Idea, Team, Or Network?

Talking with a Columbia student about his post-graduation plans:

“I’d like to start a company” he said.

“Cool! Have any good ideas?”

“That’s the most important thing?!”

I was taken aback — partially at the abruptness of his question, partially because he followed up my question with a question, and partially because, well, he made a really good point.

I paused for a bit.

“Well, the idea isn’t the most important, no. The team is the most important. Actually, no, your network is the most important.  Wait, no, the idea…”

Idea. Team. Network. Idea. Team. Network. Idea. Team. Network.

A triangle appeared in my mind and I was racing around the edges.  “They’re all interconnected” I finally blurted out.

Most people think sales and biz-dev when they hear network.  But it’s broader than that…your network is all the people you interact with — whether it be through a school, an accelerator program, a coworking space, or just the dudes you play poker with on Fridays.  Your network is your input, determining your exposure to ideas, products, trends, and stupid youtube videos.  Your conversations with these people will shape your thinking which will lead to good ideas…

…and good ideas are absolutely necessary to succeed. Good ideas are magnetic (just check out kickstarter and its virality…) and will generate momentum and a strong network of people that embrace you.  Ideas can take many forms — blog posts, products, businesses, events — and a good idea will compels others to want to see it become a reality which helps to solidify a team…

…and a team of smart people will generate good ideas.  And your team will both build and derive from your network:  a strong team attracts a strong network of other smart people who hang around.  And people in your network will become part of your team as you’ll end up working with friends and friends-of-friends.

Ultimately people invest in teams, because only because of the good ideas and the strong network which result.

And now my head hurts.

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