How I get excited about new ideas and companies
While running into people at events or talking to friends just about everywhere, we inevitably start talking about a new company someone is starting, or a new product being released. Maybe it’s someone in the news, or someone we both know. Over time, I’ve noticed a pattern in my attempts to categorize and understand a given project, and whether I end up finding it interesting. I thought to write this process down, as it will be fun to look at again later, as I imagine these priorities may change.
To start, I ask a few questions (in order of importance):
- Is this company creating something genuinely original? Is the company changing our relationship with something, or allowing us to experience something in a new way? This is my favorite.
While I am aware of the relative nature of originality (artists steal, etc), there is still a significant gradient between being original and derivative (things like Vostu, StudiVZ, В Контакте, are not inherently bad, but I just don’t care). If the idea is original, but the implementation is imperfect, that’s ok.
- Is this company delivering a dramatically better experience based on a previously existing idea? Are there visible and significant ways in which their approach differs, to make this likely? (Apple’s Music iCloud product, is probably the 200th implementation of this idea, but it’s a real step up)
- Does quality matter in any part of what they are making? If not, is there at least a significant benefit from the quantity, simplicity, or low cost of what they do?
- If the company is some type of middleman, do they add significantly more value than they capture? Does it destroy or create, when its efforts are considered as a whole?
- Can at least parts of what they do be scaled or be sustained in some way as a business so that enough people can see the results and the company can exist long enough to make an impact? This may be the least critical one, as an impact can be made in a short time, but it does often show a certain exciting discipline in thinking.
- Is this a space I find interesting, or know enough about to determine if 1-5 are true?
These 6 points aside, I am biased to pay more attention to the makers, hackers, painters (in the Paul Graham sense), or people who passionately support them (this is a surprisingly small group of smart business people). People solving their own problems, treating the web (or mobile) as a type of art, trying to make the world Better, are who I root for. They do the hardest work.
How do new ideas catch your attention?