A Novel Idea

A question was recently asked on answers.onstartups.com as follows:

How novel does a startup idea need to be?

There were several answers provided, and I obviously like my own the best:

Even if your idea is novel, within days of your site going live, there will be several imitators out there hawking a similar product. You have to do the best job you can to make your product provide as much value as possible. Thus, the issue of being novel is [almost] irrelevant, since even if it is novel today, it won’t be tomorrow, so why worry about that? Instead focus on being better than whatever competition is out there!

Thinking of a novel idea?

Thinking of a novel idea?

However, in looking at the question, there really is more that can be said about this. An idea for a startup needs a few components in order to be eligible for success, and novel is not one of them:

  1. Is there an unfilled demand for this idea?
  2. Who will pay for developing this idea?
  3. Can I do this, or can I recruit someone who can?

Is the idea original? It doesn’t really matter if the demand is not being filled currently (question 1). If I can fill the demand (question 3), and someone will pay for it (question 2), then my idea has the potential to be a success. If any of these questions cannot be answered satisfactorily, then it may be a good idea for someone else, or it may not be a good idea at all.

As a hopeful startup founder, what you need to do is be aware of how unique your idea is, because it will help you pay attention to the appropriate competitors. If there aren’t any at the moment (which in general demonstrates that you haven’t done your research properly, but occasionally might be true), then as soon as you launch, find out who started right after you. There is not a single niche market for which there is no competition – and I challenge you, my readers, to show me an exception. No, the competition may not be exactly the same as you, and they may not be at the same level as you. But they exist.

If you can understand who your competition is, and how you and they differ from one another, then you’ll understand the being novel is not that important. What is important is to be as good as possible at whatever it is you do.