in Startup

In which I present a simple formula to calculate how much an idea is worth.

How much is an idea worth? Most importantly, how much is your startup idea worth? Let us think about the subject using one iconic inventor: Thomas Edison.

Edison is known to be the inventor (among a ton of other stuff) of the electric lamp in 1879. Considering the amount of electric lamps that have been sold since then, imagine you could travel back in time to 1800 and invent the electric lamp. How much would your electric lamp idea be worth?

Thousands? Millions? Billions? Trillions? All the money in the world?

Now it is a good time to introduce the startup idea worth formula:

Idea = zero

“Zero? That’s not possible”, you say. And I retort, “Your idea is 100% worthless. Absolutely nothing, zero, nada, zip.”

Here is why:

Do you know the name Humphry Davy? I did not think so. Mr. Davy was the actual inventor of the electric light, in 1809, 70 years before Edison. And he was not alone, after Humphry Davy, 21 other people “invented” the electric lamp before Thomas Edison.

What the hell?

The difference between those 22 inventors and Edison is that the latter had business acumen and invented the first commercially viable and practical electric light bulb.

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Implementation is the only thing that matters.

We do not need to go back in time, modern examples are abundant: Google was not the first search engine, it was just the best in doing that. Microsoft didn’t invent the graphical OS (and there are lots of arguments that it was not the best graphical OS available either). Apple didn’t invent the mobile phone. China didn’t invent manufacturing. Etc.

Conclusion: lose the NDAs and secrecy, your idea is worthless without proper execution.

“Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
– Thomas Alva Edison

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    • Certainly is part of the equation – a ready market is necessary, you could not sell internet ads in 1982. On the other hand some of those 22 people who “invented” the light bulb were pretty close to Edison in time. So I still believe an idea is worthless (even more so if the market for that idea is not there) and that execution is the only thing that matters.

  1. I agree that ideas are nearly worthless by themselves. The same as your words are nearly worthless if spoken to only your spouse. Your words must be articulated, conveyed, distributed, and discussed. They must grow, be published, and shared, stolen. The problem is that ideas spread in people’s minds like wildfire, good or bad. In our current society, in business, the people without ideas, think its ok to just ask others, like they are communists for ideas, then develop them and sell them like capitalists. CapCom’s