Innovation Myths and the Unsexy Truths About Breakthroughs

By Mark Milian - 2014-04-01T16:15:07Z

Photograph by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

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Start With a Good Idea

Ben Horowitz doesn't like good ideas. He's heard plenty of them as a partner at venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

"It's got to be a good idea that looks like a horrible idea, and that takes a whole other level of courage," says Horowitz, who co-founded Opsware, a software company that Hewlett-Packard bought for $1.6 billion. "All of your friends are going to think you're really stupid, and venture capitalists are going to laugh at you."

For example, Twitter initially looked like a pretty dumb idea. Facebook was already around by the time Twitter got started in 2006, and the microblogging service was often mocked as little more than a medium for telling the world what you had for breakfast. Many people, including investors, didn't get it at first. But ridicule can sometimes be a signal of something that's innovative.

"That's probably the biggest mistake people make on innovation," says the author of "The Hard Thing About Hard Things," a book about building a business. "They try to fit in when they should try to stand out. That's a Kanye West quote by the way."

Bloomberg LP, the parent of, is an investor in Andreessen Horowitz.