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Start-up Advice: Let the Genie out of the Bottle Already

VC Fred Wilson says, if you have an audacious idea that will make people uncomfortable you need to get it out in the open--asap.

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In Islamic stories, the genie is a magic spirit that has powers to do things for you. But if you let it out of the bottle, you can't control it anymore and bad things can happen.

I like to think of this story when I think about start-ups and technologies that have the potential to be big game changers. The key is to get the genie out of the bottle because then they (the incumbents and establishment) can't put it back in.

Let's look at Airbnb. There are a lot of folks here in New York City and New York state that don't like Airbnb. It's competition for the hotels. It's unpopular with neighbors who don't want unknown people in their buildings. And, it turns out, it is against the law in New York state.

But you know what? The genie is out of the bottle. In less than a week over 70,000 people have petitioned New York state to change their laws. And over nine million people worldwide have stayed in an Airbnb since it was founded a few years ago.

Airbnb is a game changer for people who have a home and need to use it to supplement their income for various reasons. And Airbnb is a game changer for travelers around the world who want to pay less and get more than a hotel room. I don't think we can put the Airbnb genie back in the bottle at this point. It's out.

So, if you have an idea that is truly disruptive and will make a lot of people uncomfortable and against you, the key is to get it out there as quickly as possible. If you have millions, or ideally tens of millions or hundreds of millions of happy users on your side, the forces that will want to shut you down will be unable to do so. The Genie will be out of the Bottle.

This article was originally published on Fred Wilson's blog, A VC.

IMAGE: dblight/Getty
Last updated: Oct 22, 2013




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