This One Mistake Could Mean the Difference Between Start-up Success and Failure

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Got the need for speed?

Runner's legs standing atop an arrow on bitumen

Pretty certain you’ve stumbled upon the next unicorn? You know, your Uber, your Airbnb and the like. Well, you might have, but, as any entrepreneur knows, it’s rarely the idea itself that’s the key to startup success. If your idea depends on speed, well, perhaps you’d best rethink it.

Brian Scordato, founder of Tacklebox Accelerator, calls this type of time-based startup a “whisper idea”. This essentially means it’s a simple iteration of an existing idea, easily replicated depending on how quickly the entrepreneur takes it on.

ClassPass for meditation [for example] is what I call a ‘whisper idea,’ because whenever founders pitch them to me, they lean-in real close,” Brian wrote for Fast Company. “And I hear them in hushed tones. A founder and I are usually at a coffee shop, they’ve usually asked me to sign an NDA, and they’re always giving everyone in the place the side-eye emoji. Founders who possess whisper ideas never know who’s listening.”

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The problem with whisper ideas, explains Brian, is that they’re hatched from a perceived gap in the market, rather than on the strength and passion of the individual founder. Because the idea depends so heavily on beating someone else to market, speed becomes the key to success, rather than careful consideration and the expertise of the founding member.

To illustrate this, Brian goes on to explain that he pictures each new idea as an hourglass. With the sand representing the amount of time you have to develop your idea, it’s obvious that the more sand, the better. Which is a major problem for whisper ideas.

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“The goal of your start-up idea is to maximise your initial portion of sand,” he explains. “Which is the polar opposite of a whisper idea. You aren’t picking an idea you need to execute fast, you’re picking an idea that allows you to build slow. The holy grail is when your hourglass has more sand than anyone else’s possibly could if they chose to pursue something similar. No need to whisper if you’re the only one who can do it.”

The main problem with speed, Brian adds, is that in building your business, you’re going to try a number of things a number of times before you hit upon the right road. Even still, if you’re on the clock, you’ll likely be overtaken by someone else moving faster or, if you do beat someone to the finish line, you might have jeopardised your idea by pushing it out too early.

Bottom line? Find something that’s uniquely you and that you’re passionate about, rather than trying to nail the Next Big Thing. Think of what you, more than anyone in the room or world, is best suited to. Then go make that.

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