Your ideas are worthless

The concept of ideas and more importantly ownership of ideas has popped up many times in my life over the past few months. A few months ago I was probably in the camp that was all about protecting your ideas, and thinking that the idea itself was a large part of the value. I’ve got a load of ideas written down all over the place, some are even in various states of progression, and in the past felt the need to keep some of them in a fairly secretive sort of a state.

Not anymore. I’m coming around to the view that ideas are pretty much worthless.

Last week a friend of mine told me she had an idea for an iPhone app, and possibly got a little offended when I slipped and responded “Doesn’t everyone?”. It’s not that I wasn’t interested in hearing more about her idea, or even potentially working on it with her, but it was more the point that simply having had an idea doesn’t represent any sort of progress or cause for celebration.

Whether you agree or disagree, here’s a few interesting excerpts from some links which I found to be interesting reading.

Forming a new software startup, how do I allocate ownership fairly links to a reply from Joel Spolsky on It contains a lot of interesting information aimed at allocation of ownership for startups, but one of the more interesting points was:

Shouldn't I get more equity because it was my idea? No. Ideas are pretty much worthless. It is not worth the arguments it would cause to pay someone in equity for an idea. If one of you had the idea but you both quit your jobs and started working at the same time, you should both get the same amount of equity. Working on the company is what causes value, not thinking up some crazy invention in the shower.

Next, we have 5 Ideas For Your Next Startup is just that – some ideas for startups, posted publically and freely. There’s nothing like someone “giving away” ideas as proof that the idea no longer needs to be protected and hidden away – read the introduction paragraph:

It feels like every week that I read some post on Hacker News or some random blog post extolling the virtues of free love with our ideas. People say that ideas are cheap, it's execution that matters. They say that nobody is interested in stealing your crappy idea. And if your idea is worth anything, you will have to shove it down peoples throats.


I think that ideas are floating around in the collective unconscious, and it is rare that you are ever the first or last to think of something. Consumers are fickle, markets fluctuate, and ideas are always floating around, waiting for the proper execution. With that in mind, here are 5 ideas to add to the pool.


Finally, one I don’t have a link for, but is something I’ve read about countless times in the context of new business ideas, startups and product ideas in general, and that’s the popularity of the business model of taking something that already exists and simply making a better version of it. In some ways the thinking there is the same, except rather than dealing with an unproven idea you’re working with a proven one.

So, got an idea? Great work, but don’t let it end there – get out there and do something with it!

Posted on Thursday, March 29, 2012 3:59 PM |

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  • # re: Your ideas are worthless
    Commented on 3/30/2012 12:24 AM

    I have to agree. I have lots of ideas. I even think a few of them are really good but until I can find the time to develop these ideas into real products they are worthless. Who knows maybe they will still be worthless even if they are developed into products :)

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