5 Steps to Finding the Right Startup Idea for You

5 Steps to Finding the Right Startup Idea for You

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Are you looking to start a business but don’t know where to start?


Jerod Harris | fake images

I’m vice president of business operations at Intro, a marketplace that connects people with entrepreneurs. I’ve chatted with some of the world’s most successful founders (like Alexis Ohanian on Reddit and Spencer Rascoff on Zillow) and distilled my top 5 tips for coming up with the right business idea.

For personalized help and advice, you can schedule one-on-one video calls with these founders and many more at Intro.

1. Start with a problem

“The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It’s to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself.” – Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator

Nick Huzar founded OfferUp because he was having a child and didn’t have space at home. He needed to sell things.

David Greenfeld founded DreamPops because he loved sweets and became lactose intolerant.

Starting a business is not easy and the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who are truly committed to the problems they are trying to solve. So before you start brainstorming, ask yourself:

  • What are the issues that concern me deeply?
  • What problems have I faced in the past that I know how to solve?

If you want to seek venture financing, you need:

  1. A problem that affects a group of people.
  2. A market that grows more than 20% per year
  3. Something that must be resolved immediately.
  4. A problem that affects people regularly

2. Create a solution

(Note: Don’t start here! A solution that tries to find a problem is an exercise in frustration.)

Once you’ve identified a problem that you’re passionate about solving, it’s time to start thinking about how you can tackle it. And one of the best places to start is by looking at what’s already out there.

  • What products or services are currently available in your industry?
  • Is there a gap in the market that you can fill?
  • Is there a way to improve existing solutions?

3. Consider your experience and knowledge

Why you against someone else?

Your experience and skills are valuable assets when it comes to starting a business.

Think about what you are uniquely qualified to do and how you can use your experience and knowledge to solve the problem you have identified. You should have some advantage over any joe shmo on the street.

4. Get feedback from potential customers

Sarah Leary, co-founder of Nextdoor, knows the power of getting actionable feedback from users.

Talk to potential customers, but avoid asking leading or screening questions. Instead, focus on gathering information about the customer’s historical and current actions, behaviors, and needs:

  • Focusing on customer actions and behaviors: Instead of asking someone’s opinion, try to understand what they really do and why. For example, “How do you currently solve this problem?” or “What made you decide to use our product?”
  • Ask open-ended, undirected questions: Instead of asking “Do you like our idea?” try asking “Tell me about the last time you used [insert name of a similar product in your industry].” or “What do you use [product name] for?”
  • Avoid yes/no questions: These types of questions can be limiting and don’t provide much useful information. Instead, try asking questions that encourage the prospect to explain their thoughts and experiences in more detail.
  • Listen actively and take detailed notes: Pay close attention to what the customer is saying and try to capture as much detail as possible. This will help you better understand your needs and pain points.

The more you can learn from potential customers, the better.

5. Don’t be afraid to pivot

Don’t be afraid to kill your baby.

Intro started as an in-person networking tool and evolved into a virtual consulting platform.

Even the best startup ideas may need to be refined or changed entirely as you learn more about your market. So don’t be afraid to give it a spin if you realize your original idea isn’t working.

Hopefully this guide will help you navigate the waters of finding the right startup concept. Pick an idea where you care deeply about the problem and the customers. Something that excites you and that you think has the potential to be successful. With these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to getting a startup idea.

If you need help along the way, don’t be afraid to ask.

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