Startup building blocks: the idea

Ten strategic building blocks for a startup seemed a simple blog topic when I started writing, but it soon became apparent how much I could write about each of the ten.

Each building block is therefore worth a column of its own.

The first is the idea. The idea is where a business all starts, so it's philosophical in nature. 

According to PayPal founder Max Levchin, being an entrepreneur is not about being in love with an idea, it's about being in love with running a company. 

Having run different companies for over a decade, I agree with this statement to some extent.

By loving what you do, you get yourself into the right state to execute your idea. However, when you run into trouble and you don't know what to do, it's often the idea that pulls you through.

This experience has shown me that ideas are vulnerable - they're perishable goods.

Great ideas have the potential to rise above the noise, but not every idea is a good idea.

Learning which are those special ideas that are worth developing, while letting others pass, requires a great deal of practice and skill.

People who have already succeeded often forget this and think, 'ideas are overrated - it's all about the execution.'

My experience tells me this is not entirely true. If ideas are so easy, why don't we have more great ones? And why is it that every large corporation or government is putting together thinktanks to create an environment in which new ideas can be developed, and innovation fostered?

Ideas deserve respect and responsibility

Treating ideas with respect and making them real is the first principle of keeping the source of ideas open and flowing. 

Without an idea, there is no starting point. Without an intriguing and ambitious idea, it is hard to build a vision around it, find a co-founder and a team to execute the vision, turn the idea into a product and come up with a convincing story for investors or clients about why the market needs this product now.

Ideas are the spark, but the average time required from founding a company to successful exit is around 10 years.

The dangers of ideas

1. Not being able to separate the good ones from the bad ones. Vision and execution are equally as important as the circumstances under which an idea is presented to the world.

2. It is not always the person who has the idea who commercialises it. Inventors are often better off finding a partner to take the product to market, license their technology and even to turn the invention into a sellable product.

3. Not every idea is possible. The most ambitious ideas usually have high barriers to success.

What can you take from all this if you're trying to turn your idea into a startup?

Ultimately, every idea has its time: if you try to build a business with a great idea and great product at the wrong time, it simply won't work.

Similarly, you can have a moderately good product, but if the idea hits the 'zeitgeist', it can become a big success. 

Toby Ruckert is a serial entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Unified Inbox. He blogs at