Confessions of a failed entrepreneur – part 2

by Parvez Sheik Fareed

I was pondering the question of why it’s difficult to convince people of your business idea. Here’s part 2 of confessions of a failed entrepreneur.

When we launched the world’s most unknown agency, we wanted to help businesses sell their products and services. That was our business idea. Not very mind-blowing. So, does that mean the idea is shit because it’s not a big idea? (Scroll down for the quick answer or continue with the pink font enjoyment.) My experience is that people think they need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to explaining their business idea. They get very busy describing a sophisticated business model instead of just saying what their business is. It often sounds as if the goal is to deliver a jaw-dropping revelation instead of just saying what it is. All you get is complexity over simplicity. But with the opposite, the simple expression of your idea, you risk that your idea sounds trivial, therefore not interesting. The problem with business ideas is this: With any business idea you have, you’re simply betting on the idea’s unfolded potential, which is tied to your imagination. As the person having the idea, it’s only you who sees the potential. This makes it difficult to convince people of your business idea: their lack of imagination regarding the idea’s potential. If you verbalise the potential you risk sounding feverish. And therefore not believable. If you just say what it is, people will get it, but they will not find it very exciting. And therefore not believable. Here are four ideas. Number one: A website where you can share photos and messages with friends. Number two: A public living room where you can have coffee and work. Number three: Computers which everyday people use, not just business people. Number four: A car affordable for the masses. It’s easy to guess the brands behind these ideas. Facebook. Starbucks. Apple. Ford. (Henry the industrialist, not Harrison the actor.) Before these brands evolved into proper money-making companies, the ideas might have sounded like the descriptions above. Ignore your existing knowledge of these companies and reread the ideas. They all sound simple. Maybe even too simple. Whereas an idea like “Making cars fly” sounds big. But then again, it doesn’t need much imagination to picture a flying car. This is the brutal truth of a possibly good idea: it might sound painfully dull, but the imagination of what can be achieved is where the real action kicks in. People can’t look into your mind. I think people with very simple business ideas are rather onto something than those who have big “changing-the-world-and-reshaping-the-industry” kinda ideas. Looking back I realise that our venture didn’t work out because the idea wasn’t good. It didn’t work out because of other reasons. I have learned to appreciate when people tell me in a simple way what their business idea is. If I can’t picture the unfolded potential, it’s because it’s me who’s lacking the imagination in that case. It doesn’t mean the idea isn’t good.