If you’re interested in startups, one thing that seems incredibly daunting is thinking up a great idea for your new venture. In reality though, ideas for startups are all around you if you know where to look. These are seven questions you can ask or things you can do to think up great startup ideas.
1. What do People Ask You For Help With?
It’s hard to start a company when you have no relevant skills. As someone who’s never painted since preschool, I’d have a hard time trying to make it as a painter. If you’re interested in starting a consulting or freelancing job, one of the simplest things you can do to come up with ideas is to think about what you’re friends and colleagues frequently ask you for help with. Maybe you’re the “excel wiz” everyone comes to, or you have great advice on public speaking. Any skill can usually be turned into a consulting business and eventually a product (such as online course, set of videos, etc.)
2. What Annoys People in Your Life?
Go up to a few of your friends and ask them what annoys them the most about their day-to-day lives. There will be a lot of noise to sift through (you can’t easily fix traffic) but you might start to hear things that you can build a business around. Maybe all of your friends want a quicker way to shop online, or a way to find delicious new coffees; whatever it is, you could likely build a business around it, and you’ll already have a few interested customers.
3. What Do You Have an Ugly Solution For?
Odds are good that there’s something in your life you’ve cobbled together a partial-solution for. Something to save you a bunch of time that a full solution for doesn’t exist. Whatever the solution is, odds are good that other people are doing something similar or have thought about it, and if you can make a product that does it for them it will sell very well.
4. What are People In Your Communities Looking For?
You are probably a member of a number of communities, both online and in real life. These could be forums, clubs, your job, or even sub-communities on sites like reddit. The benefit of having a community is that you already understand their wants and needs, and you can listen to see what they want to buy. You could go to a MeetUp group and try suggesting a few business ideas to see which one sparks the most interest, or post some ideas in a relevant subreddit to gauge people’s reactions.
5. What Makes People Mad?
JetBlue was created mostly because people hated airlines so much. They took an industry with a lot of animosity and created a solution that put the fliers first, and it’s done very well. You can find similar things simply by going to Google/Facebook/Twitter and searching for “I hate (something)” or similar. People love to complain on the Internet so you’ll be presented with a lot of startup ideas.
6. Who is Your Sounding Board?
The #1 most important element to me in coming up with great ideas is having a few close friends to bounce them off of. Friends that can be honest with you about your ideas will save you a ton of time mulling over bad ideas and ignoring good ones, because they can poke holes in your bad ones and inspire confidence in your good ones. Even better, you’ll frequently talk to these people and together you’ll come up with an even better idea than what you’d originally started with.
7. Why Force It?
Sometimes when you try to force yourself to come up with ideas, you’ll be stumped. It’s hard to be creative on command, so one of the best things you can do is not sweat it, and instead get in the habit of jotting down every idea that comes your way. I try to come up with at least 10 ideas a day for anything (startups, blog posts, self improvements, etc.) and I always make sure to write them down. The more you get into the habit of capturing the inspiration that strikes you, the more you’ll become an idea machine.