If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.
Ralph Waldo Emmerson
The quote above is frequently misrepresented as, “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” This quote is responsible for much of what is wrong with entrepreneurship today. People think they have to have a novel idea to become an entrepreneur and its just not true. Bill Gates was at least third in coming up with Windows. Facebook started after Myspace. IBM didn’t build the first computer. Google came after Yahoo. In fact, of those four examples it was only Google that substantially improved on the product to beat their competition. The others had a team that better understood their customers and could match their price points, feature lists and practical applications of the technology. Sure, all four had talented technical staffs too, but it was not the idea or even the intellectual property that separated them.
The word entrepreneur is descended from the same Latin family as enterprise, basically meaning “together grasping”. If you’re an entrepreneur sitting on a golden egg of an idea, you’re making a big mistake. Even if you’re lucky enough to get a small advantage from being the first to launch, it won’t last. Your company will suffer from you trying to “grasp” individually. Without a team, someone else will build a better product, or even just market a comparable one more effectively, and you won’t be the market leader in a couple years.
So, what to do? Make friends, become a member of the entrepreneurial community in your city (hopefully Pittsburgh). Seek out mentors, investors and co-founders that can increase your chances of success. Spread your idea to as many potential customers as you can think of and see what they think. Great companies aren’t built by inventors, they are built by entrepreneurs who “grasp together” for a common vision, even if the vision isn’t particularly unique.