The Idea Maze

Delusion, possibilities and pathways

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She fill my mind up with ideas (Straight up)
I'm the highest in the room (I'm the highest, it's lit)
Hope I make it outta here

- ‘Highest in the Room’ by Travis Scott

I have always wanted to create my own startup. For all of my working life I have had the desire to set up my own business and see how far I could take it.

This desire is what makes me a terrible employee. I should point out that I am great at my job, just not very good at being told what to do!

I have a box of files at home with all of the ideas that I have pursued to some extent over the years. It includes ideas such as:

  • Entrepreneurship summer courses for kids (haven’t progressed but would like to someday)

  • Music School (ran this one for 2 years & it did pretty well)

  • Online marketplace for 2nd hand designer baby equipment (difficult to scale, stuck to buying/selling on other sites)

  • Platform for rating & engaging professional services providers such as lawyers, accountants, etc (took this pretty far, still think there is an opportunity here)

  • Data mining tool for better reaching voters (took this one pretty far until Facebook ruined everything!)

  • VC fund targeting early-stage startups (haven’t given up on this one yet!)

I have progressed each to some degree and have learned a huge amount in the process.

The learning alone has been worth the effort and gave me a great insight into ‘ideas’.

In my job, I must look at approximately 100+ ideas every year.

The rose-tinted view of startups is that all you need to do is come up with the next great idea and the path to success is guaranteed.

How hard could it be!?

This view neglects the years of struggle that entrepreneurs endure and the fact that most companies take years to become an ‘overnight success’.

It also neglects the fact that the majority of startups pivot over time, often dramatically, and often don’t resemble the initial idea.

The counter-response to the pop culture misconception comes from the startup community, where the motto is to say things like “execution is everything” and “ideas don’t matter”.

The truth is that ideas do matter, just not in the narrow sense that they are usually defined.

It is much better to think of the idea like a maze.

maze is defined as a network of paths and hedges designed as a puzzle through which one has to find a way.

The word “maze” dates from the 13th century and comes from the Middle English word mæs, denoting delirium or delusion. (The key word here being delusion!!)

A maze is filled with dead ends and the idea is to get lost a few times before figuring out the terrain and finding your way.

Why Should You Care?

A good startup idea is a well developed, multi-year plan that follows and considers many possible paths before eventually finding the way.

When starting out, it’s impossible to completely map out all of the pathways that make up your idea maze.

But there are some places you can look for inspiration:

  1. History - almost all good ideas have been tried before. Look at what was tried previously and figure out what the previous attempts did right and wrong. A lot of this knowledge exists in public or you might have to go straight to the source

  2. Analogy - you can also build your maze by comparing to a similar business. If you are building a “peer economy” company it can be useful to look at what Airbnb did right. If you are building a marketplace you should understand eBay’s beginnings, etc.

  3. Theory/Research - there are mountains of historical data available on startups and sorting through this data can give you some great insight. The research or theory can come from academia but also from investors and entrepreneurs on blogs/newsletters, etc.

  4. Experience - many good startup founders figure out their idea maze through direct experience, often from previous roles.

  5. Competition - other startups in your space can act as validation that you are on the right pathway and can give you live information on the route you are taking.

It will be impossible to completely map out the pathways and know the right steps to take as you navigate your idea maze.

The above points should hopefully give you some guidance so that you don’t waste years going down the wrong path.

Good luck on your journey!

Tell me why I’m wrong…

- Eoin

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Left Field

How do I describe ‘Left Field’? It’s a place to put the content (newsletters/articles, etc) that we have amassed over recent weeks or previous years that really make us think or change our thinking on a particular topic. All the content will offer an alternative view of some topic in financial services, technology or sport (or a combination of all three!)

Most Likely to Succeed

Another fascinating article from one of my favourite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, on the challenge of trying to hire someone when you don’t know if they are right for the job.

Anyway, I won’t give away too much. Enjoy the article and feel free to get in touch to discuss more!

- Eoin


Can’t Sleep?

MoneyNeverSleeps podcast episode from this week:

Book Recommendation: Highly recommend checking out ‘A Promised Land’ by Barack Obama. It is a fascinating, and highly detailed, account of his journey from Senator to President..and it’s only Part 1!!

Newsletter/Blog Recommendation: I highly recommend ‘Epsilon Theory’ by Ben Hunt, which is an absolutely fascinating newsletter and website that examines markets through the lenses of game theory and history.


This newsletter has been written by Eoin Fitzgerald and Pete Townsend

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