Help! I'm a serial entrepreneur that keeps coming up with ideas that never get completed


I am a web applications developer and one of my big problems in launching my own self-initiated and funded web applications is that I just can't stop coming up with application ideas. Seriously, I have about 5 applications that have been in development for varied lengths of time.

I work on an awesome idea, I think of another great idea and then work on that and so on. The problem is that I never seem to complete anything, it's like something clicks in my brain and a voice says, "If you don't build your idea, it'll go stale and you've lost the chance to make it work."

Two of my many ideas are pretty awesome and unique and I've done vast amounts of research on them only to find that they are surprisingly unique and relatively easy to implement if given sufficient time and effort on my part to make them happen.

How should I go about prioritising my brain so I can make my web applications become a reality? Should I write down my ideas and not be afraid to get to them when I do? Are there other entrepreneurs out there with the same problem and how do you overcome it?

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asked Feb 22 '11 at 18:09
Digital Sea
1,613 points
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8 Answers


You are probably facing the same problem the wast majority of us do.

Having ideas is easy. Making them come true is hard.

What you really need to do is simple (well, not really...)

  1. Focus on ONE project (this means you have to actually make a commitment and prioritize ONE project over all others - probably including projects related to other areas of your life as well)
  2. Face your fears of completion and get that product/web app out the door as soon as possible.
  3. Learn from the experience and iterate.

Even if you DO have multiple ideas that you want to realize. The best way is to serialize that effort in order to stay focused and productive. Otherwise you will spread the focus too thin and you will never complete anything.

Just my thoughts on the subject.

Good luck BTW, it is amazing to finally ship something. Even if it has not as big impact on the world as you imagined from the start ;-)

answered Feb 22 '11 at 18:28
Anders Hansson
606 points
  • This is a very reassuring answer Anders. The thing is that I am not all too concerned with competition when it comes to my ideas, I do however spread my focus too thin as you said and this is definitely causing an inability to deliver something. – Digital Sea 12 years ago
  • I think you should not be focusing on the competition at all. That will just lead down a path of self-reassurance and in-productivity. That energy would be much better spent creating. – Anders Hansson 12 years ago
  • I felt as though this was a really useful answer, although the other answers presented are quite good too. I wish you could split answers, but I up voted all of the answers I found helpful. – Digital Sea 12 years ago


You're suffering from what most hackepreneurs suffer from. Basically, the first 90% of the project is the fun part (designing the UI, figuring out new technologies, coming up with a name and logo, etc). You're learning a new technology, designing out the UI and logo, picking up a name, and getting lots of amazing features done. Then you hit all the boring stuff that you already know how to do or you aren't neccesarily interested in (writing blog post to promote your site, populating it with content, making sales, building customer support videos, etc)

Unfortunately, the last 10% of the project is where all the gains are made and what separates a real business from a product.

My advice is to pick the thing you are most passionate about and has the greatest market potential, recruit a cofounder who likes doing all the business-type stuff that you don't like doing, and only focus on one project at a time. Any developer can run a mile and hack together a project in a weekend. The "great" developers are the ones who can finish the whole marathon.

Side projects are poison for your startup.

answered Feb 23 '11 at 03:07
Andy Cook
2,309 points


Good answers. Just to extrapolate a little bit more on what people are saying. I, like everyone else, have an influx of ideas. Traditionally this usually resulted in:

  1. Not having enough time to work on all of them
  2. Working on too many at once
  3. Don't finish

Like Pierre mentioned, it is a good idea to write it down, flesh out any details that you might be thinking of at the moment (or you will continually go over these details in effort to not forget them), and put it on the backburner. I keep a simple Word document, nothing fancy, that I keep everything in. When I get a new idea, I either add it to the document if I'm in front of my computer or send myself an email. Where I would disagree with Pierre is the fact that you can't always forget about it. In some cases, there is a clear market window for your application, and you need to be cognizant of that.

