Startup? Why Your Idea Is Worth Nothing

2Cellos: two young guys using their cellos to play modern songs. And they do it so well, and in such a creative way, that they can mobilise thousands of people to come along and enjoy their concerts.


Now in their early thirties, these guys have been optimising their cello playing for the last 20 years to reach a mastery which is pretty difficult to copy. They’ve spent thousands of hours practising the cello to reach this level of perfection. Such intense dedication makes achievements like this possible.

Yes, execution is still king

“Entrepreneurs struggle to differentiate between idea and execution. They think ideas are worth millions, when success is never about the idea but about execution.”

These are the words of M.J. DeMarco, in my opinion the writer of one of the best business books ever: “The Millionaire Fastlane“. In it he separates business growth into different levels, and yes, execution is still the king. It’s the reason why Facebook and Google became the dominant leaders in markets already filled by others.

DeMarco describes the number of levels in terms of their importance:

  • The King: Your execution
  • The Queen: Your marketing
  • The Bishop: Your customer service
  • The Knight: Your product
  • The Rook: Your people
  • The Pawn: Your ideas

And yet I still meet people who are paranoid that their idea will be stolen. The company hasn’t even started yet and there they are with an NDA. So no, I’m not going to sign your NDA.

Now, if you have an idea which can be used and implemented right away, it might be an idea for a very low-entry product. People can be obsessed by the idea but they don’t think about the hard work it requires to create a viable business.

It’s the execution that takes sacrifice, effort, discipline and tonnes of persistence; ideas are nothing more than a commodity. Or to put it in M.J.’s words: “An idea is neurological flatulence. Great execution makes it smell like a rose.”

Company Foundership

This brings us to the theme of ‘company foundership.’ In a start-up, what’s the difference between the founder and an employee?



At the very start, you begin at zero. There might be one or more ideas, a company name, one or more start-up entrepreneurs, or maybe nothing more than a new VAT number. But don’t think your idea will last very long. How many entrepreneurs can say that they fully executed their initial idea? Close to zero I’m afraid. Ideas are fine tuned along the path of execution.

So let’s start aiming for a revenue-generating viable company, creating value for customers with a team of one or more employees. And call this “One”.

Don’t overestimate yourself; the road from zero to one will be much longer than you expect. It will take years to get to that point and the probability of ever getting there is much closer to zero than 100.

Together with your co-founders, taking the company to that point will take years of product building, customer development, pivoting, rebuilding, investor pitching, team building and a lot of arguments, induced by uncertainty, and sweat. This zero-to-one process is called ‘execution’ and the difference between average or good and very good execution is usually also the difference between failure and success.

Your execution will never be perfect, but you started, you keep experimenting and adapting. That’s what counts. So let’s hope that the market embraces your product of service. How we do that is for another blog post.

So there is no better business school than starting to execute your ideas. Whether you meet with failure or success, taking this road will bring you excitement, knowledge and personal development along the way.

If you want to discuss this, feel free to message me.
Or add me on LinkedIn,