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Idea is Crucial — Building Startups Wisely ❤️

Published on August 9, 2023

Favorite Startups and Entrepreneurship

🇷🇺 This article is also available in Russian: Идея важнее всего — делаем стартапы с умом ❤️

In this series of articles, I'm reflecting on my experience of building products and startups, while contemplating the best approach to building something of your own. It's definitely tempting to pour all your energy and passion into your precious creation, but is it the right thing to do?

Table of contents

I was chatting with my Telegram channel's subscriber, and he said to me, "I reckon that I don't have the same ability to come up with ideas as you do."

What a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions had this statement stirred up! Such that I've been working on drafts for posts about startups, side projects, and different approaches to them for the past two weeks... but I haven't published anything because I just can't articulate my ideas precisely enough. Hopefully, I'll get it right this time.

🤩 I believe every creative person has experienced a moment of being completely consumed by an idea. It's thrilling to come up with something and imagine how this something could benefit others, grow from a small venture into a lifelong pursuit, help you prosper, get fame and recognition, love and happiness.

Of course, in most cases, miracles don't happen. But it's exhilarating to tinker with your ideas. Sometimes to the point we're ready to frame them and put them on display. "Hands off, it's my idea, I thought of it first!"

I've had a million ideas. Perhaps the funniest occasion was about 15-20 years ago when I came up with a minimalist CMS called Colibri (how original!), and I was so enamored with the idea that I even wrote a tech SPECIFICATION for it. I must have spent an entire week on it.

Oddly enough, I never thought of actually sitting down and coding it, but I managed to describe in great detail how amazing this tool would be.

During that time, I was engrossed in books by Fred Brooks (The Mythical Man-month), Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister (Peopleware), and Joel Spolsky (Joel on Software series), absorbing their insights into bloody enterprise software engineering practices and for some reason tried applying those ideas to my miniature projects. It still seems laughable to me to this day 🤣

✅ Benefits of the Idea Obsession Phase

  1. It's a fun creative phase, during which you can find immense joy and inspiration.

  2. Ideas can be good (but only occasionally).

From my perspective, good ideas that come "out of the blue" can only be good as a result of extensive experience and a honed intuition in the field where you are creating. Like Warren Buffett's ones in finance and business.

But even if an idea is mind-blowing, it still needs to be quickly validated to increase the likelihood of seizing the window of opportunity. Lingering too long in this phase can be counterproductive!

👎 Drawbacks

  1. Generally, "cool ideas" that pop into our heads without diving deep into the problem aren't much different from LLM hallucinations. I've certainly experienced that myself.

  2. Ideas have negative value, as they require time and money for implementation and promotion.

Although I'm confident that everyone has come up with something plausible and cool at least once, ideas themselves aren't inherently valuable. And they come so effortlessly and frequently as our minds — just like a large language model (LLM) — enthrall us with reasoning and fantasies, generating an endless internal monologue.

If it becomes hard for you to generate ideas, it's worth trying to spend at least half an hour in silence every day for about a week. I'm sure your mind will present you with dozens of interesting ideas.

In the end, even the most groundbreaking idea is best treated as a hypothesis that should be tested quickly and cost-effectively.

That's where quick and efficient hypothesis testing becomes more challenging, unlike the ability to generate ideas. I've been learning and practicing this for several years now, and I still see no end in sight 🤪 I'll talk about it in my next posts.

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