It may be the fear of the unknown, a need to control the outcome, fear of failure or fear of leaving our addictive salaries, says the writer. Picture: ISTOCK
It may be the fear of the unknown, a need to control the outcome, fear of failure or fear of leaving our addictive salaries, says the writer. Picture: ISTOCK

One of the biggest excuses people give for not starting a business is that they don’t have that "big original idea" yet.

There are a quadrillion start-up ideas out there, but just a handful convert into companies because we are often paralysed in the ideation phase, and our business simply never happens.

We just become big talkers, with no action to back it up.

Why? It may be the fear of the unknown, a need to control the outcome, fear of failure or fear of leaving our addictive salaries.

Needing that "big idea" is the biggest misconception about starting a business. The reality is that the big idea is mostly created when we start working with it. It’s more important to roll up your sleeves and start executing, even when that idea is imperfect or not fully formed because we only become experts in something by being immersed in it.

Most start-ups are not one idea or a eureka moment, but thousands of intertwined micro-decisions and micro-ideas, evolved over time, that form that business.

Of course, an entrepreneur should have a broad sense of what direction they want to take but the reality is that their business is really evolved or even "pivoted" (changed) in the process of doing, not dreaming.

Don’t take my word for it, some of the most famous billion-dollar internet companies today became something very different to what was intended.

Twitter began as Odeo, a podcast platform, and only later pivoted to what we now know today as the micro-blogging service Twitter.

The service’s 140-character limit was originally based on the notion that tweets were to be SMS-based, which only allowed for limited characters.

YouTube started off as a video dating site with the slogan "Tune in, hook up."

It never quite took off and the founders soon realised that user-generated content of everyday life worked better.

Instagram started off as Burbn, a confusing hybrid check-in gaming app. The founders eventually just focused on photo sharing, which is the wildly successful Instagram we know today.

Shopify was intended to be an online store called Snowdevil, which sold snowboards. The e-commerce software behind that online store became the primary business today.

Groupon started off as a site called The Point to rally behind social and charitable causes. Groupon was a mere feature of that site, but became the main business, taking a more commercial turn to become one of the world’s most successful e-commerce marketplaces.

The main focus of the company behind Slack, the world-famous online communication and collaboration tool, was online gaming. The company abandoned gaming to focus on the part of its business we know today as Slack, now boasting 8-million daily active users and 3-million paid users.

Airbnb, then airbedandbreakfast.com, was envisaged as a business that would rent out airbeds, but evolved into the $38bn company we know today.

Netflix never set out to be a worldwide streaming company. The original business model involved DVD sales and rental by mail. Both Google and Facebook initially never set out to be online advertising platforms, but became that as their business model evolved.

The lesson is that there is no perfectionism in entrepreneurship. Start, even if your idea is not fully formed or you still have doubts. This is especially the case in the internet age, where technology changes quickly. So, what are you waiting for?

• Buckland is founder of ventureburn.com.