Talk more about your business idea — the benefits outweigh the risks.
Recently, I've been doing just that. Increasing my idea's early feedback surface.
Some people seemed mildly interested. Lukewarm follow-up questions.
Others found that idea to be good. Smiles and head nods.
Some even said:
Wow, I think you've got something there. You shouldn't talk about it so much!
I understand where that comes from. It's pretty human. Maybe evolutive even. We associate potential value with an unrealized idea; then, we covet it. We guard it, thinking that imaginary worth could somehow be stolen from us.
There is some validity to that point. However, like many others, I think you compete on execution more than on idea.
Now, what does execution embed? It is not only flat, measurable capacity like money, employees, funding, velocity, or whatever metric you include. Execution embeds more than that.
Your network, voice, experience, and style — all of this also comes into play. If any unique advantage comes from that stuff, stealing is impossible. So think about sharing your early ideas through a trade-off framework. What will you risk by talking about it?
You will risk being outcompeted by someone with a similar, more qualified network. Someone with more resources and lots of incentives to do the exact same project that you were meant to do. What are the chances of that happening? Guesstimate. Put a number on it. It's low, I'm sure.
Another, more subversive risk lurks beneath positive early validation. That kind of social high-five you get:
Wow that is such a great idea. It's going to be so cool. Kudos, friend! Keep on doing what you do.
Our minds are susceptible to these social accolades. They stroke the ego. And storytellers that we are, we believe we have already achieved something. Patting ourselves on the back as another non-executed idea bites the dust. Then, we… move on.
I've been guilty of that so many times. How can we avoid it?
I'm not sure. By holding ourselves accountable to execution, maybe. Re-framing early validations as what they are: tiny droplets of fuel to do more.
Setting execution milestones? Mapping pride or back pats to these? I would like to have friends or colleagues chip in here.
I still believe speech trumps silence here. The benefits of sharing the idea early are plentiful.
There's a difference between discussing your idea and conducting customer interviews. The former focuses on the general exploration of business potential. The latter focuses on problem/solution discovery.
What are the benefits of talking about your idea?
If you ask the right people, you'll get a bunch of:
Let's leave high-level land now. Before I give you real examples, I need to describe my ongoing project: SaaSpasse. It's threefold.
1. Québec SaaS database
I want to allow SaaS founders to find other startups with similar technologies, growth channels, funding, teams, industry verticals, etc. The goal is to group, categorize, and surface all the SaaS startups in the province of Québec. Have an interactive database with plentiful, clean, searchable data. Why? To connect, network, and learn from one another. Seeing local peers struggle and thrive was always highly motivating for me.
I also want SaaS employees to be more aware of this ecosystem's attractive opportunities. They'll be able to go to the database and search for companies. Example:
Please show me startups close to my home in Sherbrooke that raised a minimum of funding, use technologies I'm fluent in, and let team members work remotely.
In that query, I could be impersonating a frontend developer who's a single dad who needs a flexible schedule to care for his children. The guy's just been laid off from an indie startup that failed to get product-market fit and is now more sensitive to the salary part of compensation. Even though he'll work most of the time remotely, he still wants an office to connect with other adults and colleagues occasionally.
(Fun fact: I had a use case very similar to this one pop up during early "customer" discussions)
The SaaSpasse database will be able to give you that answer. Currently, the database is a prototype, but it's working.
The second component is a podcast where I talk with SaaS founders and key employees. Hopefully, the pod will entertain and educate. We'll shoot the shit around a loose theme. But it will be mostly a fun discussion where we can record and share the types of good talks I had during my career.
The third component of this project will be a monthly event where I gather some SaaS enthusiasts and experts. We'll try to get together to attend helpful talks and just network — increasing the network density in Québec.
I've got like eight ideas on how to monetize this, but I want to move to real examples to support my earlier point for now:
Helpful early feedback examples
Turn this project into a SaaS Academy for Québec (Supplement)
This is a suggestion to make this project more of an educational, formal community with memberships and tiered content. It's interesting. It opens up different ways of monetizing this whole thing. Lots of potential "Intros" were mentioned.
