Why Successful Entrepreneurs Reject Great Product Ideas

How to kill an idea before it kills your company

Joe Procopio

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“Hey! I’ve got this really great idea for you.”

It’s those two words at the end of that sentence — “for you” — for your company, for your product, for your business. Those two words can spark a mighty cringe in anyone who has ever built something.

Don’t get me wrong. When you’re an entrepreneur, you need every great idea you can muster. You want to drink ideas out of a firehose, because you never know where the next great product or feature or improvement is going to come from.

But you also need a filter — a very fine, very strong filter — to separate ideas that are great on paper from ideas that turn into expensive failures that damage reputations, morale, and bottom lines.

In over 20 years building products and running startups, I’ve rejected some really great ideas. I’ve also had some of my best ideas rejected by people who, as it turns out, were smarter than me.

Rejecting ideas is a necessary skill, and one you’ve got to be confident about. Otherwise you could find yourself picking up pieces of what, on paper anyway, was such a sure thing.

The “killer” idea

We’ve all been on the other end of someone else’s killer idea becoming reality, where we’re one of a small minority, maybe the only person, convinced that the killer idea is actually going to kill the company. Or at least hurt it badly.

Maybe we weren’t in a position to speak up at the time. But what if we were? What if we are now?

Do you have the experience, the skill, and the straight up fortitude to kill a great idea before it kills your company?

I’m not talking about bad ideas, like a bathtub full of mayonnaise. I’m talking about great ideas, an idea that everyone around you thinks might be comparable to the invention of fire.

Anyone — and I mean anyone — can spot a good idea. Bandwagons and mobs are pretty easy to join. Not everyone can walk into the party and turn off the music.

You need justification, because there are quite a few ways a great idea can turn into a terrible…

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Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com