Great ideas can come from anywhere, and unmet needs often make the best business ideas. Here, we’ll share tips for brainstorming. Once you have an idea, you can start your entrepreneurship journey.
1. Identify profitable startup ideas.
Successful startups begin with an idea. You can’t build a business without one. Here are some creative techniques for thinking of a product or service.
Ask your friends what frustrates them.
Founders often strike gold when they ask about their pals’ frustrations. “When you set out to build a product, it’s typically to solve an issue you’re fed up with. That’s why I teamed up with some of the same friends who were asking me to help them book party buses, and we created Swoop,” says Amir Ghorbani.
Like Amir Ghorbani, these founders got inspiration from challenges that bugged them and their friends.
Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp started Uber after struggling to get a cab.
Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail founded Venmo (acquired by PayPal) after they had trouble paying each other back by check.
Chris Riccobono and Aaron Sanandres launched UNTUCKit — a line of shirts that look good untucked — after getting frustrated with how wrinkly and ill-fitting their regular button-down shirts were when they didn’t tuck them in.
As you brainstorm, ask your friends to keep track of the day-to-day things that annoy them. Go through their lists and look for problems you might be able to solve.
Get inspired by emerging startups.
Checking out the businesses of emerging startups is a great way to kick your thought process into gear. You can get ideas from Product Hunt, a constantly updated curation of the newest apps, websites, and games.
An excellent success story of this approach is Zapier.
In the words of Wade Foster, CEO of Zapier, “One day Bryan [a co-founder] texted me and said, ‘Hey, one idea that I think could be useful is to make it simple for a business user to connect the tools they’re using. You could integrate Mailchimp and Wufoo or Zendesk and Salesforce with a quick drag-and-drop click UI.’”
Lots of discussions followed. And today, Zapier is worth $5 billion.
If you’re more of a physical-products entrepreneur, you can check Kickstarter for ideas. Product review sites like Uncrate, Werd, and Wirecutter can spark your creativity and give you ideas as well.
Identify trends to future-proof your idea.
As the world changes, people will need different products to make their lives easier. For instance, the rise of Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing apps created a demand for a third-party app that shows the cheapest ride fares at any moment.
You want to get ahead of the curve. Read trend predictions for your industry or market, or check out universal trend forecasting publications like Trend Hunter and Springwise. Then ask yourself, “If these predictions come true, which tools will be necessary?”
2. Find and focus on a growing category (or categories).
Licensing expert and intellectual property strategist Stephen Key recommends picking a category that fascinates you but isn’t overly competitive.
“I avoid industries that are notoriously challenging, like the toy industry. There are so many people creating in that space,” he explains. “You will have an easier time licensing your ideas if you focus on categories of products that are growing, as well as receptive to innovation.”