A few weekends ago, I attended this great event called Startup Weekend NYC where aspiring entrepreneurs formed teams to launch a startup in under 52 hours, often from scratch. It was an amazing opportunity to hear over 50+ pitches and watch how some ideas matured into potential companies and how other ideas withered with little momentum.
I learned so much from the experience. I don’t think I can express all of it in one blog entry. The most important thing I learned though, was the meaning of the expression “The idea is 1%. Execution is 99%.”
Nothing here is rocket science, but this is what I personally learned first hand:
1) Most ideas are really not that unique.
Admittedly, even up to this event, I struggled with the “secrecy” of my ideas. Well I got past that when I attended this event and heard ideas pitched that were pretty similar to my own. First of all, most people at networking events are entrepreneurs already working in a startup or they have full time jobs dabbling in part time projects. I realized that it is highly unlikely that someone at these events is going to “DROP EVERYTHING”, go form a team and then go steal my idea. Secondly, I did not get the sense of intense competition and backstabbing… there was more of a community feeling where people were trying to help each other. If someone likes your idea, it’s more likely they will try to collaborate with you in building it.
2) A well balanced team that WORKS TOGETHER is the key to success.
Some of the best initial ideas of the weekend seemed like there were being executed poorly at presentation time.
– Maybe there was no clear leader, leaving “too many cooks in the kitchen”.
– Maybe the leader had tunnel vision in his/her speciality.
– Maybe there were too many business people and not enough execution.
– Maybe there were too many developers and not enough people working on the business model.
Regardless, I learned through this experience that it’s extremely important to be able to quickly identify the types of people you WANT to work with and CAN work with. The hardest part is building that “A-team”. With the right team, the idea will come.
3) Execution = Dedication = Time
I, for one, am still exhausted from the weekend (and trying to earn back good will from my family). Sadly, it doesn’t change the face that this is the “easy” and “low risk” way to start a company… in one’s free time. But in reality, this approach has numerous problems of its own. In order to really be able to execute, you have to quit your day job and spend your best working hours on the idea. This is extremely difficult for most who are accustomed to having disposable income or a mortgage or the responsibility of a family. If you’re going to be successful, you need teammates who are committed, accessible and passionate about making it a success.