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Don't be an idiot!

That’s what my best friend said when I told him I was leaving my role at Barclays arranging and leading multi-billion dollar bond deals to selling $100 glasses online. Long story short, turned out I wasn’t (too) idiotic. Scarlett of Soho was bought by the leading eyewear retailer in Europe - MyOptique (Essilor) - 15 months after launching.

Contrary to popular belief, what I’ve learned from starting up my own business is that – simply put - ideas are (relatively) cheap. It doesn’t matter if one has the world’s best idea if execution’s not right.

Execution worth millions
Source: Anything You Want, Derek Sivers, 2005

Stepping in a founder’s shoe is very much different from an investor’s. While founders are typically passionate about one thing, and more often than not, obsessed about getting things perfect, investors want to see progress. Traction, traction, traction! And to make progress, you just have to take steps forward. One at a time, in the right direction. Keep taking them until you get them right.

Don’t get me wrong, you probably can’t become a success by selling (insert stupid idea here) and working hard at it. You’d have to have a great idea. But you definitely won’t do well if you don’t do anything about that potentially great idea. You’d have to be passionate about your idea and willing to work 100 hours a week to execute it.

BUT – most rational person would calculate the risks and know that startups take huge risks that outweigh benefits: You’re giving up your bread and butter to ‘try’ something. After all, if it’s a proven concept, someone else would have probably been there and done it. You’d probably have to be pretty stupid to take that chance. (Unless by probability theory’s expected value, you deemed it to be positive EV ceteris paribus of course.)

So that’s what I look for in founders – stupidly smart people, preferably in that order.

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