Stunted By Reality Just another know-it-all talking about life, business, technology, sports and music.


Starting a business without an idea. Dumb.

So I’m reading Venturebeat, which is one of my favorite blogs, and they have a Q & A with a guy called Adam D’Angelo. D’Angelo used to be the Chief Technology Officer of Facebook, their first in fact. He left some time ago and has now started a new venture called Quora. A  cross between Wikipedia and  Yahoo Answers. It’s a question-and-answer site with very refined incentives to get people to share specialist knowledge.

Reading the interview what stood out for me is his answer to the question “Is this what you knew you wanted to do when you left Facebook?”

D’Angelo says “I knew I wanted to start a company and I spent a lot of time thinking about it. And after several ideas, I thought that this one was the one with the most potential.”

What struck me from that statement is that it sounds like D’Angelo wanted to start a business…., didn’t have a specific thing in mind…., came up with several ideas…. and settled on this one. I don’t know, but this really doesn’t sound like the way great concepts are born.

I mean, say you’re in that looking-for-an-idea zone, and it’s been a few weeks and nothing has really come up. What do you do? Do you go back to something you thought about some time ago and add a twist to it? Do you scratch your head harder so that as that bit of dandruff falls it may just dislodge a couple of brain cells that were in the way of a great idea? Then Eureka!

"I'm taking this to the Dragon's Den. Reggae Reggae sauce has nothing on this!"

Call me old fasioned, but I believe great businesses offer services that solve a particular problem. I believe good companies are built from one of the following, though this is not an exhaustive list;

  • an idea that came about because someone encountered a problem.
  • a copy of a great idea that came about because someone had a problem. AKA a copy cat business. Even the most visionary people have at some point thought about doing something that been done a million times before. That tech company called Apple comes to mind.
  • an opportunity to exploit a market’s lack of knowledge. For example, buying cheap electronics in one city and selling them in another.
  • an opportunity to go into an under-served market. Your typical bricks and mortar businesses do this most of the time.

In any case, I don’t think most of the above come about because someone some sat down and wondered what to do! It’s like the lotto winner who sits down to think how they are going to multiply their earnings by going into business. I can’t think any significant money will be made that way, if any.

Still good luck to Quora. It seems that, without a solid problem to tackle, they need it.

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