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The dangers of falling in love with a startup idea

Posted by : Lisa Clark

An idea or a product is only a hypothesis, an educated guess, an if-then statement.

When approaching a new idea, I often become emotionally entangled with it. I’ll glance into the future and envision receiving public accolades and my family thriving off my hard work. My idea has become a fantastic, hyper-colored reality, and my enthusiasm is high.

You’d think this is a great place to be, highly motivated and certain of future success. The only problem is it’s all an illusion. It’s like imagining your wedding and children with someone on your second date – the emotional side of your personality takes over, and you and your objective reasoning are just along for the ride.

An idea or a product is only a hypothesis, an educated guess, an if-then statement. One signal that an idea and I have a dysfunctional relationship is when I spend the majority of my time focusing on the then part while giving little weight to the if.

When I’m too attached to an idea, I begin to taint my work unknowingly. Direct customer surveys turn into pitches, and large customer surveys have a bias in their question style that does not give me the direct feedback necessary to help my idea grow. I am soon pitching my idea to everyone I know, thinking I am taking in their feedback, with little awareness of the fact that this will bring me little useful information for building a truly solvent startup.

No idea is perfect right from the start. It needs to be examined, cultivated, and tested. You need to question everything about an idea because there’s always going to be information you’re missing. If I find I’m no longer able to be objective, I know the idea and I need to consider a breakup.

What do you do when you break up with someone? I like to read books, binge watch a show, and, eventually, get back to dating again. Likewise, when I break up with an idea, I go online “dating” to see what kinds of new hypotheses and technologies are emerging. I try to see myself without the idea and where else my path might lead. I look to recapture my emotional gauge by grounding myself in reality. That’s when I’m ready to go back to the original idea.

Upon return, my brilliant idea has changed. It’s no longer so profound that it will change the world and make me wealthy. But if it’s a worthwhile concept, I begin to see how it might just be feasible. The focus turns to the customer, the market place dynamics, and the capital strategy. I start to examine if my hypotheses can be proven out. In the end, many pieces must align in order for my startup to ever become a reality.

Through this process, I do my best to hold on to the original kernel of excitement. The process of starting a company is fraught with a lot of peril. If you don’t have that passion to carry you though the rough times, you’ll never make it to the end. But you have to offset that excitement with a cold dash of perspective. That’s why balancing your hypothesis statements should be one of your first goals as you plan out your business.

Remember, if you and your idea are meant to be, you’ll end up together.

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