Even If You Think You Are Thinking Big, Think Bigger

Yesterday I was privileged to have been invited to a University of Chicago class to judge some student teams that were working on startup ideas.  It can be very interesting to listen to pitches in this format because you get a window into some things undergrads have to deal with.

It also helps me think about things.

Sometimes when I hear a pitch, I see a bigger idea or a different path.  The best way to get that across is to ask a question not blurt out what you are thinking.  Asking a question gives you some insight into how the entrepreneur is thinking.

One of the common things that I notice about a lot of early-stage businesses is they don’t think big enough.  Think HUGE.  Total world domination is okay.  Try to reformulate what you are doing and then see what it looks like.  Take a peek from a different angle.  Try on a different theme.  Roll in some new cutting-edge technology and see what it looks like.  Can you change the UX to change the business and what customers or suppliers would interact with it?  Anything that gets you to expand and think bigger about what you are doing.

Of course, in order to actually execute the business and get to huge, you have to focus on an initial target that is small enough to dominate.  That target should also give you feedback that allows you to find product-market fit and scale.

It is very difficult to take an idea and turn it into a sustainable profitable business.  It’s hard to execute on it.  It’s also hard because once you start thinking big, you have to execute small.