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Thursday 5 June 2008

Image source = http://blogs.voices.com/voxdaily/light-bulb-money.jpgI've recently had a number of people with ideas for startups come to me for advice on how to get these ideas going. In each case the idea has appeared to plug a perceived need in the market, suggesting a no-brainer that the 'inventor' is therefore about to take risks to pursue.

After a little investigation however, I'm usually able to find equivalents that already exist, or good reasons for why it's not already being done. So I always urge caution, as there are some obvious reasons why an idea you've had does not already appear to exist
  1. You haven't done your research properly.
    This is by far and away the primary reason people think their idea is unique. Don't just search for the most obvious term that reflects your idea. Look for words and phrases that mean something similar. Also look for news or releases that suggest that something similar is already under development.
  2. Someone has thought of it, looked at all the angles and decided the ROI isn't worth it.
    This is also very likely. Stay wary of your idea until you've covered these bases yourself. If the idea requires set up and development well outside your personal areas of expertise, you should know that many ideas that seem entirely obvious to the naive, often involve prohibitive execution, set up and development, or simply don't have the scale of market first imagined.
  3. Someone thought of it, built it, and it failed.
    Lots of companies, services and products come and go. Don't just focus on things that are out there. Make sure you've checked if anyone has tried it before and failed. Investigate why they weren't successful and be honest about whether or not you are really likely to do better.
Finally, if you get past all of the above you are in the fantastic position of being confident that no one has thought of it. Yes it's rare, but it happens. Protect your IP and get busy!

3 Reasons Why Finding Equivalents Shouldn't Stop You

On the other hand, just because products or services exist, doesn't mean that you should drop your idea right away for the following reasons
  1. The market has already been primed and created (just make sure it isn't saturated).
  2. You can easily evaluate what does and doesn't work, and you might thus be able to improve on existing products and services.
  3. You could go niche in terms of design or target market, and focus on developing a specific variant of the idea instead.