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Friday, January 30, 2009

When should you dream, and when should you bail out?

In the previous posting, I described how I dismissed in five minutes as unmarketable an idea that an inventor had spent at least a decade trying to sell. Yet, is this individual wrong to pursue his dream? How do you know when to hang on, and how do you know when to let go (and even more intriguing, how do you know when to return to something you had lost?)

The best answer I can give to this question is a coined expression: "Validated passion."

You need some strong, dynamic, and (quickly) measurable, "yes" to your idea -- and a real indication from people you trust and respect and complete strangers that you are on the right track.

You certainly won't get this validation by keeping your idea secret. Toiling over your bright idea in privacy, hoping to protect your secret (perhaps until it is secured by a patent), is probably a recipe for a time-wasting and expensive disaster. You need feedback, and you need it from people who you respect and who you trust or who don't have any immediate gain in selling you something (best of all, you should get positive feedback from people who will buy what you have to sell.)

The more money you need to put your idea to market, the less likely you have of it succeeding. If you've never put together a huge, venture-oriented business, you are playing with a long shot. If you can do it yourself, with minimal external resources, you have a good chance.

Then when you think your idea is worthy of moving forward, you must take action, and (here is the important thing), listen to both your heart and your pocketbook.

If money is disappearing faster than you expect, and you simply don't feel the idea is right in practice, you need to drop it. If your heart is in the project, and you want it to succeed, you will need to find ways to reduce the cash burn, and get it to market.

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