SURE, YOU WANT TO build a business empire. But first you need to come up with a brilliant business idea. And a real good one. Many people say brilliant. Startup ideas can come from just about anywhere. Let’s look at the most common sources:
- A subject or problem from your day to day life
- An emerging trend A gap in a specific market
- A drive to help others in an inventive way
- A special skill or expertise that you possess
Which of them is the best business idea?
How to come up with a brilliant business idea is not difficult as you may think. We’ve asked scores of the successful entrepreneurs and known experts this particular question. And by far, they agree: It’s that first one, the problem or “pain point” that you personally experience or see frequently, that is the ideal motivation for starting a company.
While you can (and should) pull from any of the sources on the above list for your startup idea, it’s wise to draw primarily from your own needs or frustration. Why, exactly? Starting a company will require long hours and seemingly endless focus. Both are much easier when you feel a personal connection to the purpose behind the company.
The advice I have for entrepreneurs is . . . number one, you need to solve a real problem. I look for those problems in my own life. Mint was because I had a challenge managing my own finances using Quicken and Microsoft Money. So I built it for myself.” AA RON PATZER, founder of web-based personal finance service Mint.com , which he ultimately sold to Intuit for $170 million.
If you don’t have that fire or personal desire to see your concept and idea come to fruition, we don’t recommend pursuing your startup idea.
The initial hiccups
That’s because the initial days of starting a company are notoriously difficult. You may find yourself asking whether you’ve made the right call. That’s especially true as the months or years pass by, and you’ve decided to quit a lucrative career, invest personal savings, and sacrifice time away from family to chase your dream.
Many seasoned entrepreneurs, by the way, say it takes at least three years to find your startup footing, and that many newbies give up too soon.
But beyond that, there’s another reason why it makes sense to let your personal challenge lead the way. Chances are, others are experiencing the same problem as well—even if they’re not entirely aware of it. They’re called your customers.
Steve Jobs while developing iPad was reminded that there is no market for such device. He insisted customer may not even know right now that they need it. We need to let them know that they actually need it.
“ I spent all my hard-earned money on this one pair of cream pants that hung there, and I decided to cut the feet out of control top pantyhose one day, and I threw them on under my white pants, and went to the party.
I looked fabulous, I felt great, I had no panty lines, I looked thinner and smoother . . . and I remember thinking, “This should exist for women.” SA RA BLAKELY, inventor of Spanx underwear, whose net worth is now valued at more than $1 billion Of course, you might say to yourself: “Wait a minute.
Yes, this is a personal frustration of mine. And others probably experience it as well. But chances are, someone else is already working on a solution.” Guess what: You’re exactly right.
In some form or another, nearly every idea is already out there. But how you implement your idea, position your new concept, and and achieve a competitive advantage. “Every company needs a starting point,” says Eric Paley, managing partner of seed-stage venture capital fund Founder Collective.
“I encourage entrepreneurs to focus more on falling in love with the problems they want to solve rather than their initial ideas.” As founders dig deeply into that original hypothesis, they will learn, adapt, hit walls, adapt again, and build critical expertise that they never considered when starting out. “In fact, in many cases the original idea later seems humorous or at least incredibly naive compared with the lengths to which the startup needs to go to become successful,” Paley says.
You may recall when Jeff Bezos launched Amazon.com in 1994 as a bookseller or for that matter Flipkart which was started on the same line. Or when Snapdeal was started as a discount coupon store. All have transformed their companies into something very different than their original concepts. How to come up with a brilliant business idea something they never cared about yet succeeded. While true in those times it may not be true now.
It’s important to remember that the startup you first set out to build will not resemble the company you are operating five or ten years later.
Startups, and businesses in general, evolve and take on shape of their own—in large part due to technological advances, changing customer tastes or changing market dynamics.
The most successful entrepreneurs always keep a finger on the pulse of the current market. After launching, they ask questions such as “How is the product performing?” “Is it easy or hard to sell?” “What kind of value does the product provide in the current climate?” “Is it generating revenue or not?”
Vision statement and business idea
“ A vision . . . is the most powerful and unique asset any company has. The original idea for my company started out of a simple pain point I wanted to fix: Find a [fitness] class easily. As Class Pass grew, my vision expanded further into making fitness a way of life. We’ve pivoted our company a few times, and the most important reason was because it didn’t map to our true north. It’s hard to always predict how customers will engage with your product; when you see a behavior that isn’t aligned to your vision, you have to be able to shift gears. Ultimately, your vision has to be at the core of everything you do, even if that means adjusting or iterating your product road-map to make sure you get there.”
PA YAL KADAKIA, founder of fitness startup ClassPass, a.k.a. the “Netflix for workout classes,” which has shifted its business model, raised prices, and discontinued its popular-but-unsustainable unlimited workout option, all since launching in 2013
Based on all that, you might find it tricky to come up with a brilliant business idea, particularly if you understand that your startup will need to keep changing and iterating.
That’s why some entrepreneurs also recommend coming up with a vision, which stays true even as your company morphs.
The process begins with a self reflection and deep dive. Your aim is to list your top five values, strengths, skills, and lifestyle goals. Personality tests such as Myers-Briggs and Gallup’s Strengths Finder (including the new entrepreneurial strengths test) can be helpful in fleshing out some of this detail. You may also wish to solicit feedback from your personal and professional network. Aggregate the data, and for each of your lists, consolidate similar attributes into buckets until you have only five traits on each list. The conclusions will be crystal clear.
If for example you think that you value family, that some of your best skills relate to advising other people, and that your primary lifestyle goal is to have work-life balance, you may determine that you want to build a company that will allow you sufficient time off, such as a professional services business. On the other hand, if you value status, you have fantastic computer-engineering skills, and your lifestyle goals include penthouse living, you might conclude that becoming a CTO at a tech startup is a good fit for you.
The next step is to assess the topical areas about which you are passionate. This exercise can incorporate subject matter you’ve studied, a domain you have mastered in previous careers, or a subject that’s been a hobby for you to date. All subjects are fair game—so long as you’re passionate about them—and they can be totally unrelated to your skills. For instance, the CTO in our example might have a passion for topics as diverse as pets, coffee, and Asia. The important thing is that you feel energized to promote and solve problems in these domains.