When to Kill an Idea and Move On

Not all startup ideas work. In fact, most don’t. One of the more difficult things to do is to quickly determine if an idea isn’t going to work and to kill it. Almost always, entrepreneurs wait too long to admit failure and give up. In my post mortem on a failed product, I share a number of mistakes that I made. Of course, I waited at least six months too long to shut down the product.

Here are a few indicators that it’s time to kill an idea and move on:

  • Repeated customer discovery interviews with no product interest
  • Prospect needs are too inconsistent resulting in no way to productize an offering
  • Personal passion and interest has seriously waned
  • Product value is treated too much as a nice-to-have instead of must-have

It’s never easy to admit an idea is no longer worth pursuing but each experience provides an opportunity to learn and grow. Most ideas won’t work and it’s critical to find out as soon as possible.

What else? What are some other indicators that it’s time to kill an idea and move on?

2 thoughts on “When to Kill an Idea and Move On

  1. In my most spectacular VC investing failure, the “STOP!” signal was when our Fortune 50 exclusive channel partner, for unrelated reasons, exited the entire business sector we were in. Our entire go-to-market strategy was built around them. Heck, their logo was carved into the injection-molding tools for our plastic housings! Suddenly, Plan A was kaput and we didn’t have a Plan B. That’s a good time to wind up procurements, pay everyone a decent severance, and distribute any cash remaining back to the shareholders.

    (Of course, we DIDN’T stop. “Sunk cost fallacy.” Two years and twenty million dollars of additional VC money later, we shut the doors. Ouch. Wish I could do that one over again.)

  2. Love this post, David! Thank you for that! I am working on several business ideas and you just reminded me to be selective and focus my energy on few rather than many. Crucial lesson. Thanks again!

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