Q: What's more important: having a brilliant idea or execution?
A: Execution -- without question.
Ideas are a dime a dozen. Many entrepreneurs will have three or four ideas before breakfast, at least one of which will be good. In the technology industry, four to five startups often launch at about the same time with the same idea. Of these, only one goes on to rule the industry, one becomes a strong number two, and the rest become also-rans. The difference is execution.
To put it differently, what separates the most successful entrepreneurs from the rest is their ability to focus on one good idea and then make it happen. As anyone who has ever built a company can attest, that's a lot easier said than done.
Even if you have the greatest idea in the world, you still have to build the product. You have to hire great people, and teach them what to do. You have to market the product, sell the product, buy equipment, listen to customers, evolve the product, hire more great people, fire mediocre people -- all while not running out of money. Doing all that is hard. And you have to do it no matter how good your idea is.
It's true that it's hard to build a good business with a lousy idea, but great entrepreneurs won't stick with a lousy idea when they discover that it's lousy. They'll just improve or fix it. And that's part of execution, too.
So whoever said that success is 1 percent genius and 99 percent sweat is correct. "Ideas" are worthless if you can't execute them.