I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Contrary to what many aspiring entrepreneurs believe, the key to a successful startup does not rest upon having a unique, one-of-a-kind idea. Don’t get me wrong. A good idea is a necessary starting point for any new business, but that’s all it is. Ideas are not scarce: they’re commodities. Virtually any idea worth pursuing has already been done. What is rare, on the other hand, is the ability to execute an idea and turn it into a profitable business. That’s why so many startups fail year after year.
So what distinguishes an attractive opportunity from a mere idea? First, opportunities are driven by customer need. The entrepreneur has identified a set of customers who can be served profitably. The economics of the business are favorable, and it has the ability to generate significant cash flows in a relatively short period of time. Second, the opportunity is closely aligned with the entrepreneur’s personal interests and skill set. Third, the entrepreneur is able to leverage proprietary knowledge or relationships to gain a competitive advantage over rivals. Finally, the timing of the opportunity has to be right.