Lean startup · Early stage

What is the first thing you do when you feel you're onto a great idea?

Lev Kerzhner COO at JamRoom

October 18th, 2014

As the old saying goes "There are many ways to the top of the mountain", but I want to talk about the first step. 

We've all been there. You have what you feel is a great idea at hand. Not all the variables have been worked out and to be honest, you don't even know if you know all the variables, but optimism is booming and the urge for action takes over. 

What next? What do you do? 
What is your first step?

Keith Hopper Product Innovation

October 18th, 2014

Start discussing your idea with people you respect. Make sure this isn't just fishing for compliments to help build up your confidence. Instead, ask for all the reasons this idea won't work. Use this information to 
1) wend your way to the core value of the idea (which often gets conflated with the package the idea comes in, e.g. product features) 
2) improve the idea through others' reactions and suggestions
3) reframe each challenge that goes unresolved into a hypothesis that needs to be tested. I am a fan of this guide http://scalemybusiness.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-minimum-viable-products/
4) Test your willingness to stick with this idea. If you still are excited after getting beaten down, you may be on to something

Michael Brill Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products

October 18th, 2014

Take 30 minutes and write it down in your Great Ideas document.
Ignore it for a couple weeks.
Hopefully you'll forget about it and get back to executing the great idea you were already executing on.
Ignore it for another week.
If you can't get it out of your head then talk to a few friends who are used to hearing your wacky ideas and will happily vomit on them.
By this time your brain has probably had enough elapsed time to process.
Now go talk to customers, investors, et al.

If you simply go from an idea to talking to customers/investors and then don't follow through, then you start to appear to be indecisive. After a couple times it's "ugh, Lev's got another idea." That's a downside of lean.


Kevin Lentz

October 20th, 2014

I recently had just such a moment.  I first casually threw the idea out to a couple of people who's opinions I respected. They thought not only was it worth pursuing but might become really big. Based on that, I filed a provisional (cost $260). With that in my pocket, I'm going through LinkedIn contacts to start customer interviews while I learn as much as I can about the industry.


October 18th, 2014

Lev:  Lean methodology is all about validating your idea and incrementally identifying the features/services that make up a minimal viable product ( the bare minimum of feature/service solution that people will pay for).   Here is a 5 step plan on what areas need to be validated :


Derek Bereit Startup founder || python neophyte, NY attorney, veteran || general counsel Nimbo || co-founder Symptomly | Techstars

October 18th, 2014

First step: Start calling/contacting customers -- there are no good or bad "ideas"--there is what people will pay for, ideally with rapidly scaling sales/customer base. Another first step: If it is great patentable idea--file a provisional patent.

Mitchell Portnoy Healthcare Information Executive

October 18th, 2014

Lev: Before you do ANYTHING, commit to writing as much as you can about your concept and mail it to yourself certified mail. When it arrives, do not open it. Save it in a place where you and someone you trust knows about it. This document serves as a time and date stamped proof of concept. It’s your idea’s “birth certificate," if you will. This may come in handy someday in the future when you must prove that you were first and it was your idea. Best of luck. Mitchell Portnoy mitchell.portnoy@gmail.com

Glenn Saunders

October 24th, 2014

I don't understand why there's so much emphasis on patents.  Execution is more important than patents, and I hate people who patent ideas they can't build (think perpetual motion machines).

The reason people are here is to find co-founders.  That I think is the most important step.  Few people can launch a startup as an individual.  There are too many skills required, and you have to know what your strengths and weaknesses are.  If you go ahead as an individual then you will keep getting burned by those weaknesses even if your idea is great.

Mark Koffsky Partner, Koffsky Schwalb LLC

October 20th, 2014

After you have written the idea down on paper, consider filing a provisional patent application  The filing fee is cheap (usually $130) and there is very little attorney time to prepare and file one, This can preserve your right to file for a patent on that idea for one year while you test it out in the market.

Bob Binder Member of Technical Staff at Software Engineering Institute | Carnegie Mellon University

October 21st, 2014

@Gropper - nice list, but do you really do all that as the "first" thing?

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@* about patents. I did all of what was suggested with my first start up.From that I learned that he/she with the most money for lawyers wins. A patent will not do you any good unless you can hire a gun to enforce it. If the infringers are big, they can easily bury you despite any merits of your case. The bragging rights are nice, as are the wall plaques. So, a provisional is insurance of a sort, but it will cost you much more to make it real, and much much more to make it stick.

</Off Topic>

Mark Koffsky Partner, Koffsky Schwalb LLC

October 20th, 2014

One important caveat with provisionals is the they only protect what is disclosed.  If you have any further innovations you may need to file additional provisionals within the year that you filed the first provisional.