These days, everyone is trying to invent the next Facebook. People have great innovative minds, but unfortunately (and quite frankly), can’t get anyone else to care about (let alone buy) their idea even if they force fed it to them. Unlike Facebook, stealing the next big idea isn’t an issue when no one even notices these millions of business dreams.
That is the biggest problems entrepreneurs face. Getting noticed is next to impossible when there are thousand of others vying for the attention of investors and businesses.
The Problem: No One Will Steal My Idea!
In his book, The Lean Startup, Eric Ries bemoans the fact that, even if you had a great idea, it’s unlikely anyone would notice it. He argues that entrepreneurs shouldn’t worry about people stealing their ideas. The bottom line is that few people notice other people’s business ideas, no matter how brilliant. “If only it were so easy to have a good idea stolen! Part of the special challenge of being a startup is the near impossibility of having your idea, company, or product be noticed by anyone” (page 111).
A near impossibility… Wow. While it is impossible to say for certain, I’d confidently guess that millions of entrepreneurial ideas never see the light of day.
But getting a business noticed early on is a make or break ingredient:
- If people don’t notice your product, there is no way for you to know if you have a real customer base.
- You need to get your idea out there so investors and potential business partners will be able to find you.
- In a Lean model, you gain information about product features from your early adopters for learning before promoting the product to a wider audience.
- Startups rely on early traction from users to keep investors and employees at ease.
- You need to know if you are creating a product people really want.
This list should probably be ten times as long. In fact, let’s not put the cart before the horse:you need people to notice your ideas before you even start a business, so that you can know that if your idea is any good. Doing this before you start ensures that you won’t be up a creek without a VC or customer base.
So… What is the solution to this ominous problem?
I don’t know. That’s why I haven’t created the next Facebook yet. But let me take a stab at this.
The Internet has opened up a new dimension for connecting ideas. Blogs allow anyone to write their thoughts. Social media connects people’s everyday lives and witty quotes. Networks like LinkedIn allow professionals to broadcast their resume to a wide audience. Pinterest and Flickr connect people through pictures. Platforms like GitHub and SourceForge allow people to network and collaborate with software as the centerpiece. All of these networks have one thing in common: people connect, and people notice. So why aren’t people networking around business ideas and solving this problem of getting noticed?
Don’t get me wrong: I understand that startups are already using the Internet to market their companies. However, there is a big problem with the current system. Internet marketing costs money, a scarce resource for startups and companies hardly past the planning phase. Social media may get you noticed, but it is tough to get seen by the right people. Blogging puts you in a similar boat. Paid advertising is, well, paid.
Here’s what I think needs to happen to make business ideas prominent on the web:
- People need to understand that their ideas aren’t going to get stolen. People who notice your ideas are either going to a). Simply tell you what they think, b). Want to go into business with you, or c). Become an early adopter of your product. Win/win. The truth is very few people would take the risk necessary to implement your ideas. The few who do become investors, business partners, and employees.
- People need an online platform to publish and collaborate on business ideas. Kind of like open source sites, but for business ideas and plans. This platform would help entrepreneurs reach people with similar business goals and ideas, and connect and collaborate with them. While forums and blogs can be used for this, I have yet to find one exclusively dedicated to entrepreneurial ideation. Furthermore, even the best forums lack tools that social networks have, such as sharing and promotion, wide audience reach, user profiles designed to convey credibility, etc. Entrepreneurs need all their tools in one place.
- Lastly, people need to be able to reach professionals through this platform. It’s not enough that entrepreneurs know that other budding entrepreneurs are seeing their ideas. The collaboration platform would have to be credible enough for professionals to notice the ideas spawning from it, and even post ideas for entrepreneurs to work on.
Obviously, I think there is a lot of need here. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think this idea would work? Do people really want/need a solution for this problem?