Y Combinator has just announced they are taking a round of startup applicants with no idea. This triggered a predictable and pretty amusing reaction on twitter etc.
At first I was cheering on all the tweeters, going ‘right on’… But, then I realised what Paul Graham and co are doing is exactly right.
Clearly they have a successful recipe for making startups work, Reddit, Disqus, Dropbox, Posterous, Airbnb and on it goes, those are just the ones _I_ like. So what they are doing is innovating their own recipe, iterating and trying something new, why not, what else are they going to do ? Wait for all the copycats to get just as good at making pie as they are ?
The other point is of course that I agree with Y Combinator, teams, culture and ways of working are much more valuable than ideas. I think we just don’t like saying it out loud sometimes because it sounds soft, so we have aquihires and we use words like ‘pivot’ to make it sound more legitimate.
Your ability to succeed in the face of an uncertain environment or problem is directly related to the quality of your team, how well they work together and how good they are at finding and responding to new intelligence and customer insights – the ideas will come, go and change along the journey.
Addendum: These three insights into Google, Goldman Sachs and Yahoo give a window into what happens to companies that ignore their people, ignore their customers and lose the ability to innovate.