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Hierarchy of ideas

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Making something you think someone else will want to use:┬áIdeas like this suffer from a range of maladies. The need is unverified. The ideal feature set hidden in someone else’s head, and you have to find that person, get them to agree to let you examine them, then carefully and laboriously dig through their grey matter to find it. It’s much more difficult and time intensive than the following scenarios.

Making something you want to use, but cannot build at scale or for yourself: In this scenario, you have the benefit of being the user, so you know that a need exists and you have immediate and full access to the ideal feature set, because it resides inside your head. You do have the disadvantages, however, of being completely dependent upon other people to actually create the product. You’ll suffer from miscommunications, slower build times, higher cost, etc. “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself” is a popular saying largely because it’s true.

Making something you want to use, that you can build one of, but cannot build at scale: These ideas are great. If you’re the user, you know exactly what to build. If you can make at least one of them, the resulting product should do exactly what you want it to. Once you have one built, it will be much easier to communicate to other people (manufacturers, developers, etc.) how to build more of them, or, in the case of software, make the first version capable of serving more people.

Making something you want to use, that you can build one of, that you can also build at scale: Facebook is this type of idea. So is Dropbox. Each of them had millions of users just two years after the very first version of the product was made. That’s because the founders didn’t have to rely as much on other people to make their products at scale. Freshly Picked, a local soft goods company that makes baby shoes, is also this type of idea. Susan Petersen, the founder, was able to immediately earn revenue to pay her rent, put her husband through school, and feed her family because she was able to make shoes by herself early on. These types of ideas are best, because they allow for the fastest, straightest route to success.

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