How did we come up with the idea?
The broken road that led to Tandem
Starting is the hardest part. Takes me back to when SpongeBob famously wrote an essay…
COVID left @Brian and I obsessing over an old quote by Sir Winton Churchill, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Naturally, we spent the next several weeks lying on the floor and banging our heads against the wall (to no avail) trying to come up with a good idea to pursue. We were SpongeBob.
Everyone thinks you need an amazing idea to get started (this is a misconception). Another misconception is the exact opposite, where you jump into the first idea that comes to mind without stopping to think about whether it is even a good idea or not. So where does that leave us? An idea is just a starting point.
Take Airbnb and Uber:
Airbnb/ Ahead of an industrial design conference in San Francisco, Airbnb’s cofounders (unemployed and idealess entrepreneurs at the time) noticed all the hotels nearby were full. Funny enough, only as a means of paying rent and buying time until they discovered their big idea (roommate matching…lol) did they decide to rent out air mattresses in their apartment. It wasn’t until four months later that they circled back to vacation rentals. (Blitzscaling 18: Brian Chesky on Launching Airbnb and the Challenges of Scale; 0:00-9:35).
Uber/ While at a tech conference in Paris and following several days of brainstorming (largely around lifestyle concepts), it dawned on Uber’s cofounders how hard it was to get a cab in San Francisco. Their first attempt at a solution, a timeshare limo service ordered via an app, a far cry from the ride-sharing platform we know today. (Travis Kalanick of Uber; 42:14-46:10).
My takeaways: (conferences are king?) 1) idea creation is a mindset and 2) great ideas aren’t the result of a single “Eureka!” moment, but instead the result of a good start (likely a personal nuisance) and sustained development. (Worthwhile listen – Where good ideas come from | Steven Johnson).
Tandem wasn’t close to our first idea, nor maybe our best (portable hologram monitors may still have wheels😏), but it was organic. As long-time, not-yet-married roomies and “finance people” (they said it, not us) friends would come to us inquiring about how we handled expenses. Eventually, we realized not only was this a problem people were facing within our own networks, but probably something experienced more broadly…couples combining their lives but living financially separate.
Right state of mind + good start.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), the idea is only a small piece of the puzzle. It is easy to look at successful companies like Google or Facebook and think, "What a brilliant and unique idea." In reality, Google and Facebook were not the first search engine or social network created. What made them successful was relentless execution. “You don’t have to run faster than the bear to get away. You just have to run faster than the guy next to you.”
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