The Fallacy of the Great Idea

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Many entrepreneurs feel that they cannot start a business without a great idea. Without one they believe it will be impossible to be successful as someone else will have cornered the market first. Only by venturing into uncharted territory can they achieve their dreams. This is the fallacy of the great idea.

In truth, most ‘great ideas’ will never make their investors a penny. True, some companies have made billions from a unique product, but close inspection of many world beating businesses reveals that their unique selling point is hard to pin down. Can anyone honestly tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi? And at the end of the day, McDonalds and Burger King both sell burgers.

The simple truth is that it is perfectly possible to create a thriving business without a big idea. In fact starting up with a tried and tested idea is very sensible. Entrepreneurs should not be embarrassed by not having a claim to be original. The real key to success is focus and brilliant execution.

Thanks to Felix Dennis for the inspiration.


  1. AJ says:

    I agree but McDonalds and Coca-Cola are not good examples. They are both originals.
    Unless you also explain that McDonalds was made into a chain by Roy Kroc who saw the first McDonalds restaurant liked the idea that the McDonalds brothers had and franchised it to other people.

    Wal-Mart was a copy / clone of Kmart (but both started in 1962 as did Target, Aldi and Carrefour).

  2. Trev

    Good work.

    1 – totally agree and it was one of the fundamental learnings of my early years in VC. Peeps can make money out of anything and the “I have to rule the world with the new Facebook” attitude is actually highly disencouraging. Team, plan, operations, strategy are the key. As you know.

    2 – Also, Felix Dennis’ book, whilst having an embarrassing title to be seen reading (and there’s a reason why he gave it that blunt title), is absolutely brilliant. The only “how to get rich” book (as opposed to “get rich quick” book) written by someone who knows what they’re talking about. When I read it about 2 years ago, I’d guess I knew (there’s a lot of common sense in there + stuff you’d learn by doing) but it’s just a great book for any entrepreneur. The only must read that I’d recommend to anyone thinking about starting their own business in fact.

    Good stuff.

  3. trevor says:

    Will – Thanks for the comment. I liked Mr Dennis’ book, but I would have preferred it if he hadn’t felt the need to put a quote on every page, Sloppy writing I feel. Felix, we already know you are a clever bloke, there is not need to prove it anymore.

    AJ – Fair comment about Ray Kroc, he was an innovator.

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