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How to dream up the idea for your startup

Published: 
Thursday, May 22, 2014

Q: I have been told many times over the years, “You have a great attitude and drive, and an excellent mind. You should be an entrepreneur.” But what the heck should I do? I have limited funds and resources. Everything that looks like promising, someone else is doing or has done. I am unsure how to make an idea new or improved, which is frustrating. So what the heck should I do? —Daniel Armstrong

 

The question: what the heck should I do? is one every entrepreneur asks themselves at one point or another. If you tackle the problem with an open mind and a can-do attitude, it is also the question that will launch your career.

 

Let’s get started. Grab a pen and paper (always have your notebook handy; you never know when the next great idea will come to you, and if you don’t write it down, it may soon be gone forever), then answer these two questions:

 

 

Question No. 1: What do you love?

 

Make a list of all the things you are passionate about or that interest you. It doesn’t matter if these items seem trivial or random; something on your list could spark a great entrepreneurial idea.

 

Now look at your list, and think about the industries and markets it touches on. Are any of them ripe for innovation? Think about the companies in those areas whose products and services you like. 

 

Most established businesses have some shortcomings; their customers are just waiting for a better alternative to arrive. Whether the businesses involved are small local operations, online superbrands or global corporate giants, if they’ve stopped innovating, you have an opportunity to seize the initiative. 

 

Sectors where companies have gotten too comfortable and have stopped putting customers first are particularly ripe for disruption.

 

Also look into starting up a related business. In hotspots like Silicon Valley, each successful startup seems to spawn other enterprising ventures that make the initial idea even better. 

 

A great creation like Twitter can lead to dozens of other good products, such as the video tool Vine and the scheduling service Hootsuite.

 

So rather than being discouraged when you find that someone is already acting on an idea similar to yours, welcome the competition. Pick specific examples of what you think their enterprise is doing brilliantly and try to learn why it works so well. 

 

Crucially, also look for areas where the business is performing less well, and work out how your startup could improve on things.

 

Get in contact with the business’s founders and ask plenty of questions. You’ll be surprised to find how many successful entrepreneurs are willing to give advice and guidance; they were all running startups once