Telling an Entrepreneur You Don’t Like Their Idea

Unfortunately, it happens. You know the story: an excited entrepreneur comes in full of passion and enthusiasm to share with you their game changing idea. Only, the idea falls flat. It isn’t good. In fact, the idea is down-right horrible. But, as a thoughtful, nice person what do you do? How do you tell an entrepreneur that their idea is bad, really bad.

The answer: you don’t tell them what you believe. Instead, you tell them to go validate the idea in the market. Go get 10 businesses to commit to paying for the product in advance of building anything. Don’t have a B2B product? No problem, put together an awesome video and do a Kickstarter campaign. It isn’t your responsibility to guess whether a business idea is good or bad on behalf of an entrepreneur. It is your responsibility to put the entrepreneur on the path to validate if their target audience will pay for it before the entrepreneur spends any money on it.

Friends don’t let friends spend money on unvalidated ideas. When an entrepreneur has a bad idea, tell them to go validate it without wasting valuable money on it.

What else? What are your thoughts on telling an entrepreneur you don’t like their idea?

9 thoughts on “Telling an Entrepreneur You Don’t Like Their Idea

  1. David, well said. Following this advice will lead to the greatest positive morale impact on Atlanta entrepreneurs. Ultimately, who are any of us to judge anyone’s business idea (whether you like it or not)…let the market decide. Anyone who serves as a coach or mentor to entrepreneurs should take heed of this advice.

  2. Well, that is one of the major issues we have to face as Creative Economies Post Graduate students at Kingston University. You see one of our main challenges is to create in groups our own startup with a unique product/service idea, the tough and exciting part of it is that we will be judged by a Dragon’s Den jury who might deem many business ideas as “bad” or not “valid”…. You can know more about our venture into the entrepreneurial world by following my blog here, which recently discussed how entrepreneurs can choose the right person for their customer target when designing a new business: Enjoy!

  3. I think that sometimes it is better to tell them exactly what you think and suggest that they consider pivoting. Many, many people will say that it is an interesting idea even though they think it is a horrible idea just to be nice. The entrepreneurs that I have talked to really appreciate the frank feedback as they themselves were questioning it. I have not had an entrepreneur tell me that they disagree with me and argue.

  4. @DavidCommings – this is absolutely the BEST advice you can give. AGREED — I tend to use a simple phrase to help people out.

    1. Sell
    2. Design
    3. Build

    This way they can remember easily what they need to do first….which is go out and sell the idea…don’t just get your friends and family to tell you “oh, cute…this is a great idea”. Instead, DO NOT move forward until someone has actually paid you money for your idea.

  5. Great advice for how to be positive while still being honest. Even if an entrepreneur’s idea seems bad to you or me, the customers who will ultimately decide its worth. Better to get them started down the path before they head in the wrong direction.

  6. @DavidCummings: Excellent advice. A follow-up question: how would one go about validating the idea if it requires research to be done? I often hit the epistemic ceiling as to what to do first– start researching and investing time or do a validation check on something that doesn’t exist. If the latter, how do you go about it?

  7. I wish somebody had told me my last idea wasn’t worth the effort. Luckily I found that out on the cheap, but it could/should have been validated faster! Thanks for the post.

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