Ruthless Editing of Startup Ideas

A few thoughts on photography and business…

I see a lot of photos pass by my Facebook stream. Some photographers constantly upload good images and you start to follow them with interest – and then, a few times in a row they upload big (100+) batches of photos which are fairly good with a few gems scattered in between, but you feel yourself getting bored clicking through them.

I like taking photos – I have a camera that weighs enough to exercise my squash playing grip fairly well by shooting for an hour. A long time ago I used to publish about 80 photos after an event I was shooting. When asking for feedback I’d get “Nice, but you can edit a bit better.”

I did not really get it at the time but, but “edit a bit better” actually means: “ruthlessly delete all the crap and only show me the 20 best photos”.

So now, I often take 200 photos in order to publish just 20. (I’ll keep about 50 in total).

Seems obvious right? Yes, but photographers get all sentimental about the photos they take. It’s so easy to keep them and publish them, so we end up with people publishing a lot of crap.

I’m sharing this story because I realised that: I’m good at ruthlessly deleting my photos – but not my business ideas.

I think it’s important to keep notes of all your business and product ideas and I think it’s good for innovation that some people are stubborn and cling to ideas. This lets them spot an opportunity when an idea is ready to be combined with another. It’s also good to be able to quickly test ideas and have a bag full of ideas if you need to pivot, but don’t get to attached to your ideas.

Our startup Gust Pay has tested a number of ideas this year. Some are seeing good traction, some not so much. We’ve been re-using parts of the technology we built to explore different ideas and business models. Right now our cashless events and ticketing product is seeing the most traction. As a result we recently parked most of our other ideas to focus on our events business.

In summary: startup founders should constantly gather and file ideas (stick them in the company wiki) and continually see which ideas fit or have become possible since they last entertained them, but be ruthless and focused when you build your main product.