Something else you need to realize, as mentioned by Scott Belsky, is that the idea and conceptualization phase is by far the most fun and is almost intoxicating at times. It is really easy to toss around a few ideas and details and talk about how huge of an impact they are going to have. But the hardest part is usually making the idea happen. The second hardest part after initiating the idea is to continue working on the idea. When the idea becomes less fun and more work, then it loses much of is splendor. This is where sheer dedication and process comes in. You need to pick a finite (preferably small) set of requirements and work to realize those requirements. The absolute hardest part that most people have is delivering. When you don't have deadlines and pointy-haired bosses staring over your shoulder, you tend to be infected with scope creep. At this early fragile stage, you have to have a clear milestone in view and work to reach that. Once you deliver, the hardest part will be over. Who cares if the product is crappy. Be crappy and iterate. Trust me, it will get better over time.

answered Feb 23 '11 at 01:17
333 points


Read this blog post by Vinicius Vacanti which has helped me a lot facing the idea syndrome:

How New Ideas Almost Killed Our Startup I hope it can help you too!

answered Feb 23 '11 at 03:08
Silvia Chelazzi
21 points
  • Wow! very insightful and I can relate to that 100%. I'll properly read it later on. – Digital Sea 12 years ago


Ah, Leonardo Da Vinci Syndrome. You're not alone, for idea folks this is always a skill in development.

0) This is a discipline issue, nothing else. Focus on improving your discipline and you'll have results. People who have the right kind of discipline financially, academically, professionally, mentally, emotionally, physically, eating wise always end out ahead, it's no different with startup ideas.

1) Keep a list of ideas. Don't develop them. Hack your habits, capture it so you won't worry about forgetting and remind yourself how every idea ends up being a ton more work once you've done the proof of concept to actually make it usable for many people?

To me, ideas are worthless. Only execution of the ideas gives you a chance.

2) Consider using the lean startup methodology to validate your ideas. Not all ideas pay enough or in the way you think they do to support you full time, let alone a complete business. I'm assuming you're trying to build startup ideas that aren't fun utilities for yourself.

3) Understand that making a business, particularly a passive income software business will require more work upfront than building the app itself. Think 20% coding, 80% business afterwards.

4) Whatever you build, think reusable app logic If you can find a way to quickly prototype the business logic without having to rebuild the application logic (accounts, billing, plans, security, etc), it might be worth it for you.

5) I wrote Ideas are worthless a few months ago back and you might like it. I'm not sure if it's appropriate to paste it here but it's pretty much tied to the exact question you had.

All the best :)

answered Feb 24 '11 at 11:31
Jas Panesar
244 points


Agree with posts above. Here is what I do -

I use a windows based To Do management system. I use it to jot down my ideas. While I initially started using it as my daily task keeper but later on moved the daily task keeping part to a simple notebook and paper. Ideas on the other hand need something that we can easily refer later to, so I use this piece of software. I have created a tag of ideas in it and keep dumping my ideas, writing notes etc. It works pretty work for me.

Also to keep my wandering mind at rest, I try to allot time to a task, stick to it and make sure to switch off sources of distractions - especially if I know I am working on something that doesn't really interest me.

answered Mar 31 '11 at 07:07
Ankur Jain
566 points


What is you goal for a website? Are you trying to showcase your development skills, donate something to the world or build a business around it and make some money?

You don't mention anything about market or customers. Having a unique site has its advantages, but only if it helps you accomplish your goal.

I think once you find some users, their feedback can help you stay focused on building the site they want. Otherwise, you're just too driven to only do the programming and should consider being a consultant or get a job.

answered Feb 23 '11 at 01:43
Jeff O
6,169 points


Get a small moleskine notebook and a pen, then keep them with you at all times. I've got easily ten great ideas in my notebook and whenever I'm waiting in line someplace or I have a few minutes when I'm not working on an actual project I will read through the ideas to keep them fresh in my mind and flesh them out with more features.

answered Feb 23 '11 at 02:32
Kort Pleco
891 points

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