Everyone these days is writing and reading startup-postmortems. But what about the stolen-startup idea?
Entrepreneurs and media praise the motto “an idea is nothing, execution is key” (or other variations). I definitely agree, tons of people had the same idea as Uber, AirBnb and even Facebook before Zuck, Kalanick, and Chesky turned them into billion dollar conglomerates. They’re the ones with the perfect execution plan, they’re the ones that “made it”.
Now in Bangkok, far from the Silicon Valley paradigm I wanted to tell you a story about intellectual property, funding, execution, and more important, the value of an idea.
It all started a few years ago, my mate and I were always driven by entrepreneurship, and started a few projects to test it out. But we never had THE idea, when suddenly we got IT in 2014. A super disruptive, innovative, *placeholder for next buzzword* solution to help millions of tenants and real estate owners pay and collect rent around the world. We called it Azurent, which sounds great in French and English.
Although we had no real previous expertise in the industry, neither did Mark or Travis. We wanted to press on, so we joined a few pitch events to test our idea, get feedback and find a more advanced tech partner to help us code the whole shebang.
One of these events took place over a weekend and was funded by a major corporation. Big companies love to host and sponsor those events, because it gives them great PR, attracting attention for just trying to be innovative. Plus sometimes they find great new projects and contract them to solve internal problems… In theory.
We won first prize, and had all of the corporate suits tell us how great our solution was, with guidance and advice on what to do next. But three weeks later, we learned the sponsoring company took our idea and hired someone to create the product in-house. Without telling us, they’d stolen our idea.
The company gave their new hire €50,000, and a desk in their “innovation hub”.
Our team, who had the idea, struggled as most startups do with little funding, without the big brand name. Our execution struggled. After 6 months, we pivoted slightly to at least generate sales and revenues.
After a year of working full time, we decided to close shop and start over. We just couldn’t compete with the big company who took our idea. We’d never have the resources and gravitas to execute on the same level.
Our new “competitor”? They’re thriving, with a sponsored salary, IT and in-house business development.
I still believe that the execution is more important than the idea. There are multiple reasons why we failed and they didn’t. But then we also had different problems than our competitors. It would have been far easier to execute with some startup funding and the support of the large corporation.
In fact, in our market research we discovered in the US and UK markets there were similar applications launching or in development. But in Belgium and France we were innovators, and the sponsoring company knew it. Sponsorship was extended under the pretext of supporting small business and innovation, when actually they were harvesting ideas for in-house development.
So when it comes to execution, the large corporations still have an edge and it’s money.
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.