How many times have we heard from the tech world that ideas are worthless, that only the application of ideas has value? This commonly held Silicon Valley belief – that ideas are insignificant compared to execution – is, pardon my language, Scoble slobber. Yet, this mistaken belief drives the Web. Moreover, it self-servingly puts all the power in very few, non-diverse hands.
Wall Street: old white males.
Silicon Valley: young white males.
You can’t be offended by one and happy with the other.
Yes, application is vital. More than vital. But you can’t apply something that doesn’t first exist: the idea. Poor ideas remain poor even when executed well. The most stellar engineers can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
The opposite is also true. Good ideas are hard to keep down, no matter what. Twitter wasn’t executed particularly well, to which the Fail Whale testifies, yet Twitter is flourishing because at its core was a good idea.
Good ideas are just as essential as good execution. And as “execution” moves closer and closer to becoming a commodity thanks to the Open Source movement that has made “patent” and “proprietary” dirty words and developers interchangeable and expendable, someday soon, the only wealth creation advantage for any Internet product will be the idea itself.
Problem #1 – Silicon Valley’s inability to judge if an idea is truly good or not
How many times have we heard venture capitalists say that in order for them to consider your project, you need to get something launched and prove traction? What is this demand if not an admission that they don’t have a clue if your idea is solid or not? Yes, you can choose to believe that they are testing your execution abilities, but your programming skills could be confirmed by simply pointing to other projects you’ve already completed. What they really want to know is whether or not people will desire what you develop.
That’s what traction is, of course: confirmation of the idea.
Silicon Valley’s “let’s throw ideas against the wall to see what sticks” approach is extremely wasteful of time, talent and money. It also limits executed ideas to those of mostly young (limited life experience), mostly left-brained (limited creativity) mostly males (limited accommodation).
VC firms have technical expertise to judge the technology, but as everything becomes open source and non-patentable, this analysis is less critical. The Social Web has taken over and social science can no longer be ignored. VC firms should hire or contract with people who can judge ideas from a human adoption standpoint. This means people with expertise in anthropology, sociology and trend forecasting.
Problem #2 – Silicon Valley’s sexism
“Sexism” is a word I very seldom use and certainly do not brandish carelessly. Neither do I mean it on an individual basis. These days most men aren’t ignorant-based bigots against women. But Silicon Valley and the Web itself are extremely “institutionally sexist” given the fact that the vast majority of VCs, technologists, and tech reporters/bloggers are male. Even as women are now online in greater numbers than men, female ideas and wants and desires largely go unexecuted.
Elevating anthropology and sociology to the same plane as technology as suggested above will naturally bring in more women, but more needs to be done.
Investors should actively seek out ideas not just from women, but also from other groups that aren’t now being included in VC’s ponder piles, like older folks and racial minorities.
“If you could build the world’s best Internet experience, what would it be like?” Ask that question, sift through the business plans, verify that the result would be desirable to large numbers and THEN go get the technical talent that it takes to execute.
Why is that so hard to fathom?
Ideas may be a dime a dozen but GOOD ideas can be worth millions. Even billions. Open up who can offer business plans, get diverse experts to help review them from a people-perspective as well as tech-perspective – so you can stop the absurdity of “build this first and then maybe we’ll give you the money to build this” – and you’re bound to find some great ideas that can be executed. And I’ll bet most will include monetization plans, too!
Either that or we can just stay stuck in the poverty of Web 2.0 until Scoble runs out of slobber for yet another social network by yet another young white geek male. SIGH
PS: Before anybody accuses me of geek bashing, I love geeks. My late husband was a geek who worked for Intel. How could we live without you guys? I wouldn’t want to try. But it takes all kinds to make the world go round, and it is the Worldwide Web, after all.
The Internet should reflect everybody. And until it does “open” is closed. That’s all I’m saying.