Three ideas from Derek Sivers

Derek Sivers is an amazing musician, entrepreneur and programmer. I came across his blog a couple of years ago and avidly went through his articles.

Here’s a brief outline of three ideas of Derek that I find refreshing and useful, particularly if you’re starting a web startup.

Ideas are a multiple of execution

It doesn’t matter how much you believe in the world-changing prospects of your startup idea: if you don’t act upon it, it isn’t worth anything. Of course, ideas are essential and without new ideas, nothing new will arise. But also as important, nothing will arise from an idea that’s not executed.

The great idea is wildly overrated, and everyone who has put startup ideas into practice will tell you exactly this. But Derek says it better than anyone.

I’ve fallen prey to this trap many times. What I found works for me is to get very excited about an idea, and at the same time work on launching an initial version of its execution. Which leads me to…

That’s version ∞. First launch version 0.1.

Take your current feature list for your new startup. Slash it by 90%. Choose only one or two points, reduce them to their minimal expression. And launch your application!

If you wait to develop your entire list of specs before launching, you risk two things: a) running out of money before launching something useful; b) focusing on the wrong features or executing them badly because of lack of user feedback.

I must confess that I’m preaching here what I don’t practice. I have an open source project which is half done (and which I routinely use for programming) which I haven’t launched yet. So do as I say, not as I do, and launch the damn thing already.

Business is not necessarily about money

Making a business can be about much more than just making money. You can start a business to create something useful, to bring about change, to free yourself from the office, to make people happy… Of course, a business must make money, but that is not necessarily the variable you should maximize.

As long as your business is profitable, you may well choose to develop other things in your business apart from profitability. So money becomes the means of your startup, rather than the end.

Although this idea is not for everyone, I find it highly inspiring.