Startup Advice

9 Signs Your Startup Idea Sucks

1. Everybody Hates It

There is a fine line between genius and madness. Lots of ideas that were once dismissed as trivial, silly, unrealistic, or unworkable later became essential fixtures in our daily lives. Airplanes, light-bulbs, Google, and Amazon all had critics who were proved completely wrong.

But if a multitude of people tell you your idea is crazy or just plain bad, and can reel off a long list of reasons why it will never work, you might need to reconsider your startup plans. Remember, critics are also potential buyers, too, so if everyone you speak to hates your idea, the chances are that customers will be thin on the ground.

2. You Can’t Describe Your Idea Quickly

In the modern world, people are busy and have short attention spans. They don’t have the time or energy to spend trying to understand an idea that is too complex. If you want to get customers and investors on board, your startup idea will need to be something you can explain quickly and succinctly.

Think about the following questions: Who does your business serve? How does it help? What are the positive end results? Then think about how you would answer that in a straightforward, simple way. If you can’t get the meat of your idea into a 25-word answer, you may have a problem with your concept.

3. There’s No Need For It

People buy products and services that they see as solutions to particular problems or needs that they have — and the needs they are meeting might not be obvious at first. There are plenty of products on the market that may seem pointless to you. After all no-one needs social media, a robot vacuum cleaner, a Rubik’s cube, or a luxury watch. But all successful products serve some kind of need, whether it’s one that is practical, economic, emotional, or social in nature.

Consider whether your idea will make someone’s life better or easier, or whether it will make them feel better about themselves. Emotional needs are some of the most important drivers that people have, which is why luxury products and status symbols will never go out of fashion. Make sure your product or service meets needs that are recurring and long-term, otherwise your idea may only be a flash in the pan.

4. It’s Too Limited

Niche products and services can work out well, because you can be more targeted in your marketing. You are also more likely to attract raving fans if you produce a product that fits someone’s needs precisely.

That said, you need to have enough people interested in what you offer to actually be able to make money, especially as your development overheads will be similar no matter how many people you’re targeting. Consider how many purchasers would have to buy for you to break even. You can test consumer interest by using surveys, social media and crowd-funding sites.

5. It Needs Too Much ‘Feeding’

If you have to feed too much into your startup before it has a chance of making money, you might be better off rethinking your ideas. If your product or service needs too many resources to get off the ground, you could go broke before you even get to market.

There is nothing wrong with creating a business that requires a lot of outlay, but without a proven model or track record, investors are unlikely to bite. Start smaller to gain experience before heading for the big fish. Virgin started out as a record shop, not the multinational conglomerate it is today.

6. It’s Not Unique

Your business idea must have a Unique Selling Point (USP), or you’ll never differentiate yourself from all the other startups and businesses in the market. In order to become a major player, you need to offer products or services that make things more efficient or more pleasurable for the customer.

Look at similar startups in your field and consider what advantages your idea has over what they already offer. Your business must either offer something completely unique, or offer a better way of doing the same thing a competitor already does. The added benefits you offer must be something the consumer wants or needs enough to pay money for.

7. You’re Not Passionate About It

If you, as the founder, don’t absolutely love your startup idea, you may as well stop now. If you don’t love it, you won’t be able to make anyone else love it either. You need to have passion about your startup idea in order to convince others of its value. Passion will enable you to enthuse investors and dream up a persuasive marketing campaign.

Building a business takes time and energy, too, so if you’re not in love with your idea, you may feel drained by the startup process, rather than excited and inspired.

8. It’s Not Scalable

You will never make a large amount of money if you can’t imagine a way to scale up your startup once it gets going. Has your startup got the potential to expand geographically, to break into fresh markets, or to generate recurring and growing revenue from a solid customer base?

While many startup founders make their money from selling the business, if a buyer can’t see the scaling potential, then cashing out on your exit strategy may never happen. Ideas that strongly attract investors and buyers are those that allow a business to grow and make more money without adding much more investment.

9. The Details Don’t Stack Up

If you’ve ever watched Dragon’s Den, you’ll see how often people come up with what they think are brilliant business ideas, only to find they’ve committed a fatal error somewhere along the line. Startup founders may get so carried away with their idea that they overlook areas that are critically important.

Consult regularly with business advisers, mentors, and potential customers to make sure your idea has all the ingredients necessary to become a success. Consider all the difficult questions, and have enough flexibility to alter your plans if your idea needs modifying.



  1. Azm Dar

    15/08/2014 at 10:17 am

    let the writer stick to what she does for a living … a simple look at the 9 points tell us that she does not know anything about startups and ideas !

    You can’t write a worse article on the subject than this

    • Beth Burgess

      15/08/2014 at 11:15 am

      Hi, thanks for your feedback. I’m not sure that the article was inaccurate, but I’m sorry you didn’t find it useful. Perhaps you could share a few tips which you think are more helpful?

  2. Coroner

    15/08/2014 at 10:45 am

    Hard work plus connections with the right people, plus a healthy dose of good luck. But you can short cut all of those if you can just create profit.

    • Beth Burgess

      15/08/2014 at 11:21 am

      Thanks. Your list includes good things that can help to make a startup successful. I think a good startup idea is important too. You can’t make profit with a really bad idea – if investors think it’s a dud, they won’t back it.

  3. Sophia Jenner

    21/08/2014 at 10:52 am

    Thanks a lot for sharing your ideas. I want to mention the significance of mobile apps for startups as at a rate of over 30 million each day, downloading apps is a well-liked hobby among consumers. So, too, is building ideas for great new ones it is said so in

    • Beth Burgess

      23/08/2014 at 7:42 am

      Yes the popularity of mobile apps continues to grow. I see no signs of that stopping.

  4. Beth Burgess

    23/08/2014 at 7:40 am

    Thank you – these are really valuable comments. I also think the lean start-up approach is a good one.

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