Stop asking tech people to build your ideas

Sometimes people bring me ideas.

They say “I have this great idea for an app.” or “I have an idea for a tech business.” Inevitably, both are followed by “…and I just need you to build it for me.”

This is nothing special about me – it happens to most tech people.

I used to gracefully dodge with self deprecation or whatever else I could use to let the person down easy. In most cases I was being completely honest. IT is broad and few people realize just how broad and how many different technology skill sets there are.

“I just don’t know enough about that to be helpful. I’m not a developer, I do infrastructure.”

For the last couple of years I’ve started pushing back more, either by destroying the person’s idea or by encouraging them to take action on it on their own.

“You’ve just described Facebook. No, no…stop. Your idea is not different. It’s still Facebook even if you are calling it Gerbil Town. STOP!”

“You know what? That is a great idea. You should totally build that.”

Telling someone that they should act on their idea usually makes them a lot angrier than telling them their idea is terrible.

They say stuff like “That’s why I’m talking to you. I don’t know how to do this crap. I’m bringing this to you as a favor.”

And there’s the crux. You aren’t doing anyone a favor by sharing your idea with them.

Your idea sucks because it’s just an idea.

What you’re really saying to the tech person is “I don’t believe in this enough to even attempt to figure it out on my own. I’m just the idea guy (i.e. useless) and I want you to put in the effort that I’m not willing to put in.”

Learning to code (and most tech stuff) isn’t hard. Developers/engineers/etc aren’t (generally) genius wizards, they just put in the work to learn a skill.

It’s actually easier to learn to code than it’s ever been and there are tons of great training resources like Code Academy and Udemy to help. Like most things, it’s mostly a question of dedicating time and effort – and you don’t have to become an expert, you just have to achieve “good enough” to get started.

If you’re truly passionate about your idea, you’ll make the time and put in the effort.

If you’re asking someone else to do it for you, that’s a pretty good sign that your heart really isn’t in it as much as you think it is. Ponder that. Is it fair to ask someone to be excited about an idea you’re not 100% committed to?

There are people who have pulled themselves out of literally sleeping in trash-filled gutters to 1.) learn to read, 2.) learn to use a computer, and 3.) learn to code and build their idea. And here you are, having just asked someone to commit their energy to something “kinda neat” you thought about while sitting on the toilet.

Even if you find someone willing to put in the work to build your idea (and it’s usually some idiot kid or well-meaning novice), you’ll own something that you don’t understand. Good luck with that.

Too scared to start

Maybe you really do want to do something, but you’re scared. You think “I’ll never be able to figure this stuff out.” or “What if I fail?”

  1. Shut up and start learning. It’s just work.
  2. So what? No one is going to die if you try to make your thing and it doesn’t work out. That’s a pretty good safety net.

Tech people have the exact same fears. We worry that we can’t figure out the business stuff or the biology stuff or the construction stuff, or whatever discipline we want to work with. Most of us don’t execute on our ideas either.

We all say “if only…” and stop.

I’m speaking as much to myself as I am anyone else. I constantly have to kick myself in the butt and say “Stop being stupid. Do the thing.” – Every day of my life.

If you build it they’re at least more likely to come

Great ideas and terrible ideas are of equal value until they are real. The value is in action.

Go do the thing. Build it, even if it starts out crappy. Just by existing it is infinitely better than the thing you never built.

You may discover on your own that your idea is terrible. Good for you. You learned something you can take into your next project. If it turns out to be a good idea and you put in the work to shape the skeleton of it, you won’t have to ask for help, because people will swarm to you.

Stop asking other people to build your dreams. Do it yourself.

Image credit: Tsahi Levent-Levi