Solve the Right Problem
You should constantly move from idea to idea when you’re working on a new startup… until you get to something that is scalable. Then stop the ideation and focus on execution.
Rarely will the first idea be the one that should be scaled. My friend Scott Clark (BuzzMaven) talks a lot about adjacent possibilities as a way of exploring new ideas which I think applies here. You need to find a good solid idea to start the process and then riff on it. This takes time so you should make sure you have the runway to go through this process.
I’ve been “riffing” on my new startup Punndit for about a year and a half now. The original idea has matured and we now have a much more solid understanding of where we can create real value and build a business. That was unclear 18 months ago. We went from what would have been solving a local maximum to what we now think could be a global maximum. Not sure you can get there without going through that process.
Your original idea is rarely the best answer so being comfortable with an iterative design process is critical to solving the right problem.
Local Maximums - The Bane of Startup Success
Local maximums can be a blight on a small company’s growth and should be the bane of every startup. I wrote last week about Chess vs. Checkers which ties into the “trap of local maximums” in that successful entrepreneurs have to always seek knowledge about their market and look for clues as to how far their concept and team can go. They are engaged in a process of constant learning so they can push their venture to its ultimate success.
Success is of course a relative term and as an entrepreneur you need to always reevaluate where you are versus where you think you could be. You have to be willing to give up short term gains in order to fulfill the promise of finding your global maximum.
You can’t get too caught up in trying to optimize what is ultimately a local maximum. Eric Ries wrote a great post related to this last year. Rather, you have to know when to ditch local optimization in favor of pursuit of broader opportunities. There are inherent risks in pursuing these opportunities and there should be no shame in understanding you’ve taken something as far as you should. Blind pursuit leads to diminishing returns. Knowing when to quit and start over or push to the next level defines the art of entrepreneurship.