It’s All Been Done Before in the Startup World


32/365 The Idea Machine

Whenever I start a new project, it always starts with excitement. New ideas are always exciting because as ideas, they seem perfect and carry with them the promise of learning new things. That excitement lasts right up until I finish the first working prototype and have enjoyed the glow of having built something new. Then reality sets in and I do a Google search for similar projects only to find…

It’s already been done before.

Or, at least something very similar. Seeing that my idea was not, in fact, novel is always disappointing. Or worse, I see that others have not only had the same idea but spent much more time working on it is even more disheartening. This cycle repeats for literally every project I’ve ever done, yet I keep working on these projects and also having new ideas and starting new projects. Why?

Everything has been done before.

It’s true that there are some areas of physics where new things are being done. There are biologists who discover new species and new archaeological sites unearthed. But these are at the cutting edge of science today and happen very rarely. In the world of product development, there are few unique ideas. Even if your idea is novel, it is likely that someone, somewhere else has the same idea. That should not stop you, however.

What matters is not the idea but the execution.

Anything can be improved upon, and that’s your opening. Google did not invent the search engine; they made it better. Facebook did not invent the social network; they made it better. Uber did not invent the car service; they made it better. For each of those companies, not only did they not invent a new kind of product, they were not the only ones trying to improve on existing products at the time they got started. What they did was act on the idea better than anyone else.

While others may have the same idea, can they match your focus? Can they match your passion? Can they match your work ethic? Having an idea is cheap, what you do with your idea is what gives it value. If you believe in your idea, make it impossible for others with the same idea to compete with you by being the best at turning that idea into reality.

So, who cares if everything has been done before? Anything can be improved. That’s where you come in.

This article was originally published at Sean on Startups, a blog about starting and growing companies.

Image Credit: CC by Will Hastings

About the author: Sean Byrnes

Sean is the founder of Flurry, the leader in advertising and analytics services for mobile applications. He is currently an advisor, mentor and angel investor in the San Francisco bay area. You can read more of his advice and thoughts on building businesses on Sean On Startups and his personal website.

  • PeterJ42

    This is a 20th century broadcast era problem. When the curriculum is the same in all schools, then we go home to watch the same TV programmes, shop in identikit malls and read the same newspapers, how can anyone think differently?

    If you look at the innovators, most of them as hybrids – they may have US education, but they are European or Asian in origin. They have a different worldview and can see things others cannot.

    One of the things we have all been trained is to think of a business as about an idea or product. But actually a successful business is at least as much about systems. You can innovate much more in new ways of working with people, new markets and new methods of connecting as with new products or ideas – that’s where the Blue Oceans lie as the same thinkers follow the same routes to product and idea-centric innovation.

  • http://www.mclessard.com MC

    Thank you for this validation Sean! Every word you wrote resonated with me and to be reminded that my passion, ethic, and determination are the distinguishing, if not the selective, ingredients that will make my idea the “winning” one felt great!

You are seconds away from signing up for the hottest list in Silicon Alley!

Don't miss any of the stories shaping entrepreneurship. Sign up today.