Is there life after Dragons’ Den?

There you have it. The real-life Dragons have spoken. Your idea has been turned down. What are you to do? It is an emotional rollercoaster.

On the one hand, you can resign and savor life without uncertainty. But then you start thinking about all those cases – too many to be discounted as flukes – where expert opinion suggested that something would not work; but it somehow did. There was widespread skepticism that the concept of Kiva would not be scalable. Banks did not buy into Muhammad Yunus’s idea of lending to the poor. Hewlett Packard twice turned down the opportunity to build the Apple I computer. So did Commodore, Atari, and Don Valentine, the “grandfather of Silicon Valley venture capital” (he did invest a year later). Kodak, General Electric, and IBM all turned down the opportunity to build the original Xerox office copier.

Such inspiring stories can easily tip the scales towards the other extreme, of charging ahead despite the negative feedback. But then again, venture capitalists are often right about rejecting particular ideas; yours might as well be one of those. Can you really afford to ignore the opinion of others (some of whom have seen many entrepreneurs try … and not succeed)?

How can you weigh these two extremes? The bottom line is that you can’t. In the absence of any action to provide some tangible evidence for the merits of your idea, it is simply one opinion against another. The real kicker is that people tend to regret the things they do not do, not the ones they do do. If you do nothing, you will forever agonize about what might have been. But you also don’t want to do too much, for your children will never forgive you the frivolous wasting of their college education fund.

What is left is taking a small step, feeling your way forward, just as you do when the lights suddently go out and it is pitch dark. There is a blessing in rejection. It is the feedback of why others think the idea would not work. It is an assumption that you can test on a small scale. If it works, great; you can go on to the next. If it doesn’t … perhaps you will get new feedback about what might work … which will open a door you would have never known existed.