Nov 26, 2013 - startup    No Comments

Startup event story: ideas vs execution of ideas

idea stack

So, I met this guy at a startup event a while back. His question was why don’t big companies invest in ideas. Big companies have a lot of cash and should be spending a lot of money investing in ideas. Here are my thoughts on this…

I replied to him:”All ideas are good, what makes the difference is the execution.” He looked at me puzzled. I told him these two sentences…

“The ingredients of a meal do not make a good meal, it’s the way you cook it.”
“A diamond ore does not have any value; what makes it’s value is the end product after processing it.”

Naturally, some people would invest in the ingredients and diamond ore in the hope of a massive payout at the end of it in the form of a great tasty meal or a super giant, sparkly diamond. But there is no guarantee that the meal will be tasty nor the diamond will retain the original ore size.

That’s what execution is all about… how skilled are you in cooking a meal with these ingredients. You might be a great cook specialising in French cuisine. What if I give you ingredients for an Indian meal! Will you be as successful cooking a spicy Indian meal as you are for a tasty French meal?


Interestingly while looking around for quotes around the topic, I saw this from Steve Jobs…

To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.

You know, one of the things that really hurt Apple was after I left John Sculley got a very serious disease. It’s the disease of thinking that a really great idea is 90% of the work. And if you just tell all these other people “here’s this great idea,” then of course they can go off and make it happen.

And the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product. And as you evolve that great idea, it changes and grows. It never comes out like it starts because you learn a lot more as you get into the subtleties of it. And you also find there are tremendous tradeoffs that you have to make. There are just certain things you can’t make electrons do. There are certain things you can’t make plastic do. Or glass do. Or factories do. Or robots do.

Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want. And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently.

And it’s that process that is the magic.