So you have an idea and you are thinking of “starting it up” — i.e. going for it. You are fueled by all the stories du jour about a company being sold for a huge amount of money and you can’t wait to do the same.
If you are lucky, you do not end there and actually start working on it. You talk to your family and friends, explain your idea all excitedly, and then the questions start pouring in — how is it different from product X, how will you market/sell it, and the list goes on.
Don’t get me wrong, these questions are great. The more questions you get, the more you are forced to think about your approach in more depth — especially when talking to people from your targeted problem domain.
But hearing those questions that “you know you have to answer but do not yet know how” over and over again will finally get to you. You feel like you are going to fail because you cannot answer these questions even though you have been working at it for a while.
You know, one of the things that really hurt Apple was after I left John Sculley got a very serious disease. It’s the disease of thinking that a really great idea is 90% of the work. And if you just tell all these other people “here’s this great idea,” then of course they can go off and make it happen.
And the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product. And as you evolve that great idea, it changes and grows. It never comes out like it starts because you learn a lot more as you get into the subtleties of it. And you also find there are tremendous tradeoffs that you have to make. There are just certain things you can’t make electrons do. There are certain things you can’t make plastic do. Or glass do. Or factories do. Or robots do.
Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want. And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently.
And it’s that process that is the magic.
I’ve always believed that execution was as important, if not more, than the idea itself. But I quickly found out that this is easier said than done. And given my frame of mind, I appreciated this quote even more than the first time I read it as it applied so well to “designing my idea”.
Having to deal with so many different things — some of which you have no expertise in — to turn your idea into reality is one of the most difficult skills you should learn as an entrepreneur. And I really wish I could say “I have figured this out” after 8 difficult months working on an idea but I can’t.
So I remind myself daily that it is OK to not have all the answers right now and that all I can do is to keep “starting it up” and stick to my plan as that is the only way I can achieve “magic”.