The other day a friend was demoing a new app he was working on. My first reaction was: “Yeah, yeah. This is nicely executed version one of those ideas I’ve seen 50 times.” My second reaction was: “But I could say that about pretty much every successful startup I’ve seen over the last 10 years.”
Most of the time, important new ideas don’t succeed on the first attempt or even the first ten attempts. But then they do, and it seems to happen suddenly. It’s hard to tell why this is. It’s probably a combination of timing (riding some fundamental shift in technology or culture), and execution (getting the product just right).
An idea getting tried over and over tends to be a positive signal (which is one reason that competition is overrated). It’s very easy when you spend lots of time around startups to get cynical. You could tweet and blog predictions that every new startup will fail and how the ideas are derivative and you’d be right 95% of the time. The hard part – and what matters for founders and investors – is figuring out the right mix of timing and execution to finally get it right.