Lots of ideas, but no clue how to get started


I am an entrepreneur wannabe. I have an engineering background. I have very broad albeit shallow skill set in various areas (web, mobile, GIS, general programming, math etc.). And I have a continually growing notebook of business-related ideas. However any particular idea seems to be just beyond the horizon of what I can implement with my available time and knowledge. I've attempted to start things before, but with little luck. (In one attempt, my employeer usurped my idea... lesson learned. And in another attempt, my business partner I ran unto a busy period in our personal lives and the idea seemed to evaporate.)

I imagine my problem is probably fairly common among those trying to break away from the typical 9-to-5. Have any of you hit this wall and then overcome it? What does it take? I've considered just quitting and chasing a focused idea full-time, but this seems overly risky. I've been trying to network towards more entrepreneurial people... but since I don't have anything in motion right now, I feel like I'm showing up to networking events without my "membership card".

Networking Entrepreneurs

asked Oct 13 '10 at 03:53
John Berryman
388 points
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6 Answers


The only way to find out is to actually start something. I strongly recommend that in your case, you don't quit your day job. Nights and weekends provide plenty of time to code a basic prototype of whatever it is that you think is worth building.

I also recommend that you do two things:

  1. share your idea with the largest number of people to gather as much feedback as you can, before you actually code anything
  2. look into the minimum viable product discussions, so that you really only focus on implementing the smallest possible product, and gather feedback from real users

It's ok to fail the first time. You will have learned quite a bit and have a greater chance to succeed the second time.

But if you never start, you'll never make it to your second time.

answered Oct 13 '10 at 04:51
Alain Raynaud
10,927 points
  • "It's ok to fail the first time." -- in fact, the faster you fail, the faster you have an opportunity to learn and correct. – Dan Esparza 13 years ago
  • I mostly disagree with "nights and weekends providing plenty of time". Some ideas are just not that simple. – Cawas 13 years ago


My recommendation is to approach the customers first. Whether your idea is B2B or B2C, the biggest risk always seems to be whether the customer will buy it and how much he is willing to pay. Therefore, do this part first and your motivation for any particular idea will rise. Your risk will also fall.

Maybe you could also save some cash now as well so you could survive for a few months after quitting.

answered Oct 13 '10 at 06:27
1,567 points


  1. Start small. Take your smallest idea and try it.
  2. Outsource what you resist to do. Not good at design? writing? Outsource it!
  3. Start now. You will always find reasons to wait one more day. Do something, even it looks small: check the existing competition, look for blogs where your potential customers would hang out, contact potential customers, etc...
answered Oct 13 '10 at 17:42
Aymeric Gaurat Apelli
221 points


Having just an idea means nothing - Execution is the key.

  • Build a basic prototype - spending 1-1.5 hrs a day should be more than enough
  • Get smart college grads to help you to build the prototype - they would be more than happy to do it for a small amount
  • Blog about your product / domain area you are going to be in and get people's comments on the feasibility. Build a beta-signup user base.
  • Convince your girlfriend / wife / parents (in whichever stage of life you are in :-)) by showing stats of comments / feedback,etc. & quit!
  • Happy starting up!
answered Oct 14 '10 at 18:53
482 points


There are things you can do to maximize the chance you actually get started and the idea doesn't "evaporate"

  • Take the idea you are most passionate about
  • Find a partner that has a track record of completing things and is also passionate about the idea or do it alone, nothing will kill the project faster than a partner that is too busy with something else.
  • Find the absolutely minimum version of the idea that can provide value to customers (minimum viable product), try to find something you can make in less than a month, preferably in two weeks (it will be an embarrassing half-product - and that's ok).
  • Tell everyone you know, blog about it a lot.
  • Setup a landing page to collect e-mail addresses and start selling before writing the first line of code, send a thank you not to anyone who register to receive updates, include the release date in the thank you note.

The idea behind all those suggestions is simple: take the project you are most likely to finish (something small you are passionate about) and commit publicly in order to pressure yourself to finish it.

Once the first version is out there and you start getting customers you can get motivation from actually working on something people use and like.

answered Oct 13 '10 at 21:29
1,569 points


I second Alain opinion.

However, you don't even need a real working prototype. If your idea is a web-based application, just build a static html website showing the concept.

Then go out and interview potential customers. Ask them if they like the product, how they'd improve it, and how much they'd be willing to pay for it.

Iterate for 10-15 times, keep improving the concept website until you have a few people willing to buy the product, and a base price for it.

I know it seems simple, but it isn't!

answered Oct 14 '10 at 11:24
Filippo Diotalevi
2,573 points

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