Great ideas often look like bad ideas
Good ideas are often dismissed as bad ones. It shouldn’t stop founders from giving it a proper run. This post was inspired by a talk that Chris Dixon gave at YC School last year. Chris essentially went through some of the learnings of what makes good ideas (link at the end of the post).
- Good ideas that look like bad ideas start off as toys –> Someone (often an engineer/hacker) within an organization starts tinkering with something that looks silly –> e.g. Steve Wozniak developing what turned into the macintosh. Twitter (back then called twttr) came out of an experiment at Odeo back when SMS / Texts (which were by then very popular in Europe) were surfacing in the US. Since the SMS technology wasn’t quite established the founders could imagine such a service to run on the public internet.
- Good ideas that look like bad ideas are a small part of something bigger (it’s called Unbundle) –> Someone unbundles what looks like a feature of a much larger software (or hardware) but makes that one feature awesome. e.g. Tansferwise is a perfect example of that. Taveet and Kristo started from 1 feature that any bank would offer as part of their services (transfer money to a bank account abroad) but offer it at a fraction of the fees AND in a much more seamless way. Dropbox is another example of that. Storing files on the cloud wasn’t quite a novel thing. But turning that feature into the product and doing it in such a simple way made dropbox an overnight hit.
- Good ideas that look like bad ideas look ridiculous to incumbents –> When Whatsapp first hit the apple store I remember thinking it sucked. I wasn’t fond of their user experience (and still can find better looking products) but it did one thing that no one else was doing. Allow me to send text for free to all the friends I had on my phone address book. Telcos could have done this. They didn’t. Because well it would be insane to kill a cash cow. They are now forced to offer sms for free as part of plans but the shit has sailed. Same applies for Skype. When they launched many believed skype wouldn’t take off. Not everyone had an external mic on their pc and bandwidth was quite limited. Many experts back then said it would never take off.
- Good ideas that look like bad ideas challenge social norms or adds a twist –> Secret took something that is done behind closed doors and made it possible for people to privately and safely share their inner fears, thoughts and dreams without the stigma that doing it publicly could create. On the total opposite spectrum Flickr defaulted to public when sharing photos was mainly a private act. People thought what kind of behavior is that?
The Secret: often the founder have problem/domain expertise or technical expertise related to the stuff he are tinkering with. e.g. Product Hunt is a perfect example of this. Ryan is a self-professed geek who just loves (like many of us) to try and comment on new products. It’s a passion many of us partecipate in. If you can turn that into something that uses the wisdom of the crowd (in this case a very engaged and passionate community) you got something.
This post was inspired by a talk that Chris Dixon gave at YC School last year. Chris essentially went through some of the learnings of what makes good ideas.
Chris Dixon’s @YC School