For three months, I had a dream. Check that, for three months I worked off of fear, adrenaline and stress, and thought I had a dream. What I had was a desire to work for myself, and an admittedly mediocre idea of how to get there. I still fully believe in Derek Sivers’ mantra that the idea is simply a multiplier of execution, but what I had was a so-so idea without the ability to execute it in a way that would make it worthwhile. I’ll break this down a bit more.
The idea started as an exclusive online community for the world’s best skiers. It changed to a more pedestrian community for the niche market of backcountry skiers. Every new idea has to change as you learn more about it. This idea was no different. The problems arose as the idea moved further and further away from the original, exciting idea, and more toward an idea that would fill a market need, but not our market need.
In my mind, the passion for the idea can’t come from someone else. With SkierUnderground, the passion for the product was based on the desire for the site to fulfill a dream of self-employment, not from the desire to solve a real world problem for oneself, and by extension for like-minded individuals that would line up with cash for the brilliant solution.
In order for a business to succeed, the founders have to be obsessed with their idea. They have to live and breath the idea. Because when they don’t, they hit the hard times, and suddenly the security of the 9-5 seems really tempting….even if it means you have to spend your waking hours writing printer drivers or reading/writing process documents, at least you’re off of the manic-depressive roller coaster that is a tech startup. Writing this, that still seems unappealing, but at 2:30 in the morning when you’ve spent the last two weeks writing a simple page that will upload and crop a damn picture (TWO FREAKIN’ WEEKS!*), well, you feel the temptation.
*It is not recommended that you spend anywhere near this amount of time on this type of a task (unless of course you’re Picnik). I’m working on a lessons-learned post that will cover this particular debacle in more detail.
The point is, unless you own the problem and you’re passionate about your solution, it’s incredibly difficult to sustain the level of drive needed to overcome the downturns on the roller coaster.
SkierUnderground did not survive the downturns, but it gave me a lot of ideas and a lot of lessons to move forward with.
More to come on the pivot away from SkierUnderground and those lessons I’ll be carrying in my back pocket.