“As an entrepreneur, knowing which ideas to let go of is as important as knowing which ones to pursue.” -John Lock, HFA Entrepreneurship mentor
Innovation rarely takes a straightforward path. More often, an entrepreneur’s journey resembles more an aerial view of the Amazon River, bending and twisting its way through a jungle of unknowns, adapting its course in response to obstacles encountered and averted.
Embracing failure is part of becoming an entrepreneur. During my journey as an HFA fellow, I’ve learned that it’s important to walk a fine line between a fear of the unknown (will my idea really be viable?) and recognizing red flags that are too important to optimistically ignore.
John shared the quote about choosing between these two paths when I came into Mandy’s office, prepared to suggest that we reconsider further pursuing one of the 2016-17 HFA fellows’ top 3 ideas during our recently concluded ideation phase: Mobilify.
Mobilify had metamorphosed through several iterations, beginning initially as a used assistive device exchange platform (think Craigslist and Letgo, designed specifically for assistive technologies) and ultimately evolving into a kayak-like metasearch engine for new and used assistive technologies.
In theory, the concept was cool: bringing a tool for simplified searching and price comparison amongst multitudes of assistive device vendors. Alongside actual exchanges and purchases of new and used equipment, we could also create a social space component for users to connect and exchange advice on which assistive devices and tools worked best for them. For this particular space, the concept would be a novel application of a metasearch engine.
In practice, through my research to validate this concept, I found too many red flags to warrant any further development into this niche. In my conversations with the potential users of Mobilify—durable medical equipment managers at the MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital as well as stroke caregivers and survivors—I found that the market size and insurance limitations would deeply impact the viability of an idea like Mobilify.
Ultimately, I made an unorthodox presentation to HFA mentors and leadership: rather than presenting Mobilify’s business pitch, I commemorated the idea I “let go” with a business ditch. Learning when to let go of an idea I initially strongly championed ultimately helped me grow both as a fellow and as an innovator.
Check out Katia's business ditch presentation by clicking the image below!