Gotta Startup Idea? Then Read This.

By: Shafeeka Hafeez

Originally published on

Most of our start-up ideas are stillborn. They rarely make it out of our head.

We are caught up in an illusion that everything needs to be perfect — and good enough to disrupt the existing system.

Don’t get me wrong. You need to aim for the moon if you want to land at least on a star. But if you wait for perfection — the perfect website, the perfect crew, the perfect product — to test the waters, you will have to wait forever.

Because none of the “perfect”products that are widely used today looked like that when they first came into the market.

In case you need a reminder… this is how the now-sleek Apple computer looked when it first hit the market.

Ed Uthman CC BY-SA 2.0

The first Google homepage doesn’t look that bad but I wonder if Larry Page had accidentally slept on it. (What’s it with all the exclamation marks anyway?)

Screenshot via

What’s Stopping You?

Probably many things. But everything can be summed up to a few phrases: The fear of failure.

“There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.”

— Oprah Winfrey

  • Amazon’s biggest rival, Alibaba, is Jack Ma’s third company. It took him poverty in the midst of China’s communism, two University exam entrance failures, 30 job rejections and of course — the failure of Alibaba itself- to get there. Also, did I mention that despite founding a tech company, he still struggles with basic Math?
  • Angry Birds, that took the mobile gaming industry by storm, was the 52nd game created by the Finnish startup Rovio. It may look like an overnight success but it took the company 51 unsuccessful games to hit the jackpot.

Your startup idea might truly seem like a failure from the get-go. But the lessons learnt from testing the idea out will prove to be golden when your billion-dollar idea comes into play 10 years down the road.

Besides, didn’t you realize that failure is what made me bring up all these successful stories in the first place? Without failure, your own success story would look plain and boring.

Be Self Aware

Self-awareness must be the word of the 21st century. You probably have heard it more times than your own name.

It’s also the hardest, most difficult to phrase, advice ever.

But here’s the thing. I didn’t know what I was good at either. I still don’t to some extent. I’m still quite young and have a long way to go.

Not having a universal formula for self-awareness doesn’t help either. But all successful people are incredibly self-aware and they’ve achieved it by getting their hands dirty.

Reading about self-awareness won’t work, but putting all your interests to test will.

Love to swim? You can’t decide how good you will be at it by standing on a solid ground.

Love to sing? You gotta sing to some of your favorite songs (not in the shower of course) to know how you truly sound.

Love to play basketball? You need to quit being in the cheering squad and go do the fieldwork to know if you could be the next Jordan.

The key is to figure out what you and your startup team can bring to the table and then go all in.

“Self-awareness is being able to accept your weaknesses while focusing all of your attention on your strengths. The moment you decide to accept your shortcomings and bet entirely on your strengths, things will change. Trust me.” — Gary Vaynerchuk

Don’t Entertain the Idea of Overnight Success

Because you are bound to be disappointed.

When I started writing on Medium a week ago, I had two followers. Now I have twenty. That might not seem like a number at all, but I am happy because it is still a 900% growth.

I didn’t come here to succeed overnight — I came here to put my writing prowess to use while I read for my business degree and work on my start-up. And I won’t entertain the belief that I will wake up to see a million users overnight either. Which makes having even 2 users feel like a big deal.

Because it isa big deal.

“One is bigger than zero.” -Gary Vaynerchuck

The bottom line is — this mindset will help youenjoythe work and cherish every milestone even if you worked 18 hours a day like Gary Vee does. Those who hate on him aren’t getting his point, really. He is not a workaholic who works on worklike we do. He works on a hobby and finds joy in it.

Don’t Listen To Naysayers

Just don’t, please.

Because all naysayers have one thing in common: Nothing.

They either belong to the group that has achieved nothing, or to the group that complains about how the sky is too blue.

They are a miserable bunch and they want you to be miserable too.

The worst part? You will find them in every corner.

  • Rule number 1 — Block / mute them on social media. Don’t consume their content. If possible, avoid them like the plague.
  • Rule number 2 — If you can’t apply rule number 1 to naysayers in your family, try to minimize your interactions with them. More importantly, keep your ideas to yourself and brush their unsolicited advice aside — politely.

Telling a naysayer apart from someone who truly wants to see you grow could be a tough call.

Because you need criticism to improve your product idea. But it needs to be constructive, not discouraging.

If you find it hard to draw the line, notice whether their presence makes you feel like a deflated balloon.

If they feel like energy vampires, chances are, they’re a naysayer.

Then scroll up and follow rule number 1.

Be Prepared to Sacrifice

“To get GoPro started, I moved back in with my parents and went to work seven days a week, 20 hours a day. I wrote off my personal life to make headway on it. “— Nick Woodman

It’s like this. The bigger the idea is, the longer the list of things you will have to sacrifice to attain it.

In other words:

The bigger the sacrifice, the greater the reward.

You can’t have it both ways — and you might have to learn to accept it early on.

Give up on a couple of friends, parties, family gatherings, and meetups that won’t bring any lasting value.

And rethink how to strike a balance between work and life.

Either way, sacrifices will be inevitable.

“If you want something special, it should be hard.” — Gary Vaynerchuk

Or you can follow the crowd, and party on the weekends.

But sacrifice your startup instead.

It’s your call after all.

Final Words

Be serious about your idea — but don’t take it serious like your life depends on it.

This way, even when failures knock you down to the ground, you won’t just lay there.

But stand up stronger.

And eventually learn to be resilient even in the face of adversity.

P.S. I wrote this mostly for myself but I hope you find it useful too 🙂