No-nonsense perspectives on startup growth


Embrace your craziest ideas — they may be the start of something special

Build your mountain

Embrace your craziest ideas — they may be the start of something special
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
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Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

CEO and co-founder, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and pr.co. Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

Boris is the wise ol’ CEO of TNW who writes a weekly column on everything about being an entrepreneur in tech — from managing stress to embracing awkwardness. You can get his musings straight to your inbox by signing up for his newsletter!

A friend of mine is filled with ideas, and every time I meet him, he’s always got a crazy new pitch. I love those conversations because his passion and out-of-the-box thinking always make me eager to discuss it and think about how it could be done.

He recently told me I’m one of the few people who’s always supportive, no matter how crazy his ideas seem. When he pitches his crazy ideas to others, most people start looking for holes in his theory or find reasons why it’s unrealistic or just stupid.

I do understand that reaction. After all, I’m not just a blind believer who’s unable to give constructive criticism or point out flaws. But I’ve also made it a habit to just assume that any idea is better than no idea.

That’s why my first reply — to any pitch — is to say, well, yes, why not?

[Read: Are your company values understood, or merely memorized?]

If you pitch putting computer servers on Mars, my first inclination is not to shoot that idea down. Instead, I see it as an opportunity to realign my worldview and come up with ways to support this seemingly crazy idea.

And that’s not just because I have a vivid imagination, but also because I’ve learned that ambitious goals and crazy ideas often lead to better results and random realistic thoughts along the way.

Just look at Google. Its founders would often challenge their employees to think big, huge, or even unrealistically gigantic. Once, when discussing the cost of hosting servers, one of them pitched an idea to host their servers off-planet. I don’t think anybody actually took that pitch seriously, but what it did do was remind them all to think bigger.

So if you tell me you want to build a huge artificial mountain in the middle of the Netherlands, so people can go skiing in our incredibly flat country, I’ll happily think along (and yes, there really is an entrepreneur pitching this idea). And even if that mountain will never materialize, just working on it will trigger a hundred new ideas.

While I will never shoot down an idea when I first hear it, I will also never guess how successful it will become. So if you come to me for confirmation on that, my standard reply is: I have no idea. But I’ll always move straight on to encourage you to just start and see where you end up.

I’m firmly in the ‘the journey is the reward’ camp of trying out things and seeing where they lead — because that’s where the real magic happens.

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