"Is My Startup Idea Good?" That's the Wrong Question, Friend
Published: Oct. 9, 2018
Founders ask me this all the time, but it’s the wrong question. Whether an idea is “good”or not is impossible to answer. The right question is “do I have a chance to make this startup idea work?”
That, I can answer: If your idea is simple, it’s got a chance. If it’s not… ☠️
WHAT’S A “SIMPLE” IDEA?
A simple idea isn’t intertwined with other ideas. This has nothing to do with the complexity of the product, just how you describe it.
Think about your startup like a really big, really important game of telephone. You whisper your idea into someones ear, they whisper it to the next person, and so on. This is customer acquisition. You’ve armed someone with a sound bite, and they become an unpaid customer acquisition channel for you.
Unfortunately, you probably remember playing telephone as a kid. You’d start with“strawberries are delicious” and end up with “I lost my teletubbie.” Keeping people on message is… tough.
If you describe your idea as:
“A platform that helps millennials change careers by syncing their LinkedIn profile to match them with jobs they’d like, then pushing them pertinent online courses to boost their resume and increase their shot at a particular role.”
It won’t work. I don’t care if it’ll help those wacky, misguided millennials. The message is too complex.
Humans have terrible memories. We can’t process more than a thought or two at any given time, and we’re incredibly self-absorbed. If something isn’t simple and doesn’t relate to us, we’re not remembering it. This is fatal for founders, as word-of-mouth is your best (and often only) early customer acquisition tactic.
I bet 95% of founders screw this up, even after they’re aware of how important simplicity is.
For the same reason I was irked at the title of the Tacklebox profile in Business Insider(I’m gonna get you to click on that thing eventually). “Keep your day job” is the prominent headline.
“But we’re so much more!! We’ve got speakers and investors and alumni. Cram that in the title! What if we lose someone who would’ve gotten value from something else?!”
Simplicity is hard because we love our startups. We know what they can do, and what they’ll do in the future. When you tell someone about your idea, it should be gut wrenching. You should want to shout “and we also…” Don’t. You should feel like you’ll lose some potential customers. That means you’re doing it right.
SIMPLICITY IS FOUNDERS ACKNOWLEDGING THAT IT’S NOT ABOUT WHAT WE WANT OUR CUSTOMERS TO WANT. IT’S ABOUT WHAT OUR CUSTOMERS CAN UNDERSTAND, REMEMBER, and REPEAT.
Me: “Tacklebox is an accelerator where you get to keep your day job.”
What person I’m talking with thinks: Ooh I should tell my friend Nicole about this — she’s got an idea but doesn’t want to quit her job yet.
Me: “Tacklebox is a six week program for idea-stage founders with full-time jobs where we help with strategy and accountability while introducing you to other founders, speakers, and investors.”
What person I’m talking with thinks: I don’t care what anyone says, Ben Affleck was the best batman.
Ask your friends to tell you what they tell friends about your startup. Is it digestible? Easy to understand and remember?
When I finally resigned to calling Tacklebox a “pre-accelerator for founders with jobs” to anyone who would listen, we began to grow. Fast. The product was the same, the growth jumped to 10x.
If your idea is simple, it’s got a chance. If not… ☠️
So, how do you know what to highlight? The part that’ll resonate, be easy to remember, and spread? That’s a bit harder.
Email me and we’ll talk it out firstname.lastname@example.org, or apply to Tacklebox — it’s one of our strengths.