Should Entrepreneurs Start With a Reputation or an Idea?

Jayson DeMers
4 min readJun 12, 2020
Photo by Frank Vessia on Unsplash

With a brilliant idea, any entrepreneur hypothetically should find it possible to achieve success. If you’re that entrepreneur, solving a major problem for a price that your target audience can afford, you shouldn’t have to worry about reputation at all.

But what if you start a business with a strong and preexisting personal reputation? Your idea could catch on faster, or you might have a chance to succeed even if your idea isn’t top of the line.

Aspiring entrepreneurs have the chance to build their personal reputation with a personal brand even before they launch a business. Or, they can work on crafting the perfect idea and let their reputation build itself. So, which approach is better?

Consider the following anecdotal and empirical evidence for each scenario.

The idea

Mark Zuckerberg. By now, you know the basics of Mark Zuckerberg’s entrepreneurial story. Facebook was a side project that started in a dorm room; it was a nifty idea that no one expected to one day support more than 2 billion users. Zuckerberg was a college kid with a strong idea and no reputation; he hadn’t managed any companies previously and certainly didn’t have much of a reputation in the entrepreneurial community. Still, when Facebook got its first million users, it attracted millions of dollars of VC and started growing into the behemoth it is today.

John Paul DeJoria. Here’s how important John Paul DeJoria’s reputation was to his success; he’s worth more than $3.1 billion, but you’ve probably never heard of him. Back in 1980, DeJoria was a door-to-door shampoo and encyclopedia salesman who teamed up with Paul Mitchell, with $700 and an idea, to eventually build a billion-dollar hair-care company. DeJoria would later create Patron tequila, though it could be argued that his reputation helped that idea to become a success.

Henry Ford. Henry Ford didn’t have a reputation when he started Ford Motor Company. He didn’t even have any savings. In fact, when he started his first passenger car company, his partners got frustrated with him because he was always tinkering to improve their designs, rather than putting an idea to market. He managed to scrounge up some investors for Ford Motor Company, and…

Jayson DeMers

CEO of EmailAnalytics (, a productivity tool that visualizes team email activity, and measures email response time. Check out the free trial!