How do you move forward with a novel e-commerce idea?


I have an idea for a web product. It's a new type of e-commerce site.

I have the most fundamental questions.

The first is how to even go about getting any advice for it. One concern is that a one paragraph description could allow anyone who hears it to 'steal the idea'.

One option is 'make it'. Another is 'sell the idea'. Pretty different options.

The first is of course much more difficult.

In my opinion, it would would require a business strategist; a software designer/artist; one or more coders; partner sales reps; support and and marketing.

The second would just require the right buyer and protections - easy but iffy.

Who would I go to for advice on option 1 versus option 2, ensuring it's not stolen? On how to sell it, if that makes sense?

There are some existing companies that do something similar enough that they might be interested; on the other hand, they might be good partners to supply some of the content.

Little if any startup capital; I'm not sure if looking for any is a good way to go, or just 'starting on a shoestring'.

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asked Sep 14 '11 at 08:48
16 points
  • no one is going to buy your idea. And it is unlikely anyone will "steal" it. – Tim J 13 years ago

3 Answers


Thanks for your question. It's a good one.

Let's talk about the first thing you mention, being afraid to talk about it. If somebody can so easily steal it then the idea had a far too small barrier to entry, and you'd be dealing with a swarm of competition in no time. Better to share it to see if people think it won't work. The crazy ideas are the ones worth pursuing.

As far as selling goes, ideas aren't worth much. Ideas are just multipliers. You need execution to make an idea worth something. If you fully develop the business, then you can sell it.

So, my recommendation is to do the work. It sounds hard, ya, but if you love your idea, then you'll make it happen. Teach yourself the programming if you have to. I would bootstrap all the way.

answered Sep 14 '11 at 09:21
Ryan Chatterton
921 points
  • Excellent point, especially "if somebody can steal it then the idea does not have a high enough barrier to entry" meaning competitors will everywhere. – John 13 years ago
  • Thanks, I understand about 'low barrier to entry', but the same could be said of facebook, twitter, ebay, etc. Any of those can be summarized in a paragraph, but being first seemed to help prevent copycats somehow. – Craig 13 years ago
  • Craig, there are copycats of facebook, twitter, and ebay. It's true that success is often a matter of timing, but it's also a matter of execution. MySpace came before Facebook. Opera came before FireFox. The idea itself has no intrinsic value. It's the execution that matters. – Bogeymin 13 years ago
  • Wait wait wait. Facebook was NOT first. Facebook was one of possibly hundreds of social websites being built on the Harvard campus alone. We could spend hours or days arguing on why Facebook won over other various social websites, such as Friendster and MySpace, but the point is that it was DEFINITELY NOT first. If anything, it was near dead last, with far less resources. I have to stress this for you because it proves that you don't need to be first, and if somebody as talented as a Mark Zuckerberg steals your idea, you might be fucked. But, you can't predict that. You just need to build it. – Ryan Chatterton 13 years ago


An idea by itself is worthless (99.9% of the time). Its the implementation that has value. Your not going to "sell" your idea, and your not going to find anyone to build it for you for free, and on the chance that it finslly makes some money give you a chunk of it (or have wasted their time if it foesnt make money)

Sorry, but thats reality. Reminds me of an ex-coworker who had an idea for a game, and asked me to make it for him, then if it made money he would collect it and give me a percentage. Yea right!

answered Sep 14 '11 at 14:57
James B
81 points


Ryan made some good points regarding the value of an idea - pretty minimal unless you've put any significant amounts of work into it (in which case it's no longer just an idea).

Developing your idea into a product is likely the way to go, and if you don't have the skills yourself to do that, then you still have a few options.

  1. Raise some capital and pay someone else to build it for you. It will be expensive, but if you choose the right developers for the job, can be the easiest route.
  2. Raise some capital and hire someone. Slightly different than the previous suggestion, you keep control of all the development effort (minimizing the risk that the developer you chose goes off and releases a competing product), but also much harder to get all the skills you need in one person.
  3. Partner with someone - if you have a friend who is technical, maybe the two of you can partner up wherein (s)he provides the technical expertise needed, and you provide the idea, plus the marketing, advertising, financial expertise, etc (i.e. everything else that goes into a business).
  4. Learn to code - depending on the details of the idea, the amount of technical expertise needed to launch the product will vary, and perhaps you can learn enough to release a version 1, and use the revenue from that version to hire a team to build version 2.

In regard to raising capital, if this is your first time down this road (which it sounds like it is), then you should be trying to shoestring as much as possible. That's not to say you shouldn't spend any money no matter what, but you should be watching your budget carefully, especially if someone else is footing the bill. As an example, if you aren't a graphic designer, then don't try to make your logo yourself using Paint - pay someone a couple hundred dollars to do it for you (it's key to your ability to market yourself), but you also don't need to pay thousands of dollars for your logo.

answered Sep 14 '11 at 23:09
4,692 points

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