by Kelli Richards
There’s a common assumption that it takes entrepreneurs several tries to land on the right idea. Many founders start young and experience a steep learning curve; others are “serial entrepreneurs” who make several attempts before finally hitting their stride.
Whatever the reason, this assumption just isn’t true for everyone. Many of today’s most successful companies were their founders’ first ideas, and there are lessons every entrepreneur can apply when vetting a business idea for viability. Don’t discount a great idea just because it comes first.
Many of the biggest brands in the world were their founders’ initial ventures, even if the companies shifted focus over time and no longer resembled their original incarnations. First-time founders can take heart from these ideas that struck gold:
- Google started as a Stanford project of Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Google has spun off a million different products, but the initial business was the first idea Page and Brin tried.
- Nike was founded by runner Phil Knight and University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman. Neither had experience founding a business, but Nike is now easily the most recognizable athletic brand in the world.
- FedEx was the college project of Fred Smith, but his business plan only earned a grade of C because regulations at the time wouldn’t have allowed it to work. Now, FedEx is one of the world’s largest logistics companies and is credited with much of the innovation in its industry.
- Amazon was Jeff Bezos’ first attempt at entrepreneurship after he left his full-time job. Although it took a few years for the online bookstore to turn a profit, it’s now the largest online retailer in the world.
So, how do you know if your first idea is “The One”? What gave these entrepreneurs the confidence they needed to stick with their ideas when the going got rough?
Of course, the world is a different place today than it was when these founders started out, but there are still a few lessons to be gleaned from their endurance and commitment to their companies.
- They identified a problem or need in the market they thought they could solve. Then, they created products or services to tackle those needs head-on. They often missed the mark at first, but they were captivated by the problem and kept pushing and refining as they went.
- They cared more about the problem than the solution. They were willing to branch out and try different things if their solutions didn’t work.
- Similarly, they cared more about the problem than making money. With their focus on solving a problem, they were free to try things they wouldn’t if they only cared about the money.
- While all the companies are now giants with diverse offerings, they each started out with one focus and one solution. They got very good at that before branching out.
- They got feedback from the market and made adjustments when necessary. They knew the customer mattered more than their pride in a solution.
- They all had consumers in mind as they built. These weren’t vanity projects, but solutions to real problems their customers experienced.
- At a certain size, they accelerated their growth by partnering strategically to supplement their weaknesses. The right alliances, partnerships, or acquisitions can grow a company faster than a single team trying to do everything.
- None of them had small visions. They all believed their solutions would affect millions and change the world.
It can be scary to be a first-time entrepreneur, especially when so many insist the first idea isn’t the best. But if founders know they’re solving a real problem and have gotten at least some support for it, the best thing they can do is go for it. Because sometimes, as it turns out, the best idea is the first one.
A highly sought-after consultant, mentor, speaker, producer, coach, and author, Kelli Richards is the CEO of The All Access Group. She and her team facilitate strategic business opportunities in digital distribution between technology companies, established artists and celebrities, film studios, record labels, and consumer brand companies in order to foster new revenue streams and deliver compelling consumer experiences. Kelli is also the author of the bestselling eBook, “The Magic & Moxie of Apple — An Insider’s View.”