Simple Idea. Add Execution.

22 11 2008

In today’s economy, there’s no financial room for error. Get your cash flow straighted up, or get out.

That doesn’t mean that IDEA error, or trial-and-error, is not alive and well. The zero-cost startup is absolutely a reality, birthed both Six Apart and Google during the post-dotcom downturn. (Please don’t argue the exact timing – Google was born during the bubble, but benefited from a zero/low-cost basis to build something great. Scaling search is a different story.)

There’s never been a better time to start with a simple idea (but it should be big – huge distinction), but do it well. I thought it’d be fun on Friday to comb over a handful of startups I’ve looked at on my blog to see how they are doing.

Startups I’ve commented that have marginally (or more than marginally) improved an existing business model or technology:

Jellyfish: Perfectly elastic cash rebates. Acquired by Microsoft, now powers its Live Search Cashback system.

Farecast: Predictive airfares – buy or wait predictions. I’ve mentioned them on several occasion; I’ve linked to a previous post about the web needing applications that solve real problems. Acquired by Microsoft.

RetailMeNot: Social coupons and deals. Mentioned in an inquiry about gwallet (still yet to launch), but re-reading a TechCrunch post a while back mentioning RetailMeNot as a 3 person operation reminds me how far great execution on a simple idea can go. They just launched BeatMyPrice. Seems mostly like a price comparison wrapper on RetailMeNot. May not be acquired soon, but no doubt they’re making a boatload of cash from the deal/price/coupon model.

Startups that haven’t rocketed upward:

Genietown: Local services marketplace. I liked the concept, but rightly saw a few things mis-executed. If they have cleaned them up, it might not have been enough as they haven’t yet helped Genietown make its growth spurt in a tough, tough market.

Stagr: Apparel startup by Nick Swirnmum (founder of Zappos). Stagr looks like it’s given up on its broad, ambitious model and looks like it’s only selling Stagr branded apparel on their web site. When both the idea and execution go away, we know what happens.

Moral: Building a company is hard. So start simple, and execute every single day.

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