Does My Startup Idea Suck?

It’s human nature to seek out the opinion of others. And soliciting feedback can be extremely valuable in the process of vetting and developing your startup idea. But be careful how you react to everyone’s opinions.

When asking people for their opinion on your new startup idea, you’ll get a variety of answers:

  • Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that?!?
  • Very, very cool. I totally get it.
  • Hhhmmm…Seems interesting.
  • Say what now?
  • Um, that’s stupid.

Hopefully most responses are positive, but no matter how great the idea, you will get some lukewarm and flat out lousy responses as well. And those less-than-stellar opinions can be damaging.

Lousy Feedback Breeds Self-Doubt

Negative feedback is often like a kick in the groin. Very, very painful. Acutely painful. But not long lasting.

It’s critical to keep negative feedback in context.

  1. It’s only one person’s opinion. Don’t let one person’s opinion derail you. Even if that person is an expert in your field, it’s still only one person. If you ask 100 people about your startup idea and all 100 people run screaming, you’ve got another problem altogether…
  2. Most people are wrong. Picking winners isn’t easy. It’s why most VCs only hit 1 home run out of 10. Look back at the history of many successful companies and you’ll find plenty of early naysayers.

You shouldn’t dismiss negative feedback. It can be extremely beneficial. But keep it in context and evaluate it analytically and strategically.

Most Importantly, Remember: Self-Doubt is OK.

It’s rare to believe 100% in your idea, all the time. There’s a reason so many entrepreneurs talk about startup life as a roller coaster. Part of that is self-doubt. Is this a good idea? Am I doing the right thing? Will this work?

All good questions. The key is to realize that doubt is part of the experience. And doubt is easily combated and defeated by passion. Passion is key, even if you hit a funk.

Passion is the primary motivator of entrepreneurs. And you can rely on and leverage that passion when hit by doubt.

August 30, 2007 Posted in Startups by

  • http://defensio.com Carl Mercier

    The life of an entrepreneur is indeed a roller coaster.

    It takes bad ideas to find good ones. My advice to Joe Entrepreneur is: “Whatever you’re doing, even if you’re not so sure about it, keep doing it.”

    Doing is the only way to learn and to find new opportunities. And who knows, maybe your idea is not so bad after all?

    Three years ago, if somebody approached me to start a video sharing website, I’d have said that it was a very lousy idea. Yet, YouTube sold for $1.65 billion.

  • http://macournoyer.wordpress.com macournoyer

    This reminded me of a Seth Godin’s post:

    “The two reasons people say no to your idea

    “It’s been done before”
    “It’s never been done before”

    Even though neither one is truthful, accurate or useful, you need to be prepared for both.”
    - http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2007/03/the_two_reasons.html

    Nice post Ben!

  • http://defensio.com Carl Mercier

    The life of an entrepreneur is indeed a roller coaster.

    It takes bad ideas to find good ones. My advice to Joe Entrepreneur is: “Whatever you're doing, even if you're not so sure about it, keep doing it.”

    Doing is the only way to learn and to find new opportunities. And who knows, maybe your idea is not so bad after all?

    Three years ago, if somebody approached me to start a video sharing website, I'd have said that it was a very lousy idea. Yet, YouTube sold for $1.65 billion.

  • coos

    I just follow my gut feeling and usually it turns out okay. I let my instincts lead me…

  • http://macournoyer.wordpress.com macournoyer

    This reminded me of a Seth Godin's post:

    “The two reasons people say no to your idea

    “It's been done before”
    “It's never been done before”

    Even though neither one is truthful, accurate or useful, you need to be prepared for both.”
    - http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2007/03

    Nice post Ben!

