Ideas are worthless!!! What entrepreneurs can learn from hip hop artists.

In the brilliant words of venture capitalist Paul Graham (of Y Combinator fame):

A lot of would-be startup founders think the key to the whole process is the initial idea, and from that point all you have to do is execute. Venture capitalists know better. If you go to VC firms with a brilliant idea that you’ll tell them about if they sign a nondisclosure agreement, most will tell you to get lost. That shows how much a mere idea is worth. The market price is less than the inconvenience of signing an NDA.

Some of you may remember viral video of Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer running on the stage during keynote at a software developers conference in a sweat-drenched shirt yelling his heart out “Developers! Developers! Developers!”. I bet he remembered all those failures where ideas of mighty Microsoft failed to gain market traction. Anyone remembers Microsoft Bob? As you watch this short video of Steve Ballmer, in your mind change his words to “Paying customers! Paying customers! Paying customers!” Key to your idea being anything more than just another worthless filing in the USPTO are paying customers. Better yet, paying customers who evangelize your product.

Though hip hop is not on my playlist, I have always admired how some hip hop artists like Master P, Jay Z, and numerous others who took their ideas and hustled. In case of many, they already had street sales of CDs to talk about when they knocked on the doors of the record labels (the VCs of the entertainment industry). Those artists were able to get better record deals, because they had a track record of sales.

Business plans are mostly waste of time and money. I usually jump to the operating plan (and rarely find it) and the marketing plan. Those are the section you really need, the rest of the business plan usually is a waste. Most numbers are pipe dreams, research too broad, and needless self-congratulatory back slapping takes the rest of the realestate. Scrape together seed capital and get working! If you, your friends, or your family will not invest in you, why should VCs waste their money? Capital for ideas is like dating from the prospective of men – no one looks at you, when you are single. But if there is a lady who thinks you are worth her time, out of the sudden you are desirable to others.

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