A recent Slashdot article addressed a question from a Computer Science student about whether his ideas would be 'stolen' by the University. I am not going to directly address the question or get into the explanation of University IP ownership and Bayh-Dole. I'll leave that for someone else. :-)
But, what I though was interesting was something said by a commenter to the article. It was this anecdote:
Frank Herbert, author of Dune, told ... how he had once been approached by a friend who claimed he (the friend) had a killer idea for a SF story, and offered to tell it to Herbert. In return, Herbert had to agree that if he used the idea in a story, he'd split the money from the story with this fellow. Herbert's response was that ideas were a dime a dozen; he had more story ideas than he could ever write in a lifetime. The hard part was the writing, not the ideas.Herbert might as well have been talking about technology. Don't get me wrong. Ideas are important. Research is critical to advancing our society. But when it comes to commercialization, it is only a small part of the puzzle.
Building a business involves a tremendous number of challenges completely unrelated to the technology itself. Building a team, finding capital, identifying a target market, creating a sales channel, designing complete products, printing sales collateral, finding efficient and low cost manufacturing, structuring partnerships, recruiting a strong board, raising more money, setting up customer service, drafting useful documentation, crafting whitepapers and example designs, legal issues, human resources, leasing office space, attending board meetings, making customer visits, going to trade shows ... I'd go on, but I'm out of breath. You need to do well in all of these areas and still get lucky if you want to have a successful startup business. That is called execution.
The bottom line is that customers, those people who pay our bills, care about your solutions, not your ideas. And if you don't execute and deliver a complete solution, you don't get paid.
At VentureLab, we look at ideas all day long. Many of them are brilliant, exciting, compelling and completely original. But we have to add in the cold reality of execution details and try to envision a path to the market that involves the hundreds of details completely unrelated to the original idea.
Keep coming up with ideas though, they are great places to start.