Earlier this week I wrote a post about a business idea I had to create a marketplace for growth hacker marketers to connect with companies who need a growth hacker for a specific, short-term objective. Why would I share a startup idea openly? What if people think my idea is stupid, and that by extension I’m stupid? And doesn’t it put me at risk of someone stealing my idea and running with it before I can? Despite these risks, there are some compelling reasons to share your startup ideas in an open forum, and share them early on in the process. Here are four of those reasons.
1. It helps you flesh out your idea. I had already thought about the idea for a few days, but while writing my blog post other details came out that I realized I needed to account for. The idea was much better by the time I was done writing my blog post than when I began.
2. It might be a bad idea. After I created my blog post I emailed Ryan Holiday, author of the bestselling book Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising to ask him what he thought. His response?
Very hard to grow a company on spec…and the people who have the ability don’t usually need to participate in contests. They have more work than they know what to do with.
Is Ryan right? Maybe, maybe not. But given the research he’s done into growth hacker marketing and his connections to growth hackers, it would be foolish of me to ignore his perspective. It’s a valuable point of reference, and the more openly I share my idea, the more likely I am to get opinions like these. If your idea isn’t a good idea, you don’t want to let pride suck you into putting precious time and money into it, rather than something better. If you can figure out that your idea is no good with a simple blog post, rather than spending 6 months and $50K to build an MVP, only to then find out it’s a bad idea, isn’t that a type of success?
3. You can get feedback to improve your idea. In addition to emailing Ryan, I also tweeted the post to noted growth hackers/marketers like Neil Patel, Sean Ellis, and Andrew Chen. None of them has responded to my tweet. But Trevor Leb did, and that started a brief but helpful conversation.
@joshsteimle Interesting idea. Contest is too task specific. What’s the end goal for articles? Growth hackers might find better tactics
— Trevor Leb (@TLeb) August 25, 2015
4. You can find out if someone is already doing it. I did some searching around on Google and couldn’t find anything about growth hacker marketing contests, or anything like it. But someone could be out there doing exactly what I’m proposing, or a better version of it, and they’re just not great at SEO, or they just barely started so they’re not showing up in search engines yet, or they’re optimizing for keywords I haven’t thought of, and so I didn’t find them. But the growth hacking community might know about them, and by creating my post I increase the chances of someone saying “Hey, didn’t you know that so and so already launched this idea six months ago?”
Won’t Somebody Steal My Idea?
But wait, if I post my idea on Medium won’t everyone steal it? No. Nowhere on this planet is there a group of bright, talented, creative individuals who can’t come up with their own startup ideas who are sitting around just waiting for someone to slip up with an NDA or make a casual comment so they can jump on that idea and build it themselves. And if your idea can be ripped off by someone who isn’t bright, talented, or creative, how much is it worth?
Good entrepreneurs don’t want to copy someone else’s idea. They’re not driven by good ideas, they’re driven by their passions, which lead them to find good ideas they care about. Ever heard of WordPress? iStock? AngelList? Those are all wildly successful companies and guess what–they were all my ideas. I thought of them before they ever existed. Planned them out. Came up with names. But I wasn’t passionate about them, so I never did anything more, and within a few years other people came along and had the same ideas, and because they cared, they executed. The point is, I had ideas for great businesses, my own ideas, I knew they were great business ideas, and I never did anything with those ideas. How much more unlikely would I be to take someone else’s idea if I don’t even care that much about many of my own? Other entrepreneurs aren’t likely to steal your idea, and if they do, they aren’t going to care about it like you do, so they won’t execute well. It’s too much work if you only care about money.
Worried About Looking Stupid?
As for people thinking you’re stupid, allow me to quote Ben Horowitz, albeit in a different context.
That’s right, nobody cares. If anyone thinks your idea is stupid, that’s going to last for about 2.5 seconds until they move onto thinking about something else. By the end of today they won’t remember your idea or who you are. Nobody (nobody you care about, anyway) is going to go around for the next week saying “I just can’t get over how dumb that idea was that I read about on that guy’s blog last week. I can’t think about anything else, and I can’t get his name out of my head. Wow, I’ll remember that guy’s name and his stupid idea for ever, can’t help it now.”
If that’s not enough reassurance, also remember that just about everyone who has ever been successful has been called an idiot by someone else, including by smart people. Case in point, Mark Zuckerberg’s comments on Twitter:
[Twitter is] such a mess – it’s as if they drove a clown car into a gold mine and fell in.
We should all be so stupid.Liked it? Share it!