The Entrepreneur’s Backlog: how to organize, prioritize and make the most of your ideas
Entrepreneurs need an active backlog of concepts to spot true opportunities and set the right focus
As an ambitious, and potentially serial entrepreneur, you probably have an extra problem to solve: handling the volume of ideas you generate! And yes, this is a great problem to have! But you might end up overwhelmed from the volume of ideas you generate. Or, driven by the excitement of a newly conceived concept, you could easily set the wrong focus leading to opportunity cost and non-optimal use of your energy.
If you do generate a significant volume of concepts or product ideas, you need a process to handle them — and use them in the best possible way. And handling here means, documenting and quantifying certain aspects (feasibility, expected impact etc.) a process which enables more objective comparison and better decisions.
As soon as you have a new idea, append it to your ‘Entrepreneurial Backlog’ even as draft; follow up with post-processing to properly analyze it and classify it
Following this method, you will be able to store your ideas in manageable way, prioritize and set the focus wisely.
Documenting your ideas in a single repository is key — this allows having a point of reference and a unified format to describe your concepts, features or other outcomes of your inspiration.
This single point of reference can be considered as your ‘entrepreneurial backlog’ — the prioritized set of concepts waiting for their turn to … absorb your energy.
It is analogous to the product backlog in the agile product development context. This special backlog, also holds the right metadata, including classification based on development and operational costs, dependencies to critical mass of users etc.
Your ‘entrepreneurial backlog’ will look like a prioritized list of entries, each one describing in a solid, structured way, your concept — a startup, product, project or other initiative. The main difference from the ‘product backlog’ is that your ideas are not limited in a ‘product space’ — they could be completely different, independent to each other and with a variety of objectives.
Each entry must be properly summarized and also enriched with the right metadata. A short, solid description of your idea is … a great idea: trying to name/define and describe each entry in a compact way, will force you think of its most important aspects. This standardized registration of your ideas will allow better handling, comparison and prioritization; a ‘side effect’ of this documentation activity is that it will probably further empower your idea generation process: as you document and process an idea, more will come!
Each entry could also have different potential outcomes: an idea could be targeting a patent, a potential product feature, a new product, an experiment, a company, a world-changing concept — or a combination of those!
You need a simple but effective classification of your ideas: feasibility, objective and technological dependencies could be used to better organize the entries into meaningful clusters. Metadata and relevant links, providing additional info on competitors, technologies, research is key in further evaluating your ideas.
Prioritizing your concepts
As an entrepreneur, you need to make the right decisions — select the concept to focus on and invest your precious time and energy. This decision could prove to be critical — in a good or bad way — so you need to wisely analyse your concepts from multiple different angles, including the following:
Cost to Develop: How complex is the implementation of the MVP (also how well understood is the MVP at this stage)? Does it require research to prove and/or finalize cutting edge technologies? Can you ‘do it on your own’ vs it ‘requires an army of software engineers, designers and scientists’? Make quick assumptions and try to quantify the cost of development (for example quantify the cost of a team of x-engineers + z designers for y months to build and operate the MVP — as understood at this stage)
Cost to Operate: Assuming you build and release your product, does it require significant human effort to operate? Or other significant operational costs? Try to quickly identify the cost components per month or other time frame, and come up with an indicative draft figure.
Monetization model: Is there a clear, solid monetization model? State your assumptions (price, costs, sales) and build a realistic monetization scenario for your concept.
Time-to-Value-Creation — value to the user: There are services which can deliver significant value to users, from day one, even with a single user on board; in contrast, there are services which require time and/or at least a critical mass of users in order for value to be created.
Assuming a proper implementation, will your product create value for the users instantly? Or you need to have a critical mass of other users on board?
For example, a market place bringing together supply and demand, has strong dependencies on user base size, diversity and growth rates. No matter how good your idea and implementation is, users will only start to realize value when a critical mass of the right users is also on board (for example, sellers to compete, or consumers to advice); and this is expensive to achieve — requires time, money and effective strategies.
This list is not exhaustive — it also depends on the context and your domain/ area of activity. The criteria also need to have a weight factor to reflect their importance for you: for example, if you have secured sufficient funding, ‘Cost-to-develop’ the MVP may not be that important to you. On the other hand, if you are starting a business with your own resources, at your garage, this may be of top importance.