  • coos

    I just follow my gut feeling and usually it turns out okay. I let my instincts lead me…

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  • http://philobuster.wordpress.com Elad

    Almost no one is good at evaluating your idea. Even VCs, who are supposed to do that for a living, fail most of the time. So the feedback you get depends a lot on the presentation you give, i.e. on the subtle ways such as body language in which you communicate, rather than on the content of your message. Seriously, if you’re able to make a perfect pitch, convey your idea in an exciting way and sound extremely enthusiastic about it, it’s very rare that anyone would diss your startup.
    On the other hand, if you don’t get across the message that you have a great idea and you really believe in yourself, it’s unlikely that anyone else would believe in you.
    In short, it’s really a self-fulfilling prophesy – if you’re not completely enthused, you don’t sound it, other people aren’t either, you get bad feedback, and you lose confidence. And vice versa…

  • http://philobuster.wordpress.com Elad

    Almost no one is good at evaluating your idea. Even VCs, who are supposed to do that for a living, fail most of the time. So the feedback you get depends a lot on the presentation you give, i.e. on the subtle ways such as body language in which you communicate, rather than on the content of your message. Seriously, if you're able to make a perfect pitch, convey your idea in an exciting way and sound extremely enthusiastic about it, it's very rare that anyone would diss your startup.
    On the other hand, if you don't get across the message that you have a great idea and you really believe in yourself, it's unlikely that anyone else would believe in you.
    In short, it's really a self-fulfilling prophesy – if you're not completely enthused, you don't sound it, other people aren't either, you get bad feedback, and you lose confidence. And vice versa…

  • http://buzzboston.wordpress.com/ rem

    Geez Dude,

    Your potential market is anywhere from $ 5-60 Billion , depending on who you ask. Your premise is correct, online recruiting sucks. a few tweaks here and there, keep it between the navigational beacons…..bingo

  • http://buzzboston.wordpress.com/ rem

    Geez Dude,

    Your potential market is anywhere from $ 5-60 Billion , depending on who you ask. Your premise is correct, online recruiting sucks. a few tweaks here and there, keep it between the navigational beacons…..bingo

  • http://www.instigatorblog.com Ben Yoskovitz

    @rem: Thanks for the positive feedback, but I wasn’t speaking specifically about myself with the title. Perhaps that makes it a bit misleading. I was thinking of all the people that might ask themselves that question.

    @Elad: I think you’re quite right in terms of feedback being a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe in what you’re selling, you’ll sell it better than if you don’t believe wholeheartedly. Selling it better will result in better feedback.

    Thank you all for the comments to-date, they’re appreciated!

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  • http://www.instigatorblog.com Ben Yoskovitz

    @rem: Thanks for the positive feedback, but I wasn't speaking specifically about myself with the title. Perhaps that makes it a bit misleading. I was thinking of all the people that might ask themselves that question.

    @Elad: I think you're quite right in terms of feedback being a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe in what you're selling, you'll sell it better than if you don't believe wholeheartedly. Selling it better will result in better feedback.

    Thank you all for the comments to-date, they're appreciated!

  • http://www.web1979.com Mat

    I like this post, and I think the message applies more broadly, i.e. not limited to entrepreneurship.

    Your ideas, whatever they might be: political, religious, philosophical or favorite Ninja Turtle will always be met with opposition by people that a) have legitimate criticism; b) are soft of mind; c) are combative by nature; or d) are close-minded.

    You really only to worry about the first type of criticism, and figure out ways to address it and prioritize it. The trick is figure out which is which.

  • http://www.web1979.com Mat

    I like this post, and I think the message applies more broadly, i.e. not limited to entrepreneurship.

    Your ideas, whatever they might be: political, religious, philosophical or favorite Ninja Turtle will always be met with opposition by people that a) have legitimate criticism; b) are soft of mind; c) are combative by nature; or d) are close-minded.

    You really only to worry about the first type of criticism, and figure out ways to address it and prioritize it. The trick is figure out which is which.

  • http://www.walyou.com/ Tal Siach

    Hi Ben! Thank you for the great post. To be an entrepreneur is so hard, you need to know how to shift from good times to bad times, and to know to manage those ups and downs. I am totally agree with all the points you mentioned and I think the only way to overcome a bad feedback or a certain doubt is to consistently believe in your idea and have the will to show the world your vision. I personally find doubts of
    Others a positive thing since it’s like an incentive to try even harder to show why my idea is good. Although you need to pay attention and to listen to each person because sometimes this feedback can be really vital.

  • http://www.businesspundit.com Rob

    Ben,
    I went through a spell with a business idea that several people didn’t like, until a friend pointed out that I should primarily care what “the people who mattered” thought. That’s why I stopped asking friends and family about ideas (unless of course they were part of the target market).

