Silicon Valley taught me this secret about great business ideas, says Hong Kong entrepreneur

Ideas are a dime a dozen, or so they say; it’s all in the execution. However, there’s a big difference between an idea that’s capable of going the distance and one that, try as you might, is destined to fall flat.

So how can you tell if you’re onto a winner?

Well, according to the co-founder of viral website 9GAG, with so many would-be entrepreneurs out there chasing the next big trend, it’s all about moving against the tide and being contrarian.

“A good idea usually is not the idea that people love, because if it is that good, a lot of people will do it already,” CEO Ray Chan told CNBC’s Uptin Saiidi during an episode of “Life Hack’s Live” at the RISE tech conference in Hong Kong.

“So the best idea is probably a good idea that seems bad so that most people don’t agree and don’t do it,” he continued.

Ray Chan, whose Hong Kong-based social media site now boasts more than 100 million fans across Facebook and Instagram, said the ability to go against the status quo is one of his greatest takeaways from his time spent building the business with start-up accelerators in Silicon Valley.

“Maybe someone tells you, ‘Hey, you should not run your team like this, maybe you should not do your product like this.’ We kind of enjoy being on the opposite side and try to prove them wrong,” said Chan.

Though the more controversial ideas will likely invite more criticism and, potentially, more failures. It can also mean that, with less competition, the end result can be greater, he said.

“Of course, we fail a lot of times. But once we can get it right, then it explains why we make the right decision.”

Putting ideas into practice

Once you’ve honed in on an idea, Chan said it’s important to quickly prove it can work in practice. After all, that’s the only way other entrepreneurs and, ultimately, investors will be able to see you as a viable business person.

“At the beginning you should build something first so that you have something to talk to others (about),” Chan said, noting that there are many “wannapreneurs” who don’t get beyond “thinking” about creating a start-up.

For him, that meant launching the site with his four co-founders in 2008 and running it as a side gig until they could prove that it worked.

“If you only have an idea, most successful founders they won’t care about your ideas. They want to see something.”

“If you can show a prototype that works really well, that is very disruptive, then people will come to you,” he added.

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