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Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, co-founders of ConnectU Inc., arrive at the U.S. District Court in Boston July 25, 2007 for a court hearing on ConnectU's lawsuit against Facebook Inc. (BRIAN SNYDER)
Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, co-founders of ConnectU Inc., arrive at the U.S. District Court in Boston July 25, 2007 for a court hearing on ConnectU's lawsuit against Facebook Inc. (BRIAN SNYDER)

Value: John Warrillow

Idea is least important part of a company Add to ...

I recently interviewed Brad Feld, a venture capitalist and co-founder of TechStars, who said a business idea is less important than its execution.

One of the chapters in his latest book, Do More Faster, is called Trust Me, Your Idea Is Worthless.

While I did not voice my opinion on Mr. Feld’s position, readers posted their comments. Given the hubbub, I thought I would share my thoughts on the value of a new business idea.

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The hit film The Social Network portrays the fight between Mark Zuckerberg and the Winklevoss brothers over the idea for Facebook. The brothers contend Mr. Zuckerberg “stole their idea,” which makes for a good movie but, in my view, oversimplifies company building.

If you run a business, you know that your idea was the least difficult part. My guess is that your idea has evolved considerably since you first conceived it.

The myth of the “killer idea” leads young and wannabe entrepreneurs to protect their concepts as if they had discovered the cure for cancer. They request that investors sign non-disclosure agreements before they reveal their ideas, which serves only to ensure those ideas never get funded.

I might argue the idea is the least important part of building a valuable company.

Let’s look at a few examples:

• Is the “idea” of creating an instructional audio program to learn a new language all that novel, or did Rosetta Stone just execute better than anyone else?

• Was it Howard Schultz’s “idea” for a coffee shop that made espresso-based drinks that fostered the building of Starbucks into what it is today? Tens of thousands of coffee shops were started before and have been started since, none of which have achieved what Starbucks has since Mr. Schultz bought the two-store company in 1987. It was not the idea, but the execution that counted.

• Was it the “idea” of a portable music player that allowed Steve Jobs to create the iPod? No. The Sony Walkman was introduced decades earlier. Apple executed better by creating a stylish device that seamlessly enabled users to store music and fill the holes in their music library through iTunes.

If you have a great idea for a new business, congratulations. Now get started with the hard part — building a company.

Special to The Globe and Mail

John Warrillow is a writer, speaker and angel investor in a number of start-up companies. He writes a blog about building a valuable – sellable – company.

Follow on Twitter: @JohnWarrillow

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