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2005-09-23 20:17:20

Small Ideas

Earlier today a former coworker emailed me and asked me to critique his product idea.  Here is a lightly edited snippet from the message I sent in response:

I don't know squat about whether you could actually sell this, but here are my two cents:  Some products ideas fall into a category I call "Just Do It".  This is probably one of them.  It sounds kind of cool.  It's not going to be all that difficult to implement.  You have the time to spend on it.  Basically, there isn't enough risk here to worry about.  You could spend a lot of time trying to figure out if this idea is any good, and at the end, you wouldn't really know.  Alternatively, you could spend the same amount of time implementing this idea, after which you will have the opportunity to really find out if it's any good.

Lots of small ISV ideas don't fit this philosophy, but I bet this one does.

Sorry if I sound too preachy, but you've struck a favorite chord of mine.  I think there is a lot to be said for smaller ideas.  Try it.  If it fails, get another small idea and try that one.

I'd bet the odds of success with ten small ideas are a LOT better than the odds of success with one idea that is ten times bigger.

I am tempted to write a full blown article on this topic.  But then I would have to think about how to structure the article.  And then I would have to find several examples and stories to illustrate the point.  And then I would have to think of all the situations where my point is wrong (like when you have VC funding) and acknowledge and explain each one.  And then I would read the article and realize it's boring so I would have to try to figure out some way to make it funny and would probably end up restructuring the whole thing.  And then I would have to spend a few hours reviewing the essay to make sure all the transitions work.  And then I would have to spend a couple hours looking for places where a hyperlink to other sources would be appropriate.  I then I would have to spend twenty minutes looking for a place to gratuitously insert a link to the IMDB page for Dead Poets Society.  And then I would have to spend a day proofreading.

Bottom line:  I would spend two weeks of careful prudence to write an article which says little more than "carpe diem". 

That would be just so wrong.