Investors Don’t Validate Ideas [Entrepreneurs Do]

Stop wasting your time with that idea of yours. Either put a ring on it’s finger and marry it or let it go. Maybe you’re just not that into it. Maybe it’s the idea, not you. Who are we kidding? Your idea could find someone better. Even your own friends think that idea is out of your league. Nobody understands what that idea sees in you. You’re lucky to have it, but if you’re not careful you’re going to lose it.

This would be the greatest app ever, but we don’t have / can’t find / can’t afford / can’t pitch / can’t divest / can’t create / can’t grow — the money to build it.
If only we had an investor…

Let me clear something up before we get too far into this one. Entrepreneurs don’t need to be rich. They don’t need to have money. They don’t have to come from money. They don’t sit around at “The Club” and struggle with what to do with all their money. “If only I had one good idea for an app”, said no entrepreneur, ever.

Money is not how this story starts. This story starts with,“once upon an idea”. There is no problem that a good idea and a little hard work can’t solve. There are, however, many problems that money can’t fix.

I assume you’re reading this because you have an idea for an app, a product, a service - a business of some kind. Well, what exactly are you doing with that idea? Is it sitting there, in the back of your head, taking up space where your daydreams used to be? Is it co-opting that dream of dating a cheerleader, scoring the winning point in the sportsball final, getting a C+ instead of a D, or did you kick out your Academy Award acceptance speech?Do I need to go on?

Shake that idea out of your head and tell someone about it. Listen to what they have to say, but please, whatever you do, do not defend your idea. Just. let. it. out. Speak the words that describe it and release it, let it be free, let your words give it wings and let it fly. Then wait and see what comes back to you.

There’s a reason we ask, “can I bounce an idea off of you?”. Unlike a real ball however, what comes back will take on a different shape, a different form, a different function. After you tell someone, the idea will be different. It will change. It won’t be your idea anymore.

This is the part that most entrepreneurs struggle with. They think, “but it’s MY idea”, and they hold on tight and fight to keep it a secret. They make sure everyone signs an NDA before they’ll even tell you the name of it. They treat ideas like property, intellectual property. They’ll trademark it, they’ll copyright it, they’ll go to court to defend it, they’ll fight wars with other companies over it. We’ve all heard those stories. Edison, Tesla, Colonel Sanders, others

As much as we like to think we’re unique and that our ideas are unique to use, they’re really not. The Wright Brothers weren’t the first nor were they the only ones to build an aircraft. Refrigeration existed in many forms long before people stopped using blocks of ice. I’ll bet you think you know who invented radio too.

I am not a lawyer, but in my estimation an idea isn’t property, it is more like a spark and just as difficult to capture if you’re unprepared. If you are prepared for an idea, if you nurture it, if you gently breathe life into it you can grow it into a raging bonfire — and THAT you better own. A spark is nothing without the fire keeper, without the entrepreneur.

Be that fire keeper, catch your spark, but know that the single worst thing you can do at this point is to smother it, to defend it; to shape it with your will… you will get burned.

When you bounce that idea off of someone, do not put that ball back to round, back to true, again — ever. This idea is not your baby. It is not your singular purpose in life to protect your precious little angel. Your purpose is to help it grow wings and then throw it mercilessly out into the winds.

When your idea comes back different, and it will, honour those differences by embracing them and understanding them.

As you do this more often you will start to get excited about the differences. Track them, write them down, give them pet names. Recognize and respect that someone is sharing their ideas about your ideas. Catch the ideas that come back like your fire’s life depends on it, because that is how you make firewood. That is how your fire grows.

If you do it right, it’ll start to feel warm and good and light up the night sky. If you do it right, you’ll soon fall in love with the feeling those experiences bring. You’ll discover that people are doing this in boardrooms, living rooms, kitchens, pubs, golf courses and parks all the time all around the world. And one fire can feed another fire which can feed the next and so on. Collaboration.

Constructive collaboration is an addictive thing. If you’re smart and if you work hard at it, it’ll come to you. Indeed, that’s the only way anything ever does.

Sparks are easy. Fire keeping takes work.

Whoever said, “Work smarter, not harder” was an idiot. Imagine the capacity you would have to accomplish all of your life’s dreams, to build all your bonfires, if you did both. Why is it always presented as a one-or-the-other proposition? Rhetoric is the mind killer. (With respect to Frank Herbert)

Why then is it so hard for people to share their ideas? I blame our education system for allowing the mass stigmatization of failure and for focusing on the mass production of cogs for the machinery of commerce. I blame management, deaf to creativity, originality and collaboration. I blame businesses for their failure to encourage constructive collaboration; relying on business processes, silos of operations and the vertical career path wherein everyone is expected to rise to their own personalized level of incompetence. I blame job ads with detailed lists of the skills they expect in a candidate without any regard for the growth of their employees while employed.

What chance does anyone have to experience creative collaboration when the very process of sharing an idea is seen as nothing more than an opportunity to be ridiculed and belittled by your peers and superiors?

And after all of that you think it would be a better use of your time and skills to stand in front of a venture capitalist or a room full of potential investors and share your idea? You are an entrepreneur aren’t you.

If you caught my last article, So You Have An Idea For An App, then you’ll know that your job as an entrepreneur is raising funds, but that’s just one hat you wear in a closet full of hats.

There’s another hat too, the curiosity hat, the one you wear when you want to find out if your idea is any good. Even before you start raising funds you need to validate your idea. You need to prove that it’s invest-able. Grab your validation hat and get to work.

Every idea needs to be proven, doesn’t it? We all have ideas all the time. Isn’t it the role of curiosity to drive us to find out if the idea will work? So get curious! You’re not a cat, it won’t kill you (Rhetoric at it again. Stop listening to that!).

I’ll share some ideas as to how you can go about validating your ideas soon. For now, get out there and talk to people. Write down your ideas and track how they change over time.

If all else fails, get out there and talk to people.