Author: Tim Lampe || Source: StartupValleyNews Magazine || 05.11.2020
For startups, the right start is still considered a decision based on different beliefs. Some say that the idea is the most important thing, others say that it is only the execution that matters. Since startups are founded differently, I find it hard to formulate a rule per se. For me, the beginning should be a mixture of good idea and good execution. But what is a good idea and above all: How do you come up with the idea in the first place? Through various Campus Founders programs I meet many people who pitch me their ideas. Some ideas are good, some very good, some not even okay. It’s important to know: The “perfect” idea is never at the beginning. A really good idea must be developed. It is a process that can be long and tiring. But it’s worth the time and effort, because after all, you are building the foundation for your company.
I will show you how to develop an idea. I will explain to you about half-truths that I encounter in my daily work. In this way you are able to directly classify misjudgements and follow your own path more consistently.
“I am not creative!”
This sentence is used in every founder workshop without exception. I hope that this contribution will help to make this less frequent. Because: Creativity is not a “superhuman gift”, which one either has or does not have. After all, it is not about creating a work of art, but about building a start-up. This is more craft than art. Thomas Edison knew this: “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.
In my own words… Creative work is learnable and not a talent. It is therefore important that you gain experience in developing ideas.
Get information in many fields, industries and contexts and look for ideas that you can transfer.
Generate as many ideas as possible before you start evaluating them.
Use a diverse team and work together to refine ideas.
“You can’t learn everything from your customers…”
Many products have been developed that the market itself did not yet know it needed. That’s true, but does that rule out customer and user orientation? No. Because the market and customers indicate the need and can provide you with further inspiration for ideas. So keep an eye on the market and your customers and find honest assessments of your product. Ask your actual users and customers, not just the people who like you and generally say yes and amen to everything. Learn to accept and listen to the feedback first.
Do not sell or justify your product. If you justify yourself, you will not get any open feedback. If people are critical of you or your product, that is a good sign, because they care and take their time.
“How can I check that my idea is the right one?”
Think like Elon Musk, who says “you are wrong and you work every day to be less wrong”. The only group that should judge your idea is your target audience. The target audience will show you if the decision is right. And your target group will not always be the same as your first customers. You need to find out why they worked with you or bought your product. Only when you know the motives of your customers and users and can reproduce the buying process with new people will you have validation of your idea.
… but please do not be negligent. Be playful with your experiments, but be realistic. Many teams get lost here and generate super quick findings that have no effect on the hypothesis they are trying to test. Then they attempt to bend these findings in retrospect. This is the wrong way.
Especially with B2B ideas, it is important to evaluate carefully and consider all parameters that lead to a decision by the customer. It is not enough to conclude that there is a lack of interest after a flippant impersonal letter to the wrong decision-maker. Think about all criteria and improve instead of constantly “failing”.
I hope that you can avoid the mistakes mentioned above and find your own way through the development of ideas. The sharpened view on the essentials helps me, hence my short summary of what you have to consider concretely.
- The development of ideas is a process and not a “big bang” moment. Use methods and techniques to find ideas, but your attitude and approach as a team is more crucial.
- The development of ideas should be based on data and information and not on theoretical debates. If you do not have this data, find it and get it.
- Practice makes perfect. The earlier you get involved in new methods and ways of thinking, the better you will progress in the future.
Feel free to write to me and share what you might have failed at, what you consider a ‘good’ idea, and techniques to find the best possible ideas. I am always interested in your feedback.
About the author
Tim Lampe heads the Campus Founders program team and, together with his team, develops the offerings and teaching formats that holistically accompany the start-up teams on their entrepreneurial journey. Prior to joining Campus Founders, he was involved in several start-ups in consulting, SaaS, education and co-living and also spent a year in Silicon Valley. Statements made by the author and the interviewee do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial staff and the publisher.