You don’t need to create a startup to innovate!
How the startup mentality may be failing entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley are addicted to “innovation.” They’re addicted to “changing the world”.
They believe that in order to change the world, they need to turn their great ideas into startups right away, in hopes that it’s the next big thing.
That’s a universal fallacy by us, entrepreneurs.
We should not approach every new idea as the next big thing. This superficial mentality enforces us to be protective about our ideas.
Rather, we need to approach our “ideas” as side projects.
Many entrepreneurs like to coincide their ideation with writing a business plan. I know so many people in the Valley who have spent months outlining their “perfect” business plan, only to be left with revenue streams with 0 users.
Instead, side projects give you the freedom to solely focus on understanding the problem and fixing it.
By going in with a startup mentality, as founders, we tend to create a detrimental attachment and overconfidence because we’re so certain of the $10 billion evaluation of our idea that, again, has 0 users.
We’re too focused on aligning our products to our revenue streams and marketing strategies that we end up compromising on the overall value and the experience our product brings to the users.
Our focus is decalibrated due to these extraneous variables that we forget its the product that matters the most.
Psychologically, approaching ideas as side projects allow us to focus on “WHY” we’re solving the problem, instead of its evaluation since our goal is not to generate $100M in next 2 years.
That way, it’s much harder to trick ourselves into believing that our “project” will be the “next” Facebook.
This “why” becomes the motivation for us, problem-solvers, to solve our problem, while keeping our focus solely on the product, not anything else.
But if I’m not making money, why should I even spent extra time working on it?
If you’re not working on it to solve your own problem, don’t work on it.
People try to find problems to solve when, in reality, real innovations derive from solving a problem of our own.
We want to create this product because the market is huge. We delude ourselves into building product we’ll never use in hopes we could be the next Zuckerberg of this generation.
Zuckerberg didn’t go in with a mentality of creating the next big thing with TheFacebook. He just wanted to build a private network for Harvard students. He focused on the platform, not extraneous revenue streams, which allowed him to really create the biggest social media network ever.
With side projects, you’re not thinking about how you’ll scale 1 million users; you’re trying to solve your problem. As a customer of the project yourself, you can add features that you think will benefit you, instead of thinking how it will help generate more revenue.
And while all of this is a critical part of the early-stage startups, it’s complex because every decision you make now impacts everyone else.
Being a user first, before a founder, allows us to be less biased and more rational about the product. This unbiased mindset allows us to recognize real problems and design creative solutions.
And this very mindset of rational thinking and iterating to build a “pain-killer” for ourselves may sometimes lead us to a product that many companies were unable to provide to its users.
Because while they were busy trying to figure out how they could generate $100M in ad revenue, you were committed to solving the right problem for users like yourself.
Startups have turned feedback and discussions into Non-Disclosure Agreements, whereas projects give us the freedom to openly ask for constructive feedback without having the fear of our idea being stolen.
While competition in startups has carved companies with homogeneous products, it’s these side projects that have carved real “innovation” and have changed our world.
All great ideas don’t have to start as a “startup”. They just have to be started with the right mentality of providing the best possible value and experience to the end user.
Because it’s easy to monetize a product that people love than a product that people kinda like.