The Italian Restaurant Theory

This is a cartoon. Two stick figures are talking. In the first panel, the orange guy says, "I'm going to open an Italian restaurant." In the second panel, the blue guy responds, "But that's already been done!"

Have you ever come up with a business idea, but given up on pursuing it further because “someone’s already doing it”? I know I’ve certainly done that, and I’ve seen friends do it too. I think most people come up with a good business idea now and then, but almost everyone declines to act on it, often because they do a quick Web search and find out someone’s already doing that exact thing.

Is this a good reason to stop pursuing an idea you’re interested in? I don’t think so. Examples: Google wasn’t the first search engine. The iPod wasn’t the first digital music player. And there are many more examples.

Now, I subscribe to something I call the Italian Restaurant Theory¹. Let’s say you want to open up an Italian restaurant. You might look around and see that you are in fact not the first person to ever open up an Italian restaurant. Would the fact that your business idea is not 100% unique dissuade you from opening your restaurant? Hopefully not. Just make sure the food and the service are good.

¹I can’t remember if I came up with the Italian Restaurant Theory myself or if I’ve stolen the idea from someone else. I think this actually is actually quite fitting considering the point of this theory is that all good ideas have been done before, so don’t worry about it man!

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