|Crowdsourcing startup ideas
||[Apr. 17th, 2008|09:16 pm]
Let's say your startup is at its earliest stage, when you and a couple of other co-founders are tossing ideas around, before you've started executing or tried to get funding. Typically, you keep your idea secret, or tell a few close friends to hear their thoughts.
I believe that the diametrically opposite approach is called for: a startup idea, like a cryptographic algorithm, is very likely to fail unless a crowd of people have looked at it and tried to poke holes in it. What's needed is an honest and brutal analysis of all the possible pitfalls, and this is the last thing your friends are likely to give you. A large crowd of strangers is also much more likely to know about and warn you about possible competitors.
Well, of course you're concerned that someone might steal your idea. I've argued repeatedly that in reality, the startup scene is overflowing with ideas, and plagiarism is not a concern. But it's worth going over the logic again. For one, you're almost certainly not the only one with your idea even if you never talk about it. The best you can hope is to be the first to come out with a product, or to have your own unique twist on it.
But more importantly, who do you think is going to steal your idea? Big corporations find it increasingly difficult to move at the speed at which startups do, and prefer to buy proven, promising startups instead of putting money themselves into a risky endeavor. If you're worried about other startups, that's even less likely to happen: they're inundated with their own ideas, and no startup wants to work on an idea that didn't originate with the founders. You don't just go and bet years of your life on something simply because you think it might work; you have to really believe in it.
Personally, I plan to discuss any and all innovations I come up with openly and have you guys tell me why they won't work. Actually, let's start with this very post. It's not an idea for a company, but an idea for how to do companies. No matter, go ahead an critique it. Tell me why it won't work :)