Wednesday, May 16, 2007

How secure is your entrepreneurial idea?

Most of the techies out there who have a passion for technology, be it Java, be it .NET or any other, have a drive, a passion to be an entrepreneur. You look around you, look at the way things are going around in the IT industry, feel how much better you are than the rest of them, and you get reminded of the song, Anything you can do. But you are not let to do so, because of one reason or the other, the manager above you doesn't want so, or the politics in your team do not allow you to do so, or there is this guy who just opposes you to show off that he is better than you. Though I haven't fortunately experienced such stuff in my work environment, I hear this from many of my friends who face this on a day to day basis. This sows the crop for a desire, a passion to build better technology or to own your own company. And there starts the trouble.

The TV has been discovered, the computer has been, Google has been established and so is Digg. Now if you want to be an entrepreneur, you need an idea to start the whole process of owning your own company. The idea, that killer idea that can take the world by surprise, that idea which would take the competitors a little time to replicate in which you capture a significant portion of the loyal market. But how and where do you get such ideas from. Are they available for sale. Absolutely not. Are they written in books, again a blunt NO. The person who would get the idea will rather implement it and make hay than writing about it to the world. Even if someone were to write a book on ideas, it would still be of no use, because by the time you implement it, the next reader would already have done so. So where do these ideas stem from. From your observations and experiences. Did I say observation, yep. All you need is a sharp look at everything around you, to find out what else is missing around you that you can capture and bring out. I was reading Sabeer Bhatia's interview in this wonderful book Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days (presented by my roomie on my birthday), where he mentions how they got the idea for hotmail that eventually got acquired by Microsoft for $400 million. He and his colleague were collaborating on a project, when they needed to share ideas via email. But the corporate intranet had put a firewall around to prevent them from using personal email accounts. This is when they got the idea of the utility of a web based email.Now, we may think how dumb should the rest of the people be, to not have thought of the same. Well, thats the power of simple yet powerful ideas. They are all around you, all you need is to just capture them and utilize them

Now, lets say you got the idea. Do you go on keep announcing the same to every one around you, Nope, thats an absolutely bad idea. For, you have no idea, who might come up with a better system than you do long before you can even start implementing yours. This might be weird if you are very strongly passionate about technology and you want to be a part of an open source project. But otherwise, your idea needs to be sold to the right people. Until then, keep it safe, keep it secure, discuss it with your near and dear and friends, but not with that talented guy in the office, to whom you want to show off how more 'cooler' you are, than he is. I liked the approach that Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith implemented when they sold their hotmail idea. Sabeer initially had another idea, a database, where users would store the information they need online so that they could retrieve it from anywhere using internet, information like addresses and phone numbers. They would go to the VC's and would tell them about the database idea, and would study the VC. If the VC would ask about their experience and had little confidence about their ability, then would not even inform about the email idea. This worked because if they let their email idea, the VCs who had no confidence in them could have used their idea with someone else. All these guys had was the killer idea and they protected it from the wrong VCs. When they finally met the VC who expressed interest in what they said, rather than their experience and background, they revealed the hotmail and the rest is history.

So the point is, you want to be an entrepreneur, well and good. You don't have an idea, look around, there are lots waiting for you to explore. And if you do get an idea that rocks, think twice before using it to show off to someone else who aren't worth sharing it with. Share it with your friends and family and when you find the right VC who trusts you, rather than the experience and the background you have in the industry, go for it, who know you might be the next Sabeer Bhatia in the making...


Anonymous said...

hey Karthik, I like your post. I am thinking too much about becoming entrepreneur these days. I am having my own company since 3 years and doing small small projects. Wanted to make something big. Have couple of ideas just exploring more on it.

keep writing.

Karthik said...

Thanks for your encouragement dude, Good luck for your ideas and company, have been away on a vacation, shall continue posting such stuff more..