    Rob

  • http://www.walyou.com/ Tal Siach

    Hi Ben! Thank you for the great post. To be an entrepreneur is so hard, you need to know how to shift from good times to bad times, and to know to manage those ups and downs. I am totally agree with all the points you mentioned and I think the only way to overcome a bad feedback or a certain doubt is to consistently believe in your idea and have the will to show the world your vision. I personally find doubts of
    Others a positive thing since it’s like an incentive to try even harder to show why my idea is good. Although you need to pay attention and to listen to each person because sometimes this feedback can be really vital.

  • http://www.businesspundit.com Rob

    Ben,
    I went through a spell with a business idea that several people didn't like, until a friend pointed out that I should primarily care what “the people who mattered” thought. That's why I stopped asking friends and family about ideas (unless of course they were part of the target market).

    Rob

  • Jake

    The idea of the brave, maverick entrepreneur versus the world is a romantic but dangerous one. It’s great – and necessary – to have a positive attitude but this has to be grounded in commercial reality.

    I think startups have to pass three crucial questions: “Is there a market for my idea?”, “Can I reach that market in a cost-effective manner?” and “Why should people buy from me?”

    Without strong, realistic answers to these questions no amount of positive thinking and self-belief will help. In fact they become dangerous.

  • Jake

    The idea of the brave, maverick entrepreneur versus the world is a romantic but dangerous one. It's great – and necessary – to have a positive attitude but this has to be grounded in commercial reality.

    I think startups have to pass three crucial questions: “Is there a market for my idea?”, “Can I reach that market in a cost-effective manner?” and “Why should people buy from me?”

    Without strong, realistic answers to these questions no amount of positive thinking and self-belief will help. In fact they become dangerous.

  • http://pysih.com Hell

    It’s all about plowing the field.

    You can’t go out and plow an eighth of the field one day, a quarter of the field the next day, and then take a break for a week before you come back and finish the job half-assed.

    If you’re going to reap the rewards, you have to plow the field. It doesn’t matter if you’re happy about plowing, it just has to be done. Of course if you can listen to music while you’re plowing, it makes it go a lot faster.

  • http://pysih.com Hell

    It's all about plowing the field.

    You can't go out and plow an eighth of the field one day, a quarter of the field the next day, and then take a break for a week before you come back and finish the job half-assed.

    If you're going to reap the rewards, you have to plow the field. It doesn't matter if you're happy about plowing, it just has to be done. Of course if you can listen to music while you're plowing, it makes it go a lot faster.

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  • http://steplivelynow.com/blog/ Starr

    After thinking about this for a long time, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best bet for creating a real business is to pick a field where you know for sure that there is a market. Better to have too much competition than not enough. Recruiting seems to be a pretty good example.

    …Now that’s not to say it’s a cakewalk!

  • http://steplivelynow.com/blog/ Starr

    After thinking about this for a long time, I've come to the conclusion that the best bet for creating a real business is to pick a field where you know for sure that there is a market. Better to have too much competition than not enough. Recruiting seems to be a pretty good example.

    …Now that's not to say it's a cakewalk!

  • http://www.instigatorblog.com Ben Yoskovitz

    Thanks to everyone for continuing the discussion and providing their feedback.

    @Mat: Figuring out legitimate criticism is key, but some of the other categories you mentioned could spill into legitimate. For example, you might be selling into a market of close-minded people (not that I’d recommend such a thing.) Or, you’re attempting to change behavior with what you’re selling (always tricky.)

    @Rob: Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I’m with you 100%. I’ve been telling my family for years, “I’m in computers.” When I told one of my family members that I was starting a new business, she said, “But you can still use the computers from the old office, right?” *smile*

    @Jake: I agree with your approach. Having said that, when I look at the Consumer Internet space it seems like your practical guidance and Q&A doesn’t entirely apply. Of course that’s what got us into Bubble Trouble the first time…

  • http://www.instigatorblog.com Ben Yoskovitz

    Thanks to everyone for continuing the discussion and providing their feedback.

    @Mat: Figuring out legitimate criticism is key, but some of the other categories you mentioned could spill into legitimate. For example, you might be selling into a market of close-minded people (not that I'd recommend such a thing.) Or, you're attempting to change behavior with what you're selling (always tricky.)

