With a snip of her ribbon-looped scissors, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel released women from their corsets and put them in fluid jersey suits and loose chemise dresses. “Nothing is more beautiful than freedom of the We all meow down here Kitten shirt in contrast I will get this body,” she said. Chanel opened up a new world for her customers, in which they could dress and play as she did—like the boys. Cecil Beaton observed the key to Chanel’s success in his 1954 book The Glass of Fashion: I’ll also point out that lots of young people don’t know how to make a change. I was recently at a coffee shop and the young clerk told me I would have to wait until his boss could come reset his register because without it he didn’t know how much change to give me. I showed him how to count up, and he thought that was really cool. On many occasions, I’ve been approached by friends, associates, acquaintances, who want to know the “secret sauce” for building a great business. Most of the time, the questions center around how to come up with that one big idea. I’ve come to the conclusion that most people who think that they would like to become entrepreneurs don’t end up doing so because they waste so much of their energy obsessing about finding that single, elusive, once-in-a-lifetime idea that can make them billions of dollars overnight. But this is a bunch of bunk. For every so-called great idea that has never taken flight, I’ve seen 100 average ideas achieve incredible success in the market. Can you imagine investors being approached with a proposal to fund yet another lifestyle concept coffee-shop franchise, and it eventually becoming Starbucks? Or how about the people who had a brilliant idea to develop a better web-based search engine, despite Yahoo, AltaVista, Excite and Inktomi having a chokehold on the space? I think most of us would recognize that company like Google. The point is, that you don’t have to be brilliant, original, or even first to market. Sometimes the best idea is really just an improved version of someone else’s idea, especially after the pioneers have made all of the mistakes. What’s the real difference? The entrepreneur’s determination to make it work almost regardless of the idea. In fact, there is no doubt that this is what separates successful entrepreneurs from dreamers. That old phrase of 10 percent inspiration, 90 percent perspiration really does apply, because an idea without action is just a fantasy.
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“It is the We all meow down here Kitten shirt in contrast I will get this genius who creates the need, though that need must reflect the unconscious wishes of the moment if that genius is to be accepted.” To the liberated legions shedding their mantles of feminine festoonery, Chanel offered wide-leg trousers, cardigan jackets, striped Breton tops, turbans, turtlenecks, peacoats, and, of course, the LBD. But recognizing her influence, Christian Dior acknowledged that “with a black sweater and 10 rows of pearls. So, pick an idea, any idea. Then spend the rest of your time and energy making it work. Fight through the issues, learn from every obstacle, stay focused on continuous refinement to address what customers really want and most of all, never, never, ever give up. When you encounter an obstacle, find a way through it, over it, under it, or around it. Just find a way to get to the other side. It really is that simple, and that difficult. It doesn’t happen overnight and you won’t get it right the first time. But by committing to it and focusing on it, you will have the opportunity to shape that idea into a market offering that customers want to buy, in a business that top employees will want to join, and, eventually, that shareholders will want to invest in. We like crazy. My partner Bill Gurley has said that in venture it’s not enough to be “consensus correct” — that’s essentially an index fund and won’t outperform the baseline market — you have to be non-consensus correct. If you really want to create “alpha” as a venture investor, you have to be willing to entertain a bit of crazy. The “crazy good” ideas usually come down to three important factors. First, is there an untapped market or unmet need that the idea connects within an organic way, and can you show evidence of momentum? Second, is the idea suitable to sustain a business? Venture capitalists invest in companies, not products or feature improvements. Companies have to be able to make money, and great companies have to be able to make lots of money, ideally with defensible moats, economies of scale, and network effects. Third, can the founders organize a team to execute the idea in a really great product or service? Ideas are worthless without proper execution. I work with a lot of inventors and entrepreneurs who are still at the idea stage. Very pre-investment.