Ideas are Worth Nothing

Over the years, I’ve received many questions about how to take an idea and turn it into a product.  This ultimately was the inspiration for my book, “Tap Move Shake,” which had more than just coding tutorials.  It was an entire playbook from start to finish that included creating media, publishing, and marketing.  Some found it to be very useful (mostly engineers that didn’t know how to do marketing), but others just didn’t want to put in the effort required even though they had the best idea ever.

Best Idea Ever

Here is a small sampling of the many requests I’ve personally received:

“Hi! I had an idea for an app and if you like it and build it I think it will be big. When it goes viral a 10% split for me?”

How about 50% because even though I don’t know you I bet it’s amaaaaazing!

“I have several game ideas. I might want to learn code but would rather stay on the creativity side of it.”

I would like to stay on the creativity side of it, too.

“You probably get a lot of App ideas and offers, but thought I would contact you regardless and see if you would take a meeting with me about a new idea I have been cooking. I have a brief write-up of the idea that could be reviewed by you with an NDA.”

Nobody will sign a NDA to hear an idea.  Nobody.

Potato Salad

Zack Brown raised $55,492 to make Potato Salad
Zack Brown raised $55,492 to make Potato Salad

People have become fueled by the movie Social Network, seasons of Shark Tank, and Kickstarter potato salad.  They think all you need is a great idea and the money will come.  It doesn’t really work like that.  Ideas are the fun and exciting part of a long and stressful journey to building something.  I know this because I’ve spent lots of years building lots of somethings.

I have given countless presentations over the years handing out a ton of advice.  But more and more I find that people seem to think all you need is a good idea and that alone will result in someone paying you for it, cutting you in with a percentage, or working on it for sweat equity.  That’s not realistic at all.  Even Dilbert knows this.  New entrepreneurs should read the article, Your Ideas Have No Value by Carol Roth which explains it perfectly.  It’s really all about the execution.

No Shortcuts

Starting a business is not easy and I personally know of far more failures than successes.  In order to mitigate that risk of failure you need to obtain a wide-range of knowledge.  I think the most successful entrepreneurs have a common trait that’s programmed into them–they never stop learning.  If they succeed at something, they will learn from it.  If they fail at something, they will learn from that too.  It’s a process and their journey usually begins by having a job working for someone else, collaborating with others, and gaining as much knowledge as possible.  There are no shortcuts.

Working hard to learn a myriad of different skills has been the key to my success.  There isn’t an employee in my company that I can’t fill-in for.  That’s because at the beginning I was the one that did that job.  I taught myself how to build mobile apps, but I also learned how to do quality assurance, customer support, marketing, accounting, sound engineering, graphic design, and more.  I needed to have general knowledge of every part of the business.  Granted, it was out of necessity because I couldn’t afford hiring for those positions when I first started.  Now that my business is thriving, I can hire people to work on my ideas.  I can finally be the idea guy and have others build it.  But that’s only because I worked hard to get here.

Getting Started

If I haven’t talked you out of pursuing your idea yet and you are excited to learn more then I highly recommend these great podcasts, videos, and websites as resources to get you going.

  • Everything is a Remix – Please watch this right now, especially if you think your idea is the first of its kind. It’s a very thought provoking video series on the originality of ideas.
  • Startup Podcast – All about starting a business.  And it’s told as a story rather than a basic “how-to” so it’s not boring.
  • Tim Ferris’ Podcast – Tim interviews world-class performers such as Chris Sacca (billionaire investor of Uber, Twitter, etc) which is about as good as it gets for advice.  Almost all of Tim’s interviews have great takeaways in them–I find myself learning a little something new each time I listen.
  • TWiT TV – Leo Laporte has been covering tech forever and runs a great podcast network with lots of varied tech shows.  He hosts This Week in Tech and it’s one of my personal favorites.
  • Robert Scoble – Robert covers the future of tech and interviews lots of tech founders and entrepreneurs.  Follow him on Facebook for his most up to date posts and announcements.
  • Meetups – I’ve met great people at tech meetups in my local area. There is a lot of good advice and resources out there for free.  I’ve even made some good friends too.
  • Tech 411 – Oscar Santana and I host a tech podcast called Tech 411.  It’s okay.

Ready, Set, Go

It really boils down to this—if you are passionate about an idea, willing to work extremely hard on it, and learn as much as possible in the process then you might have a chance.  A chance to be more than just a person with an idea. You can be the person that built that thing that everyone needs.  And I’m all for that!

Just don’t ask me to do it for you.   🙂

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