You vs. Your Idea – What’s more important?

According to Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator.

What matters is not ideas, but the people who have them. Good people can fix bad ideas, but good ideas can't save bad people.

He goes on to write - “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.

Another sign of how little the initial idea is worth is the number of startups that change their plan en route. Microsoft's original plan was to make money selling programming languages, of all things. Their current business model didn't occur to them until IBM dropped it in their lap five years later.

Ideas for startups are worth something, certainly, but the trouble is, they're not transferrable. They're not something you could hand to someone else to execute. Their value is mainly as starting points: as questions for the people who had them to continue thinking about.


I see this everyday.  People are so worried about their idea being stolen they become paralyzed.  Even worse, they seem to think their idea is worth millions before they ever put any real effort or thought into how it would be made or brought to market or even who would want to buy it.    An angel investor I work with once told me he values great ideas at $0.10  (ten cents).   He invests in people.

I don't mean this post to be all negative.  If you have not read my earlier post on what makes a winning idea/person here is the link:  A patent is not a winning lottery ticket


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