A mistake that I made more than a couple of times is to have a “bright idea” and to start implementing it right away. This approach is a problem because I had an audience of ONE.
A much better approach (that I learned from Seth Godin) is to have a bright idea and send it to people in your network and try to get at least ten fans that will cheer you on as you develop this idea. You also need to delight these ten people so that they will tell the others.
Finding the audience first is much harder initially, but its beauty is the marketing is built-in. You already have your sales team that will promote your product for free. Your idea will spread.
It is effortless to imagine that if I like something, then many other people will like it too. So if I build a product for me, others will line up to get it, correct? Not so fast!
Indeed, others may like the same thing, but it will be tough to find them if they are not already in your network. When you build the product first, you get stuck trying to find people to sell it to.
In the other approach, you build the audience first and then create a product they ask for. Not only will you have lots of feedback to make the product very relevant, but you will already have a waiting list of customers :).
What if my idea gets stolen?
The quick answer is this quote from Tim O’Reilly: “Piracy is not your enemy… obscurity is.”
And idea by itself is not worth much. Without an audience and without you to execute it, the idea remains just a nice concept.
The generous way to move forward is to share your ideas and then develop the ones that stick.