A big part of being a founder is taking a leap of faith: believing in yourself and your idea beyond rational argument. But there are a number of mantras we tell ourselves that may push us into delusion and cause us to embark upon business ideas that cost us our livelihoods (and our sanity). Here are examples of delusion I've created for myself while getting excited over business ideas (and why they are flawed). This is also a good list to keep in mind if you're pitching to experienced investors... as these justifications will probably raise red flags.

  1. I've thought of something that has never been done before (it has been done before, you just haven't found it; do more research!)
  2. As a fresh outsider to an industry, I've thought of an opportunity the insiders are too blind to see (when you enter the industry, you will discover all the forces that hinder your idea; get ready to pivot!)
  3. My app will look better than the old crap that's out there (unless you are a ux designer, this is highly unlikely; plus, the existing player could just update their CSS and you've lost your competitive edge)
  4. My app will be more full-featured than the current apps (it's hard to succinctly pitch multiple features; it's hard to build a loyal base of initial zealots around multiple features; you'll end up spending so much money developing all the features ahead of launch that you'll run out of cash for your customer acquisition)
  5. Everyone I speak to loves the idea (everyone you speak to doesn't want to offend you; saying your idea is great is different than putting down a credit card and actually paying for your service)
  6. My concept is so complex that it will take someone years to replicate (then it will take you more years to build)
  7. I am personally more driven than anyone else (welcome to the founder's club)

There are certainly notable examples for each of these that actually worked out. For example, Slack is an enterprise and SMB messaging app that doesn't really have any one killer feature but makes internal chatting generally more productive. They very successfully broke the mold for #4 above... but the founder Stewart Butterfield was also the a co-founder of Flickr... so there's that. Before leaving your full time job and going down the rabbit hole, take a minute to reflect on what drives the successful outcome of your idea. If you have a solid understanding of the market you're entering and a strategy for acquiring your initial customers, then by all means take that leap of faith. Just make sure your faith is not founded on the principles laid out above.

Published on: Oct 14, 2015