sylvain courcoux

internet entrepreneur

my blog

Ideas are a dime a dozen dogma

In the entrepreneurial world, it's common dogma: "ideas are a dime a dozen -it's all about the execution." I think this is just is a very flawed perspective and a more accurate one would be to say that "ideas are a dime a dozen but great ideas are far and far and few between". In fact, one of the common objections of VCs for not investing in an idea is that even if everything worked according to plan, many business ideas are not scalable enough to build and sustain a large-scale company. In the VC world, a large-scale company means a company that can either generate at least 150 Mio in annual sales within 5 years or generate enough traffic that it can be acquired for at least 10 times the total investment needed to build it.
Many people come up with ideas that serve no purpose; bad ideas. These ideas are a dime a dozen. Just go to YouTube, search for "startup pitch" and listen: most of the time, you'll hear ideas and think "I don't even understand what this is about or who would ever need such a thing". Yes, ideas are indeed a dime a dozen. And then sometimes, there are good ideas. These are business models that could be viable because they address a need for which there's a demand but the problem is that these ideas aren't scalable enough for a VC to consider an investment. These are good ideas but not great ideas.
And then, there are great ideas: they can potentially scale to large revenue figures which in turn can lead to large acquisitions or IPOs. Now these ideas are rare, simple and worth a lot (millions and even billions). If you're thinking that ideas are a dime a dozen and that it's all about the execution, I bet you're probably also thinking "I wish I had a great idea to execute on". Because in a sense, if you're really good at converting an idea into a business, what does it matter if you're executing on a bad or weak idea? VCs always seem to say that they fund teams because what they're interested in is execution so it's safe to assume that the companies they invest in have "great teams", at least on paper. Yet VCs also say that 9 out 10 companies they fund fail. So there are two conclusions: either it means that 90% of teams they funded failed on execution and the VCs haven't propery vetted their execution skills or, it means that the teams were great at execution but that 90% of them executed a bad idea. Now I'm not suggesting that execution is not important; far from it. What I'm saying is that excution skills matter only AFTER you have a great idea worth executing on. In a startup, just about everything can always be fixed with capital and better execution, but if the seed idea is a bad idea then it won't work no matter how well you execute it. So that's why I think that not all ideas are worth the same and that therefore great ideas are not a dime dozen.