Why the team means more than the idea in a start-up?

Ideas are a dime a dozen, at least in the start-up world.

Paul Graham once said that ideas mean something, but execution means far more. He also said that if he provided the entire idea to a team and the team executes the idea, he would still be entitled to less than 10% of the company. 

“What matters is not ideas, but people who have them” – Paul Graham.

In the context of this post, when I say ‘idea’ it is not only the raw idea like lets build a social network for kids, but an idea that also includes answers to questions like – will customers buy/use you and how do you know it?, how will you make money?, how will you go-to-market?, etc.

If one spends little time around start-ups, then one will very soon realize that the idea doesn’t matter much, and it is actually the people behind the idea that matter so much more.

Here are five reasons why the team matters more than the idea?

1. An idea doesn’t have any saleable or usable value. Ideas alone don’t hold any value to the end customer, because the customer has to solve a particular problem by using a product or a service and not by using the idea itself. If you don’t believe this, try selling your start-up ideas.

2. Ideas are relatively easy to arrive at. This is probably the reason why almost everybody has start-up ideas, even including people who think they don’t have one. On the other hand, execution (tech/business) demands a certain depth of know-how and a good amount of motivation for a long period of time.

3. An idea is not the reality, it is a wishful piece of organized thought. A startup is not about the idea, but it is about the  team that actually transforms an idea into a product or a service with their know-how and their motivation. Therefore, if the people behind an idea are good and motivated, then chances are that the idea might translate into a good product or a service eventually.

4. Ideas change with time, but the team might not change. Or I can say that it is much easier to change the idea than to change the team. If you put a good team behind any idea, they would at least bring out the best possibilities out of the idea. So, what happens to the idea is actually dependent on the team that is behind the idea.

For example, I am not saying that Mark Zuckerberg would’ve made a multi-billion dollar company out of any idea during his collegeBut, I am saying that if Mark got interested in an idea, he would’ve seen it through into a product or a service, trying to come up with the best possibilities to do so.

5. In the startup world, there are so many ideas floating around perennially that the startup community is not very excited to listen to only ideas anymore. Having an exciting idea doesn’t really separate you from the crowd. Investors actually almost every time look at the execution (the growth or the product or the people) behind the idea, because it is very difficult to judge an idea in isolation. You either have to have the product (or traction) or you have to be a highly motivated team with a strong reputation for execution and know-how or probably balance out the previous two, in order to have a small chance of success in the start-up world.

We all have ideas; it just doesn’t matter!