I have a great idea, Does it matter? We all had great ideas at some point in time. The issue is not the idea, the issue is how you transform a great idea into a functioning business, basically closing the valley of death. The valley of death is the gap between the great idea and a functional business. A great business is a function of five variables, the idea being one of the variables. Timing, Execution, Product, and Team are the other variables you need to get them right if you want to have a successful business.
After listening and witnessing approximately over 400 ideas from hundreds of co-founders in a span of 3 years between 2013–2016 and failing myself with six startups. This is what I have learned.
- It is easy to build an idea than building a team
- The quality of the idea doesn’t necessarily reflect on the product quality.
- Bad timing eats great ideas for breakfast.
- How you do it matters.
Few cases I want to share:
The Case of DuBrands
In 2013 I started a Digital Branding Agency, DuBrands to sell branding services as Package. I created five branding packages; Corporate Package, Startups Package, Personal Package and Customized Package. Each package allowed the beneficiary to access some kind of services from me depending on the package they select.
I got my first few clients, everything looked okay. The problem started, I wanted to do everything myself: graphic designer, web developer, marketer etc. After few months, I felt the burnout, the quality of the work went down. I couldn’t meet the needs of the customers and clearly, they could see I wasn’t a graphic designer. After series of frustrations with clients, I closed the business.
The lesson to learn here: nothing replaces a team no matter how good you are, you can’t be a team with yourself.
The Case of Daftari Pay
In the beginning of 2014, we started to explore an idea called DaftariPay, a simple, easy to use mobile-based inventory management systems for shopkeepers. The idea looked great on paper. We quickly jumped into prototyping, after few months we got our first MVP.
When we soft-launched the product, everybody loved the idea of the product but nobody was ready to purchase the product. We tried different business models even exploring the option of giving shopkeepers the phone pre-installed with the app but still slow response. After pushing a lot for user feedback on the product, one honest shopkeeper provide us with the following feedback, “ I love the idea but it’s impractical for me to have that app in my shop now”. It takes too long to record information, it will reduce my efficiency and I’m comfortable recording my details in the notes book, Daftari.
A lesson to learn here: customer falling in love with you Idea doesn’t necessarily mean they will love your product, design with the user.
The Case of TechBox
In the last quarter of 2014, we wanted to invade the mainstream media with a technology TV show which has some aspects of entrepreneurship and in innovation. We were aiming at publishing the show on multiple platforms in traditional and digital media.
We had a brilliant idea, the team was good, we had the contents and it looked like we were going to win this time. Unfortunately, it was another disappointment. Even though we had multiple sourced revenue and we had brilliant technology contents nobody in the mainstream media understood what we were looking to achieve. They had a completely different understanding of a technology TV show. They didn’t see the opportunity in the technology sector even though they had far worse TV shows. We invested our money, production time and even waste the time of our high profile guests whom we invited to the show, in turn, zero output.
A lesson to learn here: Timing is key to putting together a successful business. I don’t think it was the right time to introduce the show to the local media outlets in Tanzania.
The Case of Great Food
Great Food, the only thing great about this idea rather than the idea itself was the logo. Our plan was to create a healthy food delivery service for busy corporate workers. We wanted to have an app for ordering and deliver food within short distance using bicycles.
The execution was a disaster, the idea went from being a health food delivery service to a small kitchen in a tech hub serving soft drinks and light snacks. Even though the food was healthy it wasn’t tasty. The paper packages for delivery was costly and we had no clue on how to run a food business, The Team got into series of fights, we lost a chef and before we know it, we went our separate ways.
A lesson to learn here: Ideas are all about execution, make sure you understand what you are about to get yourself into. Spend time to understand things that might go wrong with the business rather than spend time appreciating the quality of your idea.
Final advice, stop wasting time with the idea. Try, try fast, try smart. Make sure you learn in the process. If it is not working pivot. Be true to yourself and don’t get emotional. We all have received that knock and some point in time, we got back up, dust off and start again. Entrepreneurship is not for faint-hearted people if you want assurances just go and get employed.
- All my co-founders whom we have hustled and learn together.
- My wife for keeping up with me trying all these crazy ideas.
- Buni Hub for allowing to work and advice startups for three years.
- Sam Altman, Startup Playbook