Finding a Startup Idea

One of the more common refrains I hear is “I want to be an entrepreneur but I don’t have a good idea.” Yes, it’s true that an idea is important, but it’s also true that it isn’t as hard as it seems to start systematically evaluating ideas. Ideas come in all shapes and sizes and most entrepreneurs pivot at least once before hitting on something that works.

Here are a few thoughts on finding a startup idea:

  • Look at operational challenges or technical inefficiencies at work and ask if a new product or solution could help
  • Ask friends and coworkers what problems they run into on a regular basis
  • Read Sand Hill’s list of recent venture fundings
  • Write down a list of the top five trends in your industry and how they’ll play out over the next 5-10 years
  • Research the top five trends in technology and evaluate how they’ll affect your industry (top 10 tech trends for 2014)

Now, start collecting ideas your ideas in a Google Spreadsheet and refer back to it on a regular basis. Finding an idea can take time but with effort something strong will emerge. Of course, once an idea is in place, the hard part is customer development and proving there’s a real need in the market.

What else? What are some other ways to come up with startup ideas?

10 thoughts on “Finding a Startup Idea

  1. Try to think of 10 ideas a day and write them down. Good, bad, or ugly, the process of trying to think of ideas will force you to look at things differently. What if there was this? Why don’t we do that? Eventually you will happen upon a good idea worth pursuing. If you think of an idea and it happens to already exist, you now know that it was at least valid.

  2. Have your pen, paper, and a camera ready at any given time and just observe the world. It’s amazing when you step back from life, and watch how people and companies work. You may quickly see how things are repetitive and time-consuming. Then, do the ole journalism/ consulting trick and ask those people you’re observing what they like, dislike, what are the pain points of what they’re doing… it’s a fun everyday project.

  3. Pick an industry that interests you. Find a trade association that has regular member meetings and start attending – maybe even to the exclusion of all the startup meetings you are attending now.

  4. Practice makes perfect. I’m doing some kind of intrapreneurship with a startup for a venture of two companies, while meanwhile I try to come up with one idea per day since January 1st that i put on my blog. They’re not all great, but it at least it gives me some direction and inspiration of the next step to take. Continuing the intrapreneurship journey is interesting as long I as learn and make our product and team better. Taking the absolute deep dive with one of my own or someone else’s idea is just one year away.

  5. I can’t honestly say that I have ever thought up a good idea for a business all on my own. I just like to talk to people about their lives/work and try to offer solutions to their problems when I can. Most of the time they decline with a polite “no thanks” and I know that I’m not really solving their problem. But sometimes they say “that would be amazing” and I know I might be on to something.

  6. Dave – what are your thoughts on large markets where there already 4-6 well funded start ups (even though they might not be getting traction)?

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