When to Kill your Business Idea

February 14, 2022
Silvan Krähenbühl

"Sometimes the best (and only effective) way to kill an idea is to put it into practice." 

Sydney J. Harris

When we think of the startup world, many restless images come to mind. The anxiety of that first pitch, the hustle of closing deals, hours and hours of programming, interviewing, negotiating. We’re caught in this hurricane of procedures, but often forget the underlying truth: every project is but an abstraction waiting to materialize.

Ideas are the core of every thriving company. Once that eureka moment hits you, you’re thrilled and willing to invest all you’ve got. Everything feels wonderful for as long as it flows — but the real test for a product comes when things backslide. Where did all those strenuous days of designing your MVP, pitching and talking to potential customers go?!

Take it from me: it feels like a huge punch in the gut.

Here’s a little story from my own journey. When I first started developing our caffeine gum, it was intended as an effortless pre-workout treat. That uplifting effect of a cup of joe was all there, but the most important part was missing: the taste was absolutely hideous, because the gum soon grew bitter on your tongue. After sampling and showing that initial product around, the feedback was clear as water: on a scale 0-10, reviews hovered at 2 and 3.

Sure, we could have insisted on that vision. It was perfectly possible to create a new gum from scratch, taking into consideration more sophisticated taste preferences. After all, people liked the concept, just not the outcome. But at what cost? Importing a sweeter product from Eastern Europe soon became unviable, so we decided to finally let go. Honestly, we just didn’t have enough enthusiasm in us to go through the whole process again.

Things worked the opposite way with Gymhopper. Our first model also took a wrong turn, but the key difference here was that we were not discouraged from that first fall. Instead, we decided to take a long break, go from gym to gym asking for honest opinions and adapt as we went. Could our new model adapt to those expectations and needs?

Thankfully, the answer was yes! Those sincere, straightforward comments were our selling point. As soon as we suggested a major app redesign that could solve those demands, gym owners were now more willing to pay for the product.

Key Takeaways

The balance between throwing in the towel once and for all versus pivoting is not easy to find. However, there are strategies you can adopt to reduce the impact:

  • Assess the dimension of the problem at hand. Making a few tweaks here and there is common practice. Reformulating the entire concept is a whole different thing. Do you have (or want to have) the drive for it?
  • Market feedback is the ultimate barometer in valuing your product’s true potential.
  • Passion for your idea will be your north star during tough times. Do some soul-searching: are you motivated enough to find solutions? Solving your own problem is usually the best starting point.
  • No product is perfect from the get-go. But remember: time is limited, and so is your funding margin to keep insisting on something that won’t pan out. If you’re not passionate about it, just let it go.

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