Your Best Startup Idea? Somebody is Already Working on It

Your best idea is probably not original. It’s easier to receive this shocking knowledge than it ever before has been, just by Google search, by talking with other startup people, even just hanging around a coworking space. Check around. You’ll find out fast.

Someone has already thought of something quite similar to what you’re pouring your heart and soul into at this very moment.

Don’t worry. It’s not about being first.

Much has been written about the so called ‘first mover advantage.’  But the history of innovation is filled with lots of people who had the same idea at the same time, all round the globe. Tesla and Edison fought fiercely about electricity. Newton and Leibniz independently and simultaneously brought calculus into the world. Television had many parents, as did cinema. There will always be a Lyft to your Uber.

I was on Skype yesterday, describing an idea I have for mentoring startup founders, and the entrepreneur I was speaking with said, ‘Right, we’re working on that also.’

Ideas turn into great startups in the execution.

It’s all about the unique cocktail of concepts that you bring to the execution of your idea that will make it work. And it doesn’t have to work for masses and masses of people. It has to work for the specific culture you’re building, the community you move within. These people will care first. At first, nobody else will.

Mass media works, but only for Lady Gaga and Wolverine.

The J.K. Rowlings of the world, the J.J. Abrams, the Marvel Comics franchises are well-established machines, with big marketing machines behind them. You want to appeal to everyone?  They already have the ‘everyone’ market.  Let’s go elsewhere. In the community you’re connecting with, you need only 10-20 people to start, then on to hundreds, then thousands, then hundreds of thousands.

Sure, start with a great idea. Then build it well, pay attention to craft. Take the time to discover the culture it will live in. Only members of that culture will make time for it.

Hat tip to Sean Hood for his notions about creative tribalism and mass markets. His Genre Hacks blog is worth a read.