Next Time You're About To Call A Startup 'Stupid' Remember These Two Stories

FlickrWhen a startup is in its early stages, it’s not always easy to determine if the product will be a hit.

Dustin Curtis, the creator of online magazine platform Svbtle, initially thought two startups that are now extremely successful were stupid when he first saw them.

“For some cruel reason, I keep finding myself in the position of being introduced to things in their infancy (often before they are even launched), dismissing them as stupid, and then watching them become unbelievably popular,” Curtis writes on Svbtle. “This has happened to me at least four times. Each time I vow never to call anything stupid again, and then, invariably, it happens again.”

It happened with Pinterest, the social bookmarking service worth around $2 billion. And then it happened again with Vine, the video app that Twitter acquired last year. 

With Pinterest, Curtis wasn’t sold on the idea that middle-aged women would flock to a fashion- and design-oriented site for collecting and sharing products. Especially not one created by a 20-something guy, Pinterest founder and CEO Ben Silbermann. 

When Curtis met with Silbermann, he quickly dismissed the idea, concluding the product was stupid.

Now, Pinterest brings in billions of page views per month. The most recent tally: 3.4 billion monthly page views from its 25 million members worldwide.

But Curtis apparently didn’t learn from his mistake right away. Last year, Vine co-founder Dom Hoffman met Curtis for dinner where he showed of his “Instagram for video” app. 

“The app was very well designed and engineered, especially for a prototype, but I’ve had a lot of experience with photography and video apps, and I knew the odds were hugely against him,” Curtis writes. “The mobile video space is littered with the dead carcasses of previous attempts. How would this guy overcome all of the hurdles that the plethora of other attempts at mobile video have been unable to address?”

Once again, Curtis dismissed the idea.

Thinking back on those meetings, Curtis says he’s “kind of disgusted” by his reactions. 

“Both of those guys are unusually passionate and driven, and you can tell within five seconds of meeting them,” Curtis writes. “They saw the future and they built it. But for some reason, my first reaction to their earliest attempts wasn’t to give them the benefit of the doubt–it was to immediately find problems and then dismiss their ideas.”

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