You CAN change the trajectory of your startup’s success — here’s how:
If 90% of startups fail in three to five years, what’s going to make your story any different?
A rags-to-riches success story makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. We love reading about “started from nothing” companies on the front page of the New York Times or TechCrunch. And — let’s be honest — failure isn’t a dinner table topic. No one wants to invite their friends out to dissect their own failure.
But, as an entrepreneur, the thought of failure is always looming in the distance. In order to not be one of the 90% of failed startups, a founder constantly has his/her finger on the pulse of their company’s marketing, cash flow, sales, personnel — you name it.
But, I’d like to challenge you here, and ask you — what do marketing, cash flow, sales and personnel have in common?
The answer? They’re all executional components of a business.
And I’d like to challenge one of the most common misconceptions among startup founders:
Ideas don’t matter — flawless execution is the key to success.
Here’s why simply implementing your ideas will guarantee you a space in the 90% “failed startup club”:
Back to the Basics: What is an idea?
To fully grasp my argument, we should go back to define what an idea is. And how does it relate to innovation? An idea is creative in essence — and is one of the three components of innovation.
An innovation process starts with a hunch, which then leads to a concept, and finally blossoms into an idea. While it may seem like we’re arguing semantics at this point, I can assure you that the difference in these three words can help you to understand the importance of ideas.
A hunch is the most biased form of an idea — it’s the earliest stage of an idea — and unverified, making it prone to personal biases. No venture capitalist will ever give you funding for a hunch, as you’re admitting that you have no understanding of your potential market, and no research to back your claim.
A concept is the next iteration of a hunch — it’s when you sit down and put your hunch in context, asking yourself what your future business strategy could be, who your team could consist of, and what problem your idea is solving. It’s the most basic outline of your business case that you’ll eventually pitch to investors. But, a “concept” is missing one thing: a benchmark of its “unique-ness” or “novel-ness.”
So, why discuss ideas?
Many entrepreneurs rush to the end of the story: the cash flow statements, the sales numbers, the marketing strategy, while failing to evaluate whether their business idea is truly unique and novel.
And now, back to the million dollar question: why did 90% of startups fail? I believe that they failed not because they didn’t understand the executional elements of their business. They did (that’s something you can learn online, in classes, or through sheer determination).
Success is not 1% idea, 99% execution.
Flip that equation, and you’ve got the key to startup success: focus on the idea first. Is the idea groundbreaking? Is the idea protected? Is the idea open to emulation by competitors?
That’s not to say that execution doesn’t matter — but it’s the next phase after nailing down the idea. You can prototype a product, A/B test your digital marketing, and hire the perfect accountant: but you can’t change an idea.
That’s why every entrepreneur needs to ensure that his/her first step is to validate their idea before even stepping out to the market.
You validate your idea first — then you move to shift your focus to execution.
Validating your idea ensures that you:
a) have a unique idea that no one else has had before
b) solves an actual business problem
c) have your intellectual property protected
When you secure a patent for your idea, you can even start to monetize it from the very first day, giving you the competitive edge over others in the market.
What about those 10% of success stories?
They had a unique, protected idea from day 1 — and then put in the hard work into executing. Next time you hear “ideas are irrelevant — execution is key,” I encourage you to think over your business idea first, and then commit 99% of your effort to success.
At KISSPatent, we help entrepreneurs and innovators to monetize their ideas. We put the power of patent protection for your unique idea in your hands. We help startups increase their valuation, keep from getting blocked, and protect their ideas and their communities. Contact us to get started here.
Visit our Learning Hub to learn more about how intellectual properties can contribute to your startup’s success.