sylvain courcoux

internet entrepreneur

my blog

Imagination: it's about knowing what to program, not how to program

Internet entrepreneurship is becoming more and more prevalent these days and I think most people who code for a living have at some point or another thought that it'd be nice if they too started their own company. After all, if you know how to code, then why not code for millions and perhaps billions instead of coding for just a paycheck?
I've seen several posts in OnStartups about programmers asking essentially the same question: "Some guy has an idea and he wants me to code his stuff for a measly percentage of the equity when in fact I'm going to be doing most of the work". The other side of the coin is the ūber-repeated dogma quote "ideas are a dime a dozen, it's all about execution". I think both of these perspectives have one common denominator: a lack of understanding of the power of ideas and imagination.
Look at the Google Play Store: what do you see? You see hundreds and thousands of apps, thousands of developers who built stuff, and yet very few who manage to generate that much revenue or equity gains because these apps don't create much value. Look at Youtube and search for startup pitches: what do you see? You see hundreds of entrepreneurs pitching ideas, and very few showing clarity or any prospect of growing a revenue or user base that could sustain a large-scale company. But all of them know how to program.
I think the key differentiating factor for success on the web is imagination: it's about knowing what to program. There's this dogma that says that entrepreneurship is not about the idea but that it's about the execution and I think that's flawed: what if you're brilliantly executing a bad idea? Does it matter? Now some say: "Well, we'll simply pivot." That sounds great but what if you pivot to (yet) another dud? So to the programmer who thinks that "there's this guy who just spent a few minutes coming up with an idea and who wants me to spend a few months working on code and yet I'm getting far less" I say this: 1) the guy didn't spend 10 minutes thinking about it, it took him a lifetime and 2) your skill alone is worth somewhere between 80K - 200K per year but may be the idea guy can make your skill worth millions, and perhaps billions. That's why there are thousands of web designers, consultants and such who have the technical skills but not the millions: that's the difference between knowing how to program and knowing what to program. Now I'm not saying all ideas are good either: in fact ideas are a dime a dozen, but good ideas are rare and great ideas are few and far between. That's why I think imagination is the most important asset of internet entrepreneurship.