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Do You Have Too Many Startup Ideas?

    The stereotypical founder is seen as someone with a single highly focused startup idea and vision. But, that is not always true.

    Recently, I was reminded of this when I talked with a startup founder who was trying to choose between four startup ideas. Here’s the process I shared with her for choosing where to start.

    Four criteria are important.

    1. How passionate are you about the idea? When you think about it, is this the kind of business that you want to do for years? Or just it just a clever thought about how to make money, one that you don’t really look forward to doing. Will doing the business give you joy or seem like drudgery?
    2. Do you have the skills and resources you need to make the product and run the business? If not, do you have a team that does? Are they already on board and willing to work with you? In other words, is this idea doable for you – or will you have to scramble to find a way to make it happen?
    3. How connected are you already to your target market? Do you already know people who buy this sort of product? Or do you not even know where to find them?
    4. Financially, is the idea attractive? Can you start it without millions of investment and years of development? Does it have great profit margin, clear repeat business, low customer acquisition cost, multiple products, or other financial advantages? If you are thinking the idea is a scalable one that could involve professional investors, is the market large enough to provide them a return?

    At this point, many would simply score each idea on each question, total the scores, and select the top one. I think there’s a much better way. The idea is simple. Remove poor ideas until the only ones remaining are all relatively good. Then pick one.

    Score each idea for passion. Be simple in your scoring – 1 to 4 or 1 to 10 – and don’t agonize over the score. Cross off the ideas with low scores. Even if something is doable and financially sound, if you aren’t passionate about it, it won’t be sustainable for you.

    Next, go down the criteria list one at a time, score the remaining ideas, and lop off the low ones. Any idea that receives a really low score for any criteria will cause you problems. What remains is your short list of the best ideas. Even if your original list was huge, by now you should have a relatively small group of ideas.

    Next, rescore the short list of best ideas. Even if they all scored the highest score during the first scoring, here you are comparing their relative scores. Are you more or less passionate (or skilled, connected, or financially optimistic) about each of the remaining ideas? Remove any that have at least one extremely low score. What remain are all relatively good ideas.

    Now it’s time to quit using scores. By now, you probably have a sense for the idea you like best and want to do first. Don’t go by score, just pick the one that feels right. And start!

    Oh, and put the other short list ideas aside for later.