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Posted on: Saturday, 06 February 2010 by Rajiv Popat

Fred is a young and budding engineers trying to start his new business venture with an idea that he believes will change the world. As he sits right across the table and talks, I can make out that he is attached and almost obsessed with the idea of protecting his idea like a baby:

Long story short, anyone talking to Fred can make out that he has spent weeks in:

  1. Cooking up an idea.
  2. Doing paperwork around the idea.
  3. Building PowerPoint presentations around the idea.
  4. Fantasying how he is going to become rich after the idea clicks.
  5. Making sure he can screw anyone who tries to steal his idea.

There is, however, just one little problem with his idea. It is not genuine, it has nothing new in it and it is not even worth spreading, leave aside stealing it. The success of this idea, like most others, is truly dependent on the implementation of the idea. Derek Sivers describes the concept much more articulately in his post on the topic. He explains:

It's so funny when I hear people being so protective of ideas. (People who want me to sign an NDA to tell me the simplest idea.)

To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.

Explanation:

AWFUL IDEA = -1
WEAK IDEA = 1
SO-SO IDEA = 5
GOOD IDEA = 10
GREAT IDEA = 15
BRILLIANT IDEA = 20

NO EXECUTION = $1
WEAK EXECUTION = $1000
SO-SO EXECUTION = $10,000
GOOD EXECUTION = $100,000
GREAT EXECUTION = $1,000,000
BRILLIANT EXECUTION = $10,000,000

To make a business, you need to multiply the two.

The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20.

The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000.

That's why I don't want to hear people's ideas.

I'm not interested until I see their execution.

Now there is reason why Fred has worked for hours on making PowerPoint presentations, word documents and dreams around how he will take the idea to the next level when the idea clicks, but he has not done a single screen to try and implement the idea or do a small prototype. The reason is simple - cooking up ideas and day dreaming is easy. Implementing those ideas and giving shape to those dreams or visions is hard.

Besides, somewhere deep down in his mind, Fred knows that doing an implementation and throwing his idea out in the hands of real people will most probably get his idea a reality check which is the last thing he needs right now.

Paul Buchheit describes his effort during his work during the early Gmail days. He explains:

We starting working on Gmail in August (or September?) 2001. For a long time, almost everyone disliked it. Some people used it anyway because of the search, but they had endless complaints.

Quite a few people thought that we should kill the project, or perhaps "reboot" it as an enterprise product with native client software, not this crazy Javascript stuff.

Even when we got to the point of launching it on April 1, 2004 (two and a half years after starting work on it), many people inside of Google were predicting doom. The product was too weird, and nobody wants to change email services. I was told that we would never get a million users.

Rolling your first prototypes out is usually something which requires nerves of steel. It means quite a few things.

  1. It means that you need to be serious and committed to  your idea - so much so that you are actually willing to slog midnights for it and you  are willing to do it consistently, for years.
  2. It means that you are capable of shaping the dream into something concrete - you are a doer not just a dreamer.
  3. It means that you have the thick skin to take those feedbacks and even at times, acts of bozoism with a grain of salt and continue working on your idea anyways.

All of the above three, tell us, your users, that you are serious about your idea. That your idea is not a quick gimmick to get our money. That your idea is not just a random distraction which you are going to dump tomorrow morning when you wake up and when your dream comes to an abrupt end.

Your ideas don't need you to protect them from getting stolen. They need your implementation, hard work and commitment. For years.

Now, stop discussing that PowerPoint presentation and stop talking about the business model around your idea. Show us a prototype. If you do not have that yet, figure out how you are going to build it. Go build something real and then show it to us.

I wish you good luck.