There is a myth (or opinion) shared by some entrepreneurs and media commentators that “before you can launch a startup, you need a great idea to pursue”.
This isn’t true.
Whilst a great idea will be important later, if you don’t have it from the beginning, don’t let it stop you getting started (in fact, you are highly unlikely to have the right idea to begin with anyway!)
I know that when you look at Facebook, Uber, Twitter, Airbnb, Youtube, etc. they all look like amazing ideas that were always destined to be successful, and through good execution have achieved huge success…
But in many cases, the phenomenal success we see now isn’t with the idea they started with!
For example, let’s look at Youtube. The co-founders were very smart, experienced entrepreneurs (previously at Paypal). Their big idea was to provide a dating site that used video rather than just pictures to match couples, inspired by ‘Hot or Not’. They created their video dating site called ‘Tune in Hook up’ and launched soon after leaving Paypal (after it’s acquisition by eBay in 2002).
As a dating site, the start-up was failing. However, they saw that some users shared links to funny videos of potential matches, and even used the site to upload and share their own (non-dating) videos.
The founders learned, and later relaunched as Youtube in 2005.
Interestingly Facebook had a similar beginning in the form of ‘Facemash’ in 2003 which asked users to rate which of two faces was ‘hotter’.
Airbnb was the result of the founders renting space on air mattresses in their own apartments so they could pay their rent in 2007. It was after creating a site and marketing to get their initial customers that they realized there was an opportunity to enable others to list their rooms too. It took another two years for them to understand and overcome the issues preventing their growth (including bad photos of rooms).
Twitter started it’s life as an internal messaging tool for a podcasting company, Odeo.
Uber started as a luxury car company for getting to nightclubs.
So, whilst some successful start-ups (LinkedIn?) may have had a strong idea of what their product would be very early on, many more didn’t.
Don’t wait until you come up with your ‘killer idea’. Instead, FIND your idea through a process of speaking to people about their problems, sharing conceptual solutions, getting feedback, testing ideas, and making changes.
I ran an online training session about the approach I use to build start-ups without sacrificing my health or time with my family. Click here to find out more (and watch the video).