How To Get Great Startup Ideas


Earlier today, I was on Quora and I saw a couple of questions on how to get startup ideas. The questions and responses I saw there inspired this article. A lot of people really wants to change the world with the next big idea and it’s great to know that the passion is intense.

But I also realised that people have a wrong view of startup ideas. Some think it is rocket science while a few others think it’s fun fair. Whether it is rocket science or fun fair, it’s worth knowing that Ideas and Startup Ideas are two different things.

Ignore The Cool Ideas

The very first step to take when sourcing for startup ideas is to forget about cool ideas. Cool ideas are often not startup ideas. When thinking of a startup idea, you should think of something that people will love.

But if thit’s where it stops, then it’s just another cool idea. People need to love it enough for them to pay for it.

For instance, some guy wants to build an app that plays a random song once every hour. That means, once it is 5pm, it’ll start playing a song from the phone’s music library. 6pm, another song goes and the cycle continue.

That sounds great right? It’s totally cool, but will you be willing to pay for that? I don’t know about you, but my answer is no. If I needed an alarm, my Samsung phone has a perfect one pre-installed.

Look For Problems

The key to having good startup ideas is to look for problems to solve. Every great idea must have the capacity to solve a problem. People will always be willing to key into anything that solves their problems.

Some ideas basically won’t sell because they don’t solve any real life problem. For example, starting an ice-cream business in winter will not yield positive results because it is the wrong season. People need things That will keep them warm in that season of the year and not the other way round.

So if your idea cannot solve problems, it is not a startup idea. It doesn’t matter how long it took you to “think it up.”

The phrase “think it up” just struck a cord in my heart. Back then in college, a lot of smart guys occasionally sit down together to figure out the next billion dollar idea that will rock the world. Well, I was part of them, and we got great hypothetical ideas and a theoretical idea of how the world works.

Workers, academics, students and people generally, often hold such long brainstorming sessions for startup ideas. They want to think it up.

As good as that may sound, if you are not thinking of solving REAL LIFE problems, then you’re no where close to a startup idea. Most great startups didn’t come by thinking it up. That sounds wrong right?

Bu it’s the truth. This is because in the process of thinking, there is always a high probability of thinking of problems which only a few percentage of individuals can relate with. And I believe you are not establishing a startup for just 0.0001% of people on earth.

I’m a die hard fan of brainstorming sessions. But it is more relevant when you are developing an existing idea and not when you are try to get a fresh one. Instead of “thinking it up”, I’d rather you “identify and research on a problem.”

I can conclusively say that the best way to get startup ideas is to identify problems.

How To Identify Problems

You may be thinking that this sounds so complex, but a great idea is one of the four requirements for starting a successful startup. So if it goes wrong your startup may not end up well. Identifying problems can be quite rigorous, but worth it.

1. Identify Your Area Of Interest

A startup is different from a conglomerate. While a conglomerate has different companies under it with different focuses, a startup is focused on one thing. A startup shouldn’t be working with three ideas at the same time. It doesn’t work that way. Thus, you need to identify your area of interest. If you’re opting in for sports, fine. Your idea should revolve around sports. If it’s health, then stick to it.

2. Ask Questions

Ask people the problems they face in the area of your interest. I was thinking of an idea in the agricultural sector. A lot of stuff was coming to my head, but they were quite vague and conflicting. I stepped out of the house and met a friend. I asked her what were the stuff she feels could be improved on in the agricultural sector. She told me that she just wished that her vegetables will lasts beyond a day or two.

Gbam! That was a light bulb idea. I immediately realised that Nigeria doesn’t have good agro-preserving culture. And I was like, “hey, what if I start a startup that will preserve and package vegetables and make them available in every season of the year.”

That was it. This idea will solve a major problem in the Nigerian food market of which her 190million citizens are all customers. People will certainly pay for it and this tiny idea came by simply asking a basic question.

Asking questions may require you to prepare a questionaire and share it among the potential users of your market of consideration. Analysis of the results will show you problem that should be solved. But you don’t need to go that far, unless it is extremely necessary.

3. Use The Products And Services Of Existing Companies

There is Yoruba adage we use a lot here in Nigeria. I’ll feed you on it,

Wetin you dey find for Sokoto, e dey your shokoto

It simply means that what you’ve looking for in a far away land has actually been with you all the while. You can get startup ideas without knocking every door in your neighborhood.

An easy way to get startup ideas is by consuming the products of your choice market and then identifying the gap that needs to be filled.

I wrote sometime ago that criticism can fuel Improvements and New Directions.

In this case, you’ve got to constructively criticize the products and identify the basic improvements that they lack.

The first television sets were grayscale coloured. You keep seeing those black and white images. Everyone loved it. Afterall, half-bread is better than none. But they wanted something more. It was John Login Baird, a discontented user that finally came to our rescue by improving on what was already existing to give us the much cherished color television. So improvements is allowed for startup ideas.

3. What Bugs You

When I was in college, we were mandated to register our courses every new session. It was a manual process, and trust me, it was pretty annoying and stressful. Course registration was the only thing every student in my class harmoniously hated with passion.

When I was in my final year, I was meant to work on a project. Without thinking too far, the first idea that came to my mind was to build a system that will completely solve the challenges of manual registration. And that was it. I did it.

Things that bug you are often pointers to your next startup idea. When I was done with the project, I made plans to get a patent right for it and to propose my master-craft to the college. Well, I delayed and I was eventually late. Someone else designed a better one and pitched the school before I did. Too bad.

It all boils down to solving problems. The college management bought the idea because it solved problems.

At the end of every day, people return to their homes tired and exhausted due to lots of things that happened in the day. Take a review of your day and identify the challenges you faced. It could be challenges in a restaurant or even on the road.

Uber came as a solution to problems people face daily on the road when waiting for taxis. And they were like, “what if we reduce the waiting time from 20mins to 5mins by simply building an app that will connect taxi users to taxi drivers.” And that was it. Uber is worth billions of dollar today because it solves a problem.

I so much believe in startup ideas that pops up in the head naturally when one least expects. I really do. But are you going to sit down, cross your legs and sip a glass of soda while you wait.

Time is too short to start late. Start identify problems today and you never can tell, you may be the next successful entrepreneur to be featured on Times Magazine.

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