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We get asked all the time what we think of this idea, or that business concept. Most-times it is as plain as “start a skip hire company” but occasionally the idea is one that really blows the doors off. So we thought we would write 6 ways to tell if your idea sucks. Obviously this won’t apply to all situations, and in most cases you won’t be able to truly know if the idea sucks until you are knee deep in it paddling like crazy. However, if you tick one or more of these boxes, maybe it is time to go back to the drawing board.

You can’t tell anyone about your idea

Unless you work in the intelligence community, this is the NUMBER ONE way to tell that your idea sucks. Aside from this being an unhealthy level of paranoia, it also pretty much dooms your idea to the scrapheap. If you think your idea is unique, but it relies on complete secrecy, then your idea is almost certainly a) not that unique and b) destined never to get off the ground. You can tell if you fall into this category because you punctuate any mention of your idea with the phrase “but tell anyone and I will kill you”.

If your idea is a good one, you MUST be able to bounce it off people. Also your idea should unique enough that no one except your closest competitors would be able to implement it, and even then they may not be able to do anything about a truly exceptional idea.

You have never worked in that field before (and don’t know anyone that has)

The road to culinary glory is littered with people who “just love food” but have never worked in restaurant before, or haven’t since they were 16. People love “ideas” because they are low maintenance, low risk and don’t harm anyone. When that idea is put into practice, that is when the damage is done.

The best ideas come from people who work in a field for years, and then have an ah-ha moment. Archimedes had been working on mathematics for years before he had his Eureka moment.

However, don’t feel that if you have never worked in your target industry you will never get your ideas off the ground. Taking influences from multiple industries is what makes some ideas completely unique. Just be careful to enlist the right help from within your target industry first. Also make sure that you can find someone you trust within the industry to support the creation of your idea.

You can’ t raise money quickly from the very beginning

In order for an idea to actually float, you should be able to pre-sell the product first. This gives you two motivating factors, one an idea that you can actually make money from your business and two that you actually have to ship the damn thing. Pre-selling your product also helps you crystallise your marketing and sales information.  If you are looking at 12 months of development before anyone can even look at your idea, or you are going to give the product away without any other financial support, your idea is probably doomed to the trash can.

You can give away a product to gather feedback, as long as you have a deadline when you are going to ship and start charging people.

Before anyone says ” but Google!” and other fabled rags-to-riches stories from silicon valley, there is one small addition to this point. Pre-selling includes gaining VC funding, which is what Google and other tech companies eventually did. Even hoping for VC funding is a bad sign as we see when;

You can’t map the business process in detail from beginning to end

If your business plan looks something like;

  1. Collect Underpants
  2. ? insert magic here ?
  3. Profit

then there is a good chance your idea sucks. If you rely on VC funding, or something coming together at the last minute, then there is a good chance your business is doomed to fail. For one thing, VCs really will only fund businesses that are making money already, (see the above point). For another, VCs only fund a very small portion of the programs that get presented to them.

If you build it, they almost certainly won’t come. At least what you need to be able to do is fill in these blanks;

We are offering customers….
Which is created by taking….. and adding…..
Which will help improve customers lives by…….
They will pay us ……. because …….
Which we will take from them by……
They will find out how good we are by……
We will keep making money from them because…..

If your business is more complex than that, then great, but you still need to map out the process in detail. Another reason to map out the whole process is it will give you an idea of how long it will take you to build the thing.

Your mum says she loves the idea

Unless your family are the Rothschilds or the Trumps, asking them for feedback is generally a pointless exercise. Your family are pre-programmed to give a particular type of feedback, whether that is good or bad. Sometimes they will tell you they love it, when they don’t. Other times they just won’t be able to give any specific feedback, because they know how you will react. You need to find potential customers and get feedback from them. It is fine to give away the product when you are testing, because that can be a good way to iron out bugs, as long as you are getting good feedback.

You can’t put a deadline/timeline on when it will be available

Not putting a deadline on availability is usually a kiss of death for a business. If you have mapped out your business process, then you should be able to put a timeline on availability, and billing. Saying “sometime next year” is also a bad idea, because next year is always just around the corner, just ask the creators of Duke Nukem Forever. Deadlines also need to be adhered to, so if you get to your deadline without the end in sight, then it may be a good idea just to pull the plug and move on to more profitable exercises.


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