People say that ideas are a dime a dozen in startup land, but many aspiring tech entrepreneurs struggle with finding a worthy one to pursue. What makes things even more difficult is that it’s often difficult to tell a good idea apart from a bad one. Even the world’s best investors who see thousands of products per year pass on startups that end up being category defining tech companies and invest in others that have little merit. Fortunately, there are a few places from whence one can draw inspiration.
Start with yourself
At Beta Boom, we seek to invest in founders that are outlier experts in their problem space meaning that we like founders that have created a product solving a need or want that they themselves have and with which they are profoundly familiar. We look for these outlier experts because the insights and passion that they possess are irreplaceable and serve as their initial moat—a barrier that makes it harder for the competition to copy their efforts. For that reason, I recommend starting your search by examining your own life.
In brainstorming product ideas consider all the things in your day-to-day life that frustrate you or that you wish worked better. For the next week or two, micro-analyze your life staying attuned to all the things that seem wrong, inefficient, or annoying. Perhaps you’ll notice something about the shopping experience as you look to buy a new wardrobe, or you’ll find yourself being annoyed by software that you use at work.
Take a notebook with you wherever you go and note down all the things that you wish worked better. Focus on the internal dialog in your head paying attention to queues such as “I wish..,” “I need..,” and “I’d love it if…” Once you have identified a handful of things that you wish were better designed or worked better, think about how you would improve them.
Some of the most successful innovators arrived at their idea by noticing others frustrated by inefficient, confusing, or ineffective products or using products in ways that they weren’t designed to be used—clear indicators that there are needs or wants yet to be effectively addressed.
Similarly to examining your own life, you can observe others while at work or home, shopping, studying, playing, seeking entertainment, etc. Bring a notebook with you and assume the role of an anthropologist without being too creepy. People’s emotions and body language will likely send clear queues about things that frustrate or disappoint them. If you feel brave enough, you can also approach them with great tact and ask them what was it about their experience that made them unhappy. “It seems like that thing really frustrated you,” is one way to get a conversation started.
Sometimes the best inspiration is drawn from other products. For example, the direct-to-customer vertical might have started with brands such as Dollar Shave Club, but there have been scores of other startups that applied the direct-to-customer concept to everything from underwear to luggage. In fact, Away which sells premium luggage directly to their customers started just a few years ago and is a runaway hit. It seems that despite heavy saturation in that space, there might still be a number of hugely valuable direct-to-consumer companies yet to be founded.
There are a number of sources where one can learn about the latest hot products from which to draw inspiration. Start with blogs and publications such as Entrepreneur, Inc Magazine, Fast Company, TechCrunch, ReadWrite, Mashable, Engadget, etc. You might even peruse sites that aggregate products by category such as Capterra and new product such as Product Hunt.
After you garner a list of potential product ideas, the main question really becomes: which one are you most excited to solve, if any? There are a number of other factors in deciding on which idea to pursue, but your passion for solving a specific problem is the most important in my opinion because the startup journey is super grueling and if you are not motivated to get your product into the hands of millions of customers or users, you will be much more likely to quit.