Thursday, September 3, 2009

Don't be the Ice Cream Glove

I have a new post up today on O'Reilly Radar, called "Is your product an Ice Cream Glove or a Snuggie?" It is based on two videos I normally use in workshops - each of which contains an important entrepreneurship lesson for all of us. Here's an excerpt:
For those that haven’t watched it, I’ll give a brief recap. Ali G meets with business leaders and investors on Wall Street to learn how to create a new company around a new product idea. After some general lessons, he then proposes his first product idea, complete with flip charts, business plan, and marketing plan. His idea? The Ice Cream Glove, a special glove you can carry around with you so that, if you happen to eat ice cream, you can prevent your hands from getting sticky. After failing to persuade most of the investors to back him in that venture, he then tries to sell a second idea: a Hoverboard, “like from Back to the Future.” After all, they must have made at least one of them for the movie, right?

Both of these ideas for companies are terrible, and the show is funny because he manages to keep on selling them with a straight face. But there are also important lessons baked into the humor. Take the example of the Hoverboard. If you look at the typical startup, you will see the vast majority of their energy and time invested in building new technology. We act as if the biggest risk to startup success is that the technology won’t work. But in reality, most products fail because they are the Ice Cream Glove, that is, because there are no customers who will buy them.

Read the rest (and be sure to watch the videos)...
These videos make an important point: that almost all product ideas sound bad. At the whiteboard, you can make any idea seem brilliant or ridiculous. It's only by actually moving through the fundamental startup feedback loop, which involves facts, that we can find out which have a kernel of truth baked within them.

Let me also say a brief thank you to those who replied to my previous ask for feedback about cross-posting. So far, all the feedback has been in favor of doing it whenever I have a guest post elsewhere. If you have further thoughts, please leave them as a comment. Thanks!
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  1. Cross posting is good.

  2. Thanks for the interesting article.
    One question: if you can't tell about how good the idea is before going through feedback loop, how do you come up with initial idea? is it more like a miss or hit, gut feel or what?

  3. I really appreciate you doing cross posting, now I"m aware of it and headed to O'Reilly to read the full post.