Let users demo listed SaaS without signing up for them (Supplement)
Someone suggested using a nifty software that lets you demo SaaS platforms without going through the onboarding, clicking around, and figuring it out. A platform that enables you to quickly demo other platforms without friction. Great idea. I thanked that person and noted it.
Upsell SaaS with a team retreat management service (Supplement)
Another person pitched this: renting cottages for SaaS-specific team retreats:" Yeah, we could buy a place and then team up and install some hardware in it that is super plug and play for technical teams to come and work during a weekend or week. We could even build a web app. It could let you schedule the dates, pick the cottage, the number of rooms, the food you need, everything, right? Then we could rent that out to different companies."
So we jammed on that idea. I challenged: "Hey, to prove this model, we don't need to buy land and build or buy something. Cottages already exist. We can hook up with either friends or renting companies and take care of the service. Like a Wizard of Oz type of thing where you fill out a form, we have a call with you and say everything will be ready. But we would show up with a van and prepare the cottages before the team arrives, then try to see what works and what doesn't." We could bootstrap that idea using the SaaSpasse community.
This is mid to long-term stuff. Still, it could be an exciting monetization avenue. We'll see.
Fetch and display SaaS funding data from trusted sources (Advice)
The idea is to synchronize with, or somehow scrape, the Crunchbase, AngelList, Pitchbook, etc., and try to feed funding metrics for the Quebec startups I list on SaaSpasse—great idea, noted.
Stop freestyling on monetization (Advice)
I was talking to this founder, pitching a whole lot of stuff. Sharing eight different ways I could make money with this. Attempting to convince him and myself this could be a profitable business.
The guy told me to stop: "Hey, listen, dude, these are all great. There are a lot of unknown risks in these business models, and that's OK. Just give yourself the time and the luxury of being wrong on all of these assumptions, and I'm pretty sure that if you provide a value, you'll find a way to monetize."
Funny — this is the advice I would give early founders I mentor. At that moment, hearing it from another founder I respected was super motivating.
Many other feedbacks emerged through discussing the ideas. Especially the advice, advocacy, and intros types. Not enough challenges, even though there were some. I learned about half a dozen businesses with business models exactly like some monetization avenues I've been considering. Good stuff to study.
Along the way, I'm building a tiny audience by discussing this and sharing the progress in public. Getting people excited or involved. That'll help me with promotion when we launch!
Sometimes I drifted into customer interview territory. I asked non-leading questions without offering (my) solutions.
Many founders told me how painful hiring good people was. There is pain there, whether it's scattered tools, wasted time, sub-optimal processes, or hiring mistakes.
A few employees told me about slight pains in job research, but nothing "hair on fire" level.
I have yet to hear much about the need for connection or community, but these aren't typically problems you experience severely and regularly.
As a reminder to readers: the goal is never to suggest solutions or to prompt people too much. You need to validate if your solution has good product-market fit potential. They need to share how they do things, in what order, how they solve problems, who's involved in decisions, etc.
Through these kinds of open conversations, you determine if they're already solving the problem you want to solve, and if so, how. Then, once you've had that confirmation, try to see under which pricing and timing conditions they'd use your product.
Don't ask about it — sell it, for real. Otherwise, because they like and respect you, many will say, "yes, of course, we'd try it and pay for that ."These are weak signals of validation. Without a written commitment, credit card numbers, or early licenses purchased… no validation. Talk is cheap, as we say. And people like to be nice to people.
Back to SaaSpasse. Apart from discussing the pains of hiring for SaaS, I've had some positive feedback about the broader, more noble mission of giving visibility to the businesses we build here. Yet nobility doesn't pay the bills anymore. We'll see!
The benefits outweigh the risks when it comes to talking about your idea openly.
Follow along for developments on SaaSpasse and any thoughts and tips worth sharing. I will also share the podcast episodes via the newsletter and everything related to SaaSpasse. Keep it real.