Is your startup idea viable ?

Many young entrepreneurs have an idea which they feel is very clever and unique, and they want to create a startup in order to bring that dream to reality. However, there is a big difference between having an idea and being able to implement it ! 

How can you evaluate how well your idea will work in real life ? Will customers pay to use your solution ? This is the million-dollar question, because ideas are cheap , but being able to execute them well requires a lot of hard work. Young first time entrepreneurs don't really have a good sense of what is involved in running a business, and tend to overestimate their ability to cross all the hurdles which they're likely to face. 

Please learn to be open. You need to share your idea, and discuss it with as many people as possible , so that they can give you feedback . You need to specifically ask for criticism, otherwise people will tend to sugar coat their true opinion , because they don't want to hurt your feelings. Ask them point-blank - why is this likely to fail ? This may hurt your ego, but you don't want to waste years and lots of money in pursuing a futile idea - this would be much more expensive in the long run !

Many entrepreneurs are in love with their ideas, and are jealously possessive about them. They are scared that someone will steal them , and they will lose their "first-mover advantage" . They naively believe that no one in the world has ever had such a clever idea before, because they live in their own little bubble , because they have very little real life experience. They often lack business sense , partly because they are so young, and haven't worked so far. 

One way of evaluating the idea is to pitch it to lots of investors and see what they have to say. While investors may not have expertise in your specific domain, they listen to ideas all the time from lots of entrepreneurs. They will be able to tell you whether your idea is original; what makes it different; and whether it's likely to work or not. However, before you approach an investor, please do your homework , so that you show that you are thoughtful and well-prepared, and understand what's happening in your space. 

It's important to have skin in the game, so please spend some of your own money in showing that you have done your best to implement your idea , no matter how limited your funds maybe. An investor needs to see that you are willing to work hard, and if he can see that you have done much more than just sit in your chair and create an attractive Microsoft PowerPoint presentation or plot lots of numbers in an Excel spreadsheet, he's much more likely to respect you and give you a patient hearing.

Finally, remember that investors don't have all the answers. The only way to actually validate an idea is to put it out in the real world and see whether customers are willing to pay for it. This is the final arbitrator, and until you actually do it, no one really knows whether your idea is going to work or not. Lots of great ideas don't work in real life for multiple reasons - for example, your competition may outclass and outspend you , and there's nothing you can do to reduce this risk of failure.

Conversely, what seems to be a terrible idea at first blush can go on to become a wildly successful company, because the founders were willing to slog and pivot as needed. 

You need to find the answers for yourself, and this is part of your job description as an entrepreneur. It's scary to have to deal with uncertainty, but the buck stops with you, and you need to have the courage to move on , irrespective of whether you get funding or not. You need to be both irrational and optimistic if you want to succeed.

Whether or not your idea works, I can promise you your journey will be an exciting and interesting one, and you will learn a lot - not only about yourself , but about the real world as well. Running a startup will teach you far more than an MBA, and will help you become wiser and more mature.

-By Dr. Aniruddha Malpani

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