    @Rob: Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I'm with you 100%. I've been telling my family for years, “I'm in computers.” When I told one of my family members that I was starting a new business, she said, “But you can still use the computers from the old office, right?” *smile*

    @Jake: I agree with your approach. Having said that, when I look at the Consumer Internet space it seems like your practical guidance and Q&A; doesn't entirely apply. Of course that's what got us into Bubble Trouble the first time…

  • http://hervalicio.us/blog herval

    I would throw away an idea right away if everybody I show it to says the thing is great and interesting.
    Great startups are always born from ideas that seem just ridiculous to almost everybody.. :-)

  • http://hervalicio.us/blog herval

    I would throw away an idea right away if everybody I show it to says the thing is great and interesting.
    Great startups are always born from ideas that seem just ridiculous to almost everybody.. :-)

  • http://www.bloggerbingo.com/aboutblogging Jayne

    I think sometimes the problem comes from asking the wrong people. If you want reassurance (or the kick in the groin that happens when they don’t get it), ask your wife, your neighbor, your brother-in-law, but if you want actual… help… ask people who are already successful at what they do.

  • http://www.bloggerbingo.com/aboutblogging Jayne

    I think sometimes the problem comes from asking the wrong people. If you want reassurance (or the kick in the groin that happens when they don't get it), ask your wife, your neighbor, your brother-in-law, but if you want actual… help… ask people who are already successful at what they do.

  • Peter

    Oppose your own idea.
    Champion it.

    Try to find out what could go wrong, plan for it so it’s no longer an issue, etc

    Plan for massive success as well,
    which can be a problem if you don’t expect it.

    I sell thing on ebay, buying them at retail and selling for 150%.
    $300 startup cost.
    $700 a week profit, 30min of my time per week.
    I definitely recommend starting your own business.

  • Peter

    Oppose your own idea.
    Champion it.

    Try to find out what could go wrong, plan for it so it's no longer an issue, etc

    Plan for massive success as well,
    which can be a problem if you don't expect it.

    I sell thing on ebay, buying them at retail and selling for 150%.
    $300 startup cost.
    $700 a week profit, 30min of my time per week.
    I definitely recommend starting your own business.

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  • http://www.instigatorblog.com Ben Yoskovitz

    @herval: That’s a funny, but not unreasonable approach. Of course, I wouldn’t necessarily throw something away if everyone thought it was a good idea – but your point is well taken. Many startups come out of ideas that people thought, “Makes no sense to me.”

    @Peter: “Oppose your own idea” is a great way of looking at things. Look at it from a different viewpoint, step out of being “in” it and figure out what holes might exist that others will see. Patch ‘em up and move forward.

  • http://www.instigatorblog.com Ben Yoskovitz

    @herval: That's a funny, but not unreasonable approach. Of course, I wouldn't necessarily throw something away if everyone thought it was a good idea – but your point is well taken. Many startups come out of ideas that people thought, “Makes no sense to me.”

    @Peter: “Oppose your own idea” is a great way of looking at things. Look at it from a different viewpoint, step out of being “in” it and figure out what holes might exist that others will see. Patch 'em up and move forward.

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  • http://www.hairloss-forums.com David Brown @ hair loss forums

    I agree with your post. You need to have confidence in your self and always put 110% in your work. Do your research and think about how you can improve all the time.

  • http://www.hairloss-forums.com David Brown @ hair loss forums

    I agree with your post. You need to have confidence in your self and always put 110% in your work. Do your research and think about how you can improve all the time.

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  • faraimpresii

    Hair loss or Alopecia is a problem most of us are facing on a daily basis. Some studies say that men tend to “get” balder faster or that stress contributes to this problem or plainly we're just born with it – carried by genes that is. Nevertheless when it comes to hairloss or caderea parului we have to agree that women suffer the most and spend up a fortune to get rid of this problem. The thing is most products aren't even half good as they are marketed so what's a woman to do ? I think that natural remedies (using eggs and aloe vera) can help your hairloss problem but if people don't start eating and living healthy there's no stop to this issue.

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Ben Yoskovitz
I'm VP Product at GoInstant (acq. by Salesforce).

I'm also a Founding Partner at Year One Labs, an early stage accelerator in Montreal. Previously I founded Standout Jobs (and sold it).

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