As a mentor, I occasionally meet entrepreneurs with whom it is difficult to have a conversation about their venture because they don’t want to share their idea. They’re afraid someone will steal it once it’s revealed. I can understand the fear as your entire being is invested in the idea and it seems unique and valuable in your self-imposed isolation.
However, the idea is 99.9% unlikely to be unique. Experience has show me that others have thought about it and that many are working on it, already have a prototype or are in market.
I was reminded of this risk on reading an excellent post by Ash Maurya of Lean Canvas fame. He writes about the hard lessons he learned on his journey from entrepreneurial failure to success, one of which is being much too product/solution focused and not seeking input about his assumptions from others, especially customers. The article is entitled, The Entrepreneur of a Thousand Faces.
There is something tragic about entrepreneurs (including me) who work on perfecting their solution in isolation.
First, there’s no such thing as perfection. There’s “good enough” for your customer and that can only be determined by testing your assumptions outside your “lab”. You risk spending all your capital on development only to discover at launch that there’s no interest or too small a market. That end-point is embarrassing and depressing.
Lastly, what’s important is not your solution, it’s your business model and its strong execution. Your competitive advantage comes from developing innovative ways to distribute your product, understanding your customers better than others so your solution provides a compelling value proposition, leveraging great partnerships or designing a revenue model that generates profit and cash-flow.