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Is It Possible to Have Too Many Ideas?

Not if you can develop a good process for managing them.
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Some investors hate it when you bring them more than one idea. In their minds, this equates to a lack of focus. They see a person with a lot of ideas as some type of mad scientist, and they assume he or she isn’t a good businessperson. 

I’m not like this. (For one thing, I myself enjoy the curse/blessing of having a million ideas.) The question is, what do you do about your idea flow? Do you have a process for managing it?

Last week I spent a too-quick hour with a gentleman who moved into the Research Triangle area from New York City a few years ago. He’s one of those idea guys. He’s started a number of businesses, and they have been successes. (He beats himself up because they aren’t successes of the massive and highly visible sort, but I think he’s looking at things the wrong way. More on that sort of thinking at some other point.) At the moment, he is working at a very large local company, but he clearly strives for something more. 

He came to me with a couple of new ideas, and was wondering how he might get these to market. I first asked him why he decided to pitch these ideas today.

Here is his process, as he describes it:

  • He gets an idea. He lets it marinate.
  • If he is still thinking about the idea the next day, he moves it into what he calls the maybe folder. Then he gives himself permission to spend some more time thinking about the customer set, how to make money, and other related issues. In other words, he thinks about whether this is a real business.
  • Then he starts to explore the idea with others. That is where I came in.

I gave him kudos for developing an idea process that works for him. I hope he takes a jump on one of the ideas he described to me—or one from the next batch. I think I would be there for him.

I would love to hear how you process your ideas!

IMAGE: axlape/Flickr
Last updated: Mar 7, 2013

CHRIS HEIVLY | Columnist | Managing Director

Chris Heivly was a co-founder of MapQuest (which sold to AOL for $1.2 billion), sole managing director of 77 Capital (a $25 million venture fund), and an executive at five software companies. Currently, he is one of two managing directors of The Startup Factory, a seed investment fund making 10 to 14 new investments per year. A national writer and speaker about startups and startup communities, Heivly is also the founder of the Big Top Job Fair.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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