s like playing a lottery: you might get lucky.

In IT especially, the cost of having an idea and starting something is not that big: you think that a site about butterflies would be great, right? I mean, who doesn’t like butterflies? And it costs you $10 bucks for a domain name, about $10 for first month’s hosting, about a week of your time to write some articles and here it is, your site about butterflies is up and running, waiting for people to come read it. But of course, they don’t. Because people don’t really care about butterflies.

Next, you look around you and you see a need: you see that people’s life would be better if they had something. What do you do? You start building the solution to it. As you KNOW it should be done. It doesn’t matter that someone else does it better: you are gonna build a better Facebook. Because “people hate that blue [email protected]#$ing color, and my site will be red, the color of passion”. And it still doesn’t work, because people still go to Facebook, since that’s where their friends are.

THe thing is, most of us never take the time to find out what people have to say. What the intended target really needs.

And this is the next step after having the idea:

Before doing anything to put it into practice, find out who needs what you offer, talk to them in person. Find 200 people that would use your site and, if possible, make them pay just for the idea. Get somebody to pay you for something you want to build.

The thing is, most of the time what you find out is completely different. You will see a lot of new opportunities in the same field. You will understand that people don’t care about butterflies, but that farmers hate bugs eating their crops. And find a solution for that.

Next time you have a brilliant idea, then, do these steps:

– go back to sleep
– if, when you wake up, the idea is still sound, understand who your users are
– spend time finding those users in real life and talk to them: ask them what they need and how can your solution be better (your users aren’t your friends, your parents and your co-workers, usually, so do not fool yourself)
– when you have enough interest, go for it.

You will go out of your comfort zone calling people out of the blue to ask them what they need. You’ll get over it.

Later edit: I actually wrote an article about how we’ve done this testing at Mavenhut. You can read it here.

Photo from Shutterstock

P.S.: If you think you can be Steve Jobs and just show people what they need, you don’t need this article. Sorry for wasting 5 minutes of your life. Now the next iPhone will never be invented, and I’m the one to blame.