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I've Changed My Mind

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The advice for people with startups has always been "ideas don't matter, teams do" -- that means that great ideas with bad teams will always tank while even bad ideas with really great teams have a chance at becoming extremely successful. Or think of it this way: good teams always change and adapt and end up figuring out what works. Bad teams have a hard time adapting to the customers.

So I've always been very generous with ideas. Whenever I have a good idea (about startups) I share it with others. Who knows? Maybe somebody can do something with it. I know I can't -- I have a dozen ideas a year and, because of my location in the woods, have so far been unable to form any team at all, much less a good or bad one.

But this past week I had a good idea. I mean a really, really good idea. This thing could rock! It's one of my top 3 ideas of the last ten years and I don't fall in love with ideas that easily.

So I thought about it: should I share my idea over on, say, HackerNews, where other startup founders can come by and critique and offer a helping hand? That's what I usually do -- I love the atmosphere over there where everybody (mostly) is trying to help each other out.

But then I thought -- heck no. My problem is that I can't execute at all, not a lack of ideas. If I share my ideas all I'm doing is throwing away ideas that I might be able to execute to teams already formed who can execute immediately. That's like making bullets and giving them to your enemies to shoot at you.

So I've changed my mind: at least about this one idea. This time I'm developing a prototype, then slowly sharing the idea with folks in an ever-expanding circle. If there is an execution gap between me and my possible competitors, I'm not about to give them a head-start.

Maybe I'm wrong -- maybe I'm just being short-sighted and looking at this the wrong way. But from my vantage point if I don't build it and somebody else does and it really takes off, I'll feel a lot better if I didn't help them doing it. At least not until I give myself first shot at it.


I don't fault you at all and am in pretty much a very similar position. I usually share ideas but I have 3 projects underway that I have kept under my belt for a variety of reasons (ultimately, because I love the idea). One of which is an extremely niche product where first-to-launch will absolutely dominate the community if it can gain acceptance.

You're most likely wrong.

Here's my idea: marketplace for human translations. Huge inefficient market, ready to be disrupted by the internet. Lots of money there too, already. None of the current players have something that works.

Now that I've told you my idea, it's still all about execution.

Ideas are precious and valuable. If you came up with it, I think that keeping it to yourself while you prepare to execute is "hacker ethical". Protecting ideas only seems evil to me when you either a) have an idea, don't disclose it, and don't do anything with it, or b) have an idea, and try to stop other people who had the same idea (regardless of whether they got it from you) from also doing something with it.

I'm in the same boat as Daniel. I have a lot of random ideas for web properties here and there, but not enough time or skill to implement them, generally speaking. There are a few ideas that I would love to share if I could find a team that could execute and would also share in the ride with the ideator.

I think the hard part is not sharing ideas, but sharing ideas that then get executed on and you get left behind. This is why patent trolling is lucrative. It lets people with great ideas who are early in the process solidify that idea. If someone later comes along and executes the same idea of their own accord, they have thus violated the patent that already existed.

Do I think this is good? No, I think it is terrible, especially with software patents (See Bilski case). Do I think there is something that could be done about it? Yes, and it's actually an idea of mine, but I need a team to execute it! The Catch-22 this is!

Dan, if your idea is great, I'd love to help you work on it, and give you credit where credit is due! I'm always looking for interesting projects to participate in, especially lucrative ones. My ideas tend to be silly and not real disruptive tech.

Didn't PG say something to the effect that if you have a good idea, you'll have to cram it down everyone's throats?

It seems like anything that depends on total secrecy is also dependent on something staying secret. For example, if you find an inefficiency in the financial markets, you'd want to keep it secret or else it disappears. On the other hand, if the idea is great, someone is going to copy you either before or after you unveil it.

However, if your idea is patentable or can be copyrighted, there might be a good reason to keep it secret until the paperwork completes. That said, there aren't many businesses that have a patent and no product or service.

Good for you - go for it! I'm pulling for you and the idea!

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This page contains a single entry by DanielBMarkham published on November 11, 2009 5:44 PM.

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  • Krt: Good for you - go for it! I'm pulling for read more
  • anonymous: Didn't PG say something to the effect that if you read more
  • Erik M Jacobs: I'm in the same boat as Daniel. I have a read more
  • Steven Robertson: Ideas are precious and valuable. If you came up with read more
  • Peter: You're most likely wrong. Here's my idea: marketplace for human read more
  • Michael Wales: I don't fault you at all and am in pretty read more
  • Joseph Turian: You should share your idea on http://idea-ne.ws read more

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