Lots of startups start with good ideas, but few of them become huge successes. More important than a good idea to their success is just having the resilience required to keep going even if your idea isn’t so great, Y Combinator partner Justin Kan said at Disrupt Europe 2014.
That certainly was true in Kan’s own experience as he and his team transitioned from an online life-casting stream into a massive live-streaming platform for video gamers. “If you look at all startup stories, it’s not a straight line… to success,” Kan said. “If Justin.tv could work and be successful, then no one has any excuse. That was a terrible idea.”
According to Kan, after he and co-founder Emmett Shear applied they received a letter from Y Combinator founder Paul Graham saying there are three kinds of companies that applied: There are companies with good founders and good ideas that they wanted to fund, companies with bad ideas and bad founders that they didn’t want to fund, and companies with good founders and bad ideas, which is what they represented.
But they convinced YC to take a chance on them and eventually that paid off. Kan went on to posit that if you have smart people working on trying to make something people want and they don’t give up, they will eventually be successful. But, he said, founders need to be in it for the long haul, noting that it took eight years for the founding team of Justin.tv before they ended up selling Twitch to Amazon for $970 million.
In that sense, he believes good founders with resilience are more important than good ideas in building businesses. “I’m biased, but I see people who have great ideas and are working on things that could be successful, but they give up,” Kan said.