It's The Execution That Matters, Not The Idea

from the ideas-without-execution... dept

For years we've tried to explain the difference between ideas and execution, and how lots of people have ideas (in fact, many have the same ideas entirely independently), but without good execution, those ideas aren't really worth much at all. This point comes up a lot in the debates we have over the patent system -- with patent system supporters often overvaluing the idea part, and grossly underestimating the importance of execution. Often this is because they've never built a real business, and don't realize how little an initial idea plays into the final product. The two are often oceans apart. But stopping others from executing well (or forcing them to fork over a ton of money) just because they executed well where you did not? That doesn't seem like encouraging innovation or promoting progress at all.

DSchneider points us to an excellent recent Jeff Attwood post about the differences between the idea and the execution. It's well worth reading as it covers a bunch of different things, including a common refrain made against those who successfully execute: that they were only able to do so because they were "well-connected." As he notes, being well connected may get you an initial head start, but if you can't execute well, no one will come back. The idea, alone, is almost meaningless.

Attwood highlights this by pointing to a recent letter to a mailing list from one of the guys who started a crowdfunding operation called Fundable a while back, which failed miserably (and very spectacularly in public, with an open letter posted to its website laying out all the dirty laundry). There were all sorts of problems with the execution, which the guy even admits:
Yes, Fundable had some technical and customer service problems. That's because we had no money to revise it. I had plans to scrap the entire CMS and start from scratch with a new design. We were just so burned out that motivation was hard to come by. What was the point if we weren't making enough money to live on after 4 years?
The "technical and customer service problems" underplayed how significant some of those problems were. And yet... now that other crowdfunding platforms are getting attention, such as Kickstarter, this guy is crazy upset that they "stole his idea."
I feel that this story is important to tell you because Kickstarter.com copied us. I tried for 4 years to get people to take Fundable seriously, traveling across the country, even giving a presentation to FBFund, Facebook's fund to stimulate development of new apps. It was a series of rejections for 4 years. I really felt that I presented myself professionally in every business situation and I dressed appropriately and practiced my presentations. That was not enough. The idiots wanted us to show them charts with massive profits and widespread public acceptance so that they didn't have to take any risks....

I cannot tell you how painful it is to watch 5 assholes take your idea and run with it and not even give you credit. I hate all 5 of them for that. If I see them, I may punch each one of them in the face. If you have never started your own company and then had someone else steal the credit for what you worked hard to develop, you don't understand.
Now, I have started my own company, and I've had lots of other people either come up with the same idea separately, or even blatantly decide to do something similar to various aspects of our business. So I do know how it feels. And, certainly when you first hear about it, it may be annoying, but it's really just a challenge. I'll be honest, there are times when others have done a better job executing on ideas than I have in the past, and in the end you either compete, or you tip your hat and move on. Competition breeds innovation and better execution since you know you need to do more. And that means not screwing up your technology and customer service and not lashing out and blaming others when someone else executes better.

And, the thing is, given what we write about, and all the business model examples we've see over the years, we're pretty damn familiar with many of the players in the whole "crowdfunding space." There have been lots of players who have come and gone, and there are at least a dozen players in the space today. And it's not because they all "took" the idea from this guy, but because lots of people recognized that it's an idea that makes sense. Kickstarter is certainly getting a ton of press these days, but that's mostly because of some top notch execution on its part.

Filed Under: crowdfunding, execution, ideas


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  1. icon
    Alan Gerow (profile), 26 Feb 2010 @ 9:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    If you're seriously the person who wrote "1.) Avoid contractions in formal weddings." then I sincerely believe you would fail the Turing Test.

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