Escalate

The art of business idea generation

  • Our instincts tell us that a valuable idea won’t be just lying around for anyone to discover. However, a good idea is really just lying around; all it takes are small changes in perspective
- Pranjal Ghimire

Feb 27, 2017-

If you are like many aspiring entrepreneurs, coming up with a potentially profitable idea is one of the hardest things. You have been led to believe that coming up with a good idea for a startup is very hard, so you get intimidated by it. The general belief is that good ideas come by pure chance, they either pop into your head or they don’t.

One of the main reasons people think this way is because they over value ideas. They think creating a startup is only a matter of implementing a few amazing initial ideas.

 When a person starts to reason that, ‘since a successful startup is worth millions of dollars, a good idea must therefore be a million-dollar idea as well’, then of course idea just seem harder. Our instincts tell us that something that valuable won’t be just lying around for anyone to discover. However, a good idea really is just lying around; all it takes are small changes in perspectives on how we come up with ideas.

Ask questions

One thing people need to realise right off the bat is the fact that most startups end up nothing like the initial idea. That initial idea is only a starting point for the startup and has the potential to evolve into a better one. Therefore, the logical thing to do is to think of an idea as something fluid, and not as a fixed blueprint.

One way to think of your business idea as something dynamic is by framing the idea as a question. Instead of saying, ‘I will make a ride sharing app for two wheelers’ try to say ‘Is a ride sharing app needed for two wheelers?’ instead. The idea now becomes a promising question that needs to be explored. And a question doesn’t seem so challenging, does it? Rather, it becomes a project that is fun to undertake.

The end product you create may not be anywhere near your original idea, however, framing an idea as a question gives you an opportunity to explore different perspectives.

Y Combinator, the world’s best startup support program, started in the same fashion. Paul Graham questioned whether they could provide small funds to various startups and train them, rather than millions of dollars to a small number of startups. This one simple question led to one of the most successful startup accelerators in the world.

Leverage your environment

To generate good ideas you need two things, familiarity with promising new technologies, and the right kind of friends. These two characteristics are not independent but rather are mutually dependent on each other. If new technologies are the ingredients startup ideas are made of, conversations with friends are the kitchen they’re cooked in.

The main reason why so many startups grow out of universities is because universities are one of the best places to get a great mixture of both. As universities produce new researches as much as possible, they are filled with the knowledge and insights on new technologies. Furthermore, they are full of exactly the right kind of people to discuss ideas with—the other students.

Students are not only smart but also very open-minded. During the process of explaining your idea to your peers, you will gain important insights, and possibly even find the right person to help you with the idea.

However, the right environment for generating startup ideas need not only be in a university. It just has to be a situation with a combination of both new technologies and the right people. Where you work at could also be a potential hot bed for finding the right idea.

Problems can guide you

It is very easy to get lost in search of an amazing idea that is both profitable and changes people’s lives.

It’s like knowing that hidden in a block of marble is a fabulous sculpture, and all you have to do is to chisel away at the unwanted parts. Although you know that there is something there, where do you even start? For aspiring entrepreneurs, thinking of a problem they would like to solve would be a great starting point.

Problems set certain boundaries where you can let you mind wander and find new solutions. However, it is harder to see problems than come up with solutions for them. Problems are usually so irritating that most of the time you just ignore it and so do other people. If you pay close enough attention, you can see what problems people face in their daily lives. And your job is to lessen the pain that is caused by the problem. 

For instance, spam filters were introduced in the 2002, however, before that most people preferred to simply ignore spam. All it took was for someone to know that all spam emails have some common characteristics, and with simple codes you could filter them out. A problem that was as obvious as this was out there for so long, until someone finally found a solution for it. Ask yourself this, what irritates you? What are you just ignoring only because you think it’s unsolvable?

Create for yourself

There are two types of startup ideas, those that you come up with because you feel the problem yourself, and those that you create assuming that some people face a certain problem.

Apple, for instance, happened because Steve Wozniak wanted a computer, and he could design one, so he did. Only, it turned out that lots of other people wanted the same thing, and so Apple ended up selling enough to sustain the company.

Apple still uses this principle today, Steve Jobs once said, the iPhone is the phone he always wanted to use. Most successful startups seem to be closer to the ideas that grow out of your need rather than others needs. If you ask yourself what is missing in your daily life, and come up with an answer, it is highly likely that other people will have the same problem as well.

If they lead a lifestyle similar to you, they might have similar problems. Reddit is a classic example of this approach. The founders of Reddit just wanted a service that would tell them what was new and otherwise stay out of the way. The hassle free, simple design of Reddit appealed to everyone and became massively successful. Ask yourself what you would want others to create for you, and instead just create it yourself.

In conclusion, although finding a good idea might seem like one of the hardest things to do, it is actually one of the easier things to deal with while running a startup. All it requires is that you don’t place too much value on the idea, and that you change the way you approach it.

Published: 27-02-2017 09:38

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