How to Know When a Business Idea Is Worth Pursuing
There's a stat that every entrepreneur has heard at least once -- nine out of 10 business ideas will fail.
Entrepreneurship is a gamble. And with the chips stacked against you, it's difficult to know whether an idea has possibilities. I've taken the leap four times, each time just as much of a roller coaster as the last. These experiences have taught me a valuable lesson: It's not just about finding a good idea; it's finding an idea worth pursuing.
But, finding that idea, and building a company with that idea in mind, is always a struggle. It almost has to be that way.
For me, I found my idea in 2008 when I was president of Epsilon's Interactive Services, a marketing services company. I saw the meteoric rise of social and realized it was just like the email revolution, and would change everything for businesses. I knew that whatever consumers wanted to embrace, businesses had to embrace, too. So, I went home and told my wife that we needed to start another company. This was the beginning of the social media management platform, Sprinklr.
The first two years at Sprinklr were intense. Work had no end. Sometimes, my wife and I would work until 7 a.m., then we'd have to drop our kids off at school 45 minutes later. We struggled -- not because we had to, but because we felt compelled to put everything into Sprinklr. Because it was worth the sacrifice. I found that brilliant idea, and I poured my heart into it.
For entrepreneurs wondering if you have a clever idea or a worthwhile investment -- there are three important criteria to keep in mind.
1. It's an idea whose time has come.
Victor Hugo once said, "You can resist an invading army, but you cannot resist an idea whose time has come." The emphasis there, if you're an entrepreneur, is the timing. An idea is a powerful seed, but it can only flourish at the right moment in time.
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In 2009, many companies were resistant and skeptical toward social. Nevertheless, I could see a new world unfolding -- one in which global organizations connected on a personal level with their customers. I started Sprinklr knowing that we were three years ahead of the enterprise social market. Doing so gave us enough time to expand into and dominate the industry. Had I pursued Sprinklr too early, we would have struggled to find adoption. Too late and we would have been perpetually three steps behind our competitors.
2. You're willing to suffer for it.
You know when an idea is worth pursuing if you're willing to give up the prime years of your life for it. To spend a decade on a startup you don't love or you don't feel optimistic about is a brutal thought. You can make your money back, but that time is forever gone.
I started Sprinklr when I was 36, which meant I had more experience but also a lot more at risk. Sprinklr had to be different for me to do it all over again -- to put my family through it again. Don't go after a dream unless you are willing to put in the late nights, sacrifice your weekends and chase that dream to the ends of the earth.
3. Finally, it has the potential to be loved.
Apple is yet another company that makes personal computers and phones. Starbucks sells a beverage that literally anyone else can make. Except that they aren't like everyone else. What sets these category-defining companies apart is how they treat their customers. They foster a sense of community. They give people a reason to be loyal. They go out of their way to create experiences worthy of being loved.
Sprinklr was built by putting the happiness of our customers above all else. From Day One, we've made customers our singular focus. We let their needs define how we could serve them. And whenever they had a problem, that problem belonged to every one of us. In the same vein, what will make your company successful, at the end of the day, is not the product or the idea -- but rather the passion, dedication and delicate care driving both.