As opportunities come and go one has to decide whether to get involved in each one. Some of those opportunities are about good ideas and some of them have easily recognisably good people behind them. Sometimes you just meet good people and there is no idea involved.
Obviously every startup needs a good idea and good people to execute it. Often they don't always come along at the right time.
As an entrepreneur I find myself getting involved in ideas that may or may not be a good idea and I meet people that I believe are good people. Should I be putting equal effort into ideas and people or is one more important that the other?
One of the main points I've gotten out of reading Good to Great is that it should be about the right people first. A coupling point, from Founders at Work is that you should be ready to change your idea as you work on it.
The right people will help you implement and change ideas until something works great.
Wrong people will not make a brilliant idea work.
It would have to be people. In the past, i've focussed on the idea but as you'll see below, efforts have shown that the people are much more important. As much as i'd like to, i've come to realise I can't do it all myself.
I am just about to start my 3rd and 4th attempts at doing something from scratch. Fingers crossed i've learnt from the past!
A bit of background about me - I love technology and what it can do. I think the biggest thing for me is that, simplistically, when you have a problem identified, you can create software to solve it. There aren't many other fields I can think of that can achieve the same result. Whilst I come from a business background, I do enjoy keeping up with the technology side and have found that this has paid great dividends over the years as I have been able to at least understand (to a certain degree) the technical inputs to a solution.
A summary of attempts is below:
Attempt 1 (2003) - Whilst studying, had a great idea (as part of a university assignment) to provide hospitality consumables (disposable coffee cups, polystyrene juice containers etc.) to vendors for half price and subsidise the remainder of the costs (and our margin) with targeted marketing. I joined up with 3 other guys from my class hoping that their enthusiasm would continue. It didn't. Despite having a unique 'in' (We had a patent on a innovative, cheap cup holder to go with the other consumables), we all progressively lost interest as various challenges arose.
For me, the reason I brought the other guys onboard was I knew that selling cups/cup holders wouldn't challenge me (technically) and not being a salesmen, looked for those types of qualities in the others. However I now know there is more to success then a good product and being able to sell.
Attempt 2 (2005) - This idea was definitely right up my alley. It was technically challenging, there was a clear need and there were no operators in the market with a service even close to what we proposed. This time I partnered with 1 other person who I had previously worked with. After writing out our requirements etc. and having a go at the design wireframes we enlisted a developer to get the ball rolling. Unfortunately this guy took us for bit of a ride and, you guessed it, we didn't end up with a prototype. I kept trying to get it up but just this year decided I'd missed the boat.
The idea was a combination of bankrate.com, billshrink.com (not allowed to post hyperlinks yet) and a ratings framework I developed for retail banking products. If there's anyone reading this that wants any of my research let me know. Whilst the product comparison and cost saving pieces have been done, I am yet to see the ratings although I have stopped looking as much in the last 12 months. The rating framework would ensure that at the point in time a user is looking that they are getting the best product for their need/use.
Attempts 3/4 (now) - For once, I think I finally have the right people and we are about a month away from getting our prototype online. Whilst attempts 1 and 2 have failed, I know I have learnt from them and hope I am applying those learnings the right way this time around. Time will tell.
As to ideas - yes they are important, but any idea, executed properly, will have a market.
In my experience, a successful startup has to have a plan a, plan b, plan c...Your exact idea and original plan to succeed will almost certainly change quickly in either subtle or significant ways and change regularly. It's the right people that can understand the business and the dynamics to know what to change and when.
So a strong vote for the right people.
The right people, no doubt. Your market will change on you. The competition will initiate unplanned events. Big players like Google, Microsoft, EA, Facebook (whoever) may decide to compete unexpected in your space. Recessions hit. VC's close their pocketbooks. The ability of founders to spot trends early and pivot is the only thing that perseveres.
The right people.
The right people will figure out the right idea.
Right people, Right people and Right people.
If you look at all the successful companies today their idea is not so unique and it has been done several times before. So the idea has always been there and has always been right. The question is, what made these ideas work today and not in the past.
Of course, there are a combination of elements that together have made the idea work today and not in the past but definitely "Right People" is on top of that list.
I believe that the "Right people/Team" can make an even mediocre idea work but the wrong people will ruin the greatest of ideas.
In simple words -
"Right people can evolve with a great idea afterwards, but rare are the chances that wrong people will come out with something good out of a good idea."
There is no such thing as right idea, because there is no such thing as wrong idea. Instead there's only good idea, and great idea. Great idea is what makes customer attracted to buy your product, but you need great people to execute that great idea too. Because people with bad attitude and mentality can not execute a great idea.
Right idea is more important, because a decent team implementing the right idea will beat the rockstar/ninja team working on the wrong idea. But incompetent team working on the wrong idea will also fail.
The key point is that a decent team + right idea is sufficient to make it big, but a decent idea + right team is insufficient.
Marc Andreeson had a GREAT post about this in which he described product/market fit. He seems to have taken it down now for now though. :(
Ideas are a dime a dozen, most new entrepreneurs put to much value in their idea. No matter how revolutionary you think it is, chances are a hundred people have thought it before. Whether that idea turns into a success is all about execution and execution is people.
As someone above pointed out the write people will often manage to take a decnt idea and modify it into something great. Where the wrong team of people will take the most brilliant idea in the world in f it up.
The right people.
I will probably be in the severe minority here but I pay considerable effort into finding the right idea. The idea where the market is growing at an exponential rate, a space I am passionate about and can confidently pitch to the right people.
The deal with the right people is that unless they are already in your close network it is become increasingly more challenging to attract them these days. When you have a great idea in hand I have found it a lot easier to build highly competent teams.
This is not to totally disregard having the right people onboard. In my opinion a healthier balance is required to ensure a greater level of success in todays hyper competitive marketplace.
Both are important. It's a bit like asking: what's more important, heart or brain?
The right idea cannot be successful with the wrong people, and the right people cannot make the wrong idea a success. It is important to have a mix of both; one cannot work without the other.
The right people will be able to develop and produce the right idea to make it a success.
Both take a long time to produce and get right; it is therefore important to treat each one with the respect and importance it deserves.