The sacred idea
I admit, I have had many ideas and if I had acted on them when I got them I would probably be rich. Today I heard a dialogue on a podcast that really got to me. "No one buys an idea, they buy an offer". And I would like to explore that sentence a bit.
Guarding the idea
I talk to many young entrepreneurs and they are often scared of sharing their idea. Afraid that someone might steal it. I then try to comfort them that I at least do not have the time to peruse more ideas, I got enough of my own. If you got an idea and go an investor trying to get some money to realize it, you will most likely be rejected. If it is not a damn good idea. But if you do not have a real customer who is willing to pay, your idea is worth nothing. It does not matter how good at math you are, if no one is paying you to keep your idea in your head it is not worth a penny.
But, say you. If someone else finds out they can realize the idea and steal my market. Yes, in theory. But in practice it takes a lot of time and energy to realize a good idea. And you probably have many more ideas surrounding your primary idea that will get lost in translation, so to speak. If you tell me what your idea is, I could not build it like you would. I will get my own version of your idea in my head. And often the same idea occurs to many people at the same time, because the time is ready for that idea to come to life. But not very many people take the time to realize their ideas. Because it is an investment and like all investments it takes resources from other things that we occupy ourselves with.
From idea to product
The question is not if your idea is good or not. It is if you can realize it. How well you realize it and if anyone wants to buy what you are offering. And here we get to the key. If you have an idea and want to turn it into something you can sell you have start by formulating your idea as an offer. What exactly is it you want to deliver and what is the price. Then potential customers can decide on whether it is worth the price or not. If they want to buy, then you have a sense of the value. But let's not end there. A common mistake is to ask if people would buy your product without holding them accountable to it. They might say yes just to be nice to you. You need to get them to make an initial payment or some sort of investment. Now you can move on to the MVP.
Minimum Viable Product
To test your product with an as small investment as possible, start by creating an MVP. What is an MVP? Basically, something that solves the same problem that your final product will solve but using existing tools and products or manual work behind the scenes in order to emulate what your product is doing. If this resonates with your audience you can iteratively improve the MVP until you have your first version of the product. And while doing so you can charge for your MVP to establish value and finance the next version of your product.
A good thing to think about while creating you MVP is what problem your product actually solves and for who. If you know who then you can ask them how they solve their problem today and if your solution might get them to change the way they do things. It is always a good thing to think about your product with the aspect of what problem it solves, because it makes it easyer to explain what the product do in your marketing. It will also help you stay on track during development, so that you do not add features that does not improve the way your product solves it's primary task. The thing is also that the more things your product can do, the harder it is to explain why the customer should buy your product. Focus is the key to success.
Now if you see that there is a market and a demand for your product and your MVP does not finance the next version fast enough you may consider an investor. Now you also run the risk of having your idea stolen. Because now other people can see that there is a market and that it is room for other players. Now, you have a head start so if they want to they have some work to do. But if they have resources they can create an awesome product at scale that might surpass your efforts. Then remember that your customers are buying your idea, and if you deliver they will keep buying from you regardless of your competition. But if you start to chase your competitors you might lose focus and that will surely make you lose your customers. So, keep calm and remember your values and why you do the work you do. As Simon Sinek puts it "People do not buy WHAT you do, but WHY you do it".
When you have been working with your idea for some time and done some iterations with customers you might actually end up with a product that does not match the original idea. And that is also an aspect to consider in all of this. You did some market research and realized that the market wanted something like your idea. But along the way you had to tweak it and perhaps you created a small branch of your product that really took the market with storm and no that little branch has become your primary business.
The thing that creates value is that you do something, not what you do. And even though your product might be good, there are probably many ways to solve the same problem your product solves. That is why people do not buy what you do, but why you do it. Provided you actually do something.