Part 1: Are Ideas Worthless?



Is my idea any f#%!ing good

November 27, 2018

If you are thinking about building or joining a strong tech company, this guide is meant for you. You might still be working at your day job, or you may already have made your next big move. But at some point, you’ve had an idea – noticed a need that people have, or a process that could be optimized, or a skill that goes underused. And you think you could do something about it.

Now you might be wondering if your idea has any value. If you’re looking to build a strong tech startup, your idea needs to be great. This guide helps you assess that.

Specifically, this guide helps assess ideas for strong, fast-growing tech companies. Some parts will not apply to slower fields like pharma and bio, or human-intensive fields like consulting and in-person services. But the best way to know if this resonates with your idea is to read forward.


In startup circles, it’s quite common to say that business ideas are useless and execution means everything. There is no marketplace where you could sell just an idea; without execution – i.e. building a product and gaining customers – the idea is worth nothing. A great idea alone is not enough.

But a bad idea is crushing. Looking at more than 50 idea-stage tech companies that our team members have led or invested in, we have witnessed how companies that are built on bad ideas will either switch to a good idea – or crumble.

On the other hand, great ideas have a way better possibility to become strong tech companies, and eventually big businesses.


When we are talking about ideas for a strong tech company in this guide, we use a very broad definition of an idea – not just the product description. A product description can be summarized in a sentence, but you cannot do so with a great idea.

A great idea makes use of many interrelated elements, like team, market, competition, and timing.

Because of this broad definition, we understand why pivots – in other words, changing directions significantly – are behind many successful tech companies. Even these companies have kept some elements of the original idea while simultaneously made big changes to some other elements.

One example is Shopify, a company that began as an online store for snowboarding equipment. And when building an online store, the e-commerce platform means a lot not only for the user experience but also for the management of the store. The founders of Shopify were unsatisfied with the existing e-commerce products and decided to build their own, a one that would better match their needs as e-commerce entrepreneurs. This product eventually became Shopify and the company’s main product.

Nowadays, Shopify is a publicly listed company with a revenue of $580 million and 3000 employees.


Our aim with this guide is to help you assess your idea as a whole: the skills and experience you base it on, the market you’re entering, the team you need and the competition you’re about to face.

Some of the content in this guide is based on our own experience, some of it is developed based on insight we have learned from others. It's a combination of something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.

If your idea doesn't check each box in the beginning, that's just fine: developing and iterating your idea is an ongoing process.

This idea guide consists of the following parts that we publish week by week. Each of these work as their own individual piece, but likely you will get the most out of this series reading them from 1 to 8.