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Where agile loses out to stubborn

by erik on February 11th, 2010

A lot of people talk about how startups often begin with dumb ideas and smart founders change course to hit marketable ones.  See Paul Graham of Y-Combinator or Evan Williams of Blogger and Twitter.

And I agree, as long as you’re changing course because the idea is actually bad.  Like, it’s impossible to implement or there’s no market, or it’s not as exciting as you think.

But what about really good ideas that just happen to be hard to implement, or resistant to monetizing?  Should we just give up on them?

I’ve been working on my startup, SproutRobot, for about a year now.  I’m so close to launching I can taste it.  I’ve drastically shifted direction once because of realizations made during user testing, after having made a significant investment in engineering. I’ve built many parts of the back-end at least three times, throwing it away each time because of technical limitations.

A long time ago I could’ve launched with a different angle.  Instead of using artificial intelligence to give people advice I could’ve just build a commons for people to give each other advice.  Instead of trying to build a flexible model of garden growth, I could’ve just typed in thousands of bits of advice collected from various sources by hand.  There are lots of things I could’ve done that would’ve been easier.

And really, I could’ve scrapped the idea entirely and instead focused on easier problems that we’ve come across during the design process.

But I didn’t.  And I don’t know if this is a mistake or a well-placed risk, but it’s where I’m at.  Because the truth is, I really believe in the idea.  I think it’s hard, but I think it’s important.  And I think it’s something that I can succeed at if I really put my mind to it.  And I think it’s something that will be incredibly valuable if it works.

So, I’m trying.  And I might fail, and I may have already missed out on my great opportunity for a successful startup.  But honestly, success at any old thing is not my goal.  A year ago I imagined something great–something specific–and I want to see it.  I want it to be real.  That’s what motivates me.

If I get a successful startup out of the deal, then great.  But if I don’t, I’ll still be happy.  Because I did my darndest to bring something cool into the world.

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One Comment
  1. Looking forward to your launch.

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