So Many Ideas, So Little Money
Updated: Sep 9, 2020
What's fun about startups, growth-stage businesses, and skunkworks ventures is that they rarely suffer from a dearth of ideas competing with one another for time, funding, and focus. There may be no bad ideas (though I will testify that I've run across, or even—ahem—generated, one or two in my career), but some of the good ones are inevitably going to have to be set aside for now. How to choose?
One technique I've found to be useful is to drop each proposed initiative into one of a small number of metaphorical bins labeled with the purpose or audience each serves. Different kinds of ventures may use different labels, but here are some (in no particular order) that I use rather consistently:
The stuff your current customers keep bugging you for. You may not think these ideas will appeal to future customers, but to get those prospects on board you need happy references, and of course you want to keep your channel to those existing customers open for new products and subscription renewals.
These are the things that will make your product go pop! on a demo. They may be UI/UX improvements or fancy new features—or they may be simple, non-flashy changes that eliminate a common objection you're tired of trying to explain away.
You may bitterly disagree with every opinion they utter, but if analysts drive buyer behavior in your industry (as they do in technology, for example), you'll need to pay some attention to initiatives that keep them including you in the lists of recommended vendors they give your prospects. And hey, you never know: you may even discover that they were right!
Resist the temptation to habitually drop infrastructure efforts at the bottom of your list. Sure, nobody gives you points for adding that load balancer to your back-end servers, or tightening the security of the process for provisioning new employee desktops—but failing to do so could, over time, cost you everything you've worked so hard to build.
By classifying your initiatives, you change the discussion from "which of these 1,000 ideas best serves the company?" to "which of these five categories needs the most attention right now, and which of the proposals within it would help the most?"
The final decisions may still be difficult—but you'll get there a lot faster. And don't worry: most of those proposals will still be around tomorrow when it's time to decide what to do next—along with some new ideas, as well. In a growth business, the fun of ideation and execution never ends.