Startup Ideation



Back in Lesson #1, we talked about determining whether or not you had a good business idea for your startup.   I just assumed everyone reading already had a startup idea in mind.  But, what if you don’t?  What if you know you want to startup a business, but aren’t really clear on what business to start.  If that is the case this lesson on startup ideation is for you.

To me, startup ideation is centered around solving real life problems, with a solution you are passionate about.  Notice I intentionally did not lead with: can you make a lot of money with this idea.  Although that is an equally important concept, that analysis will come later, as we learned in Lesson #1.  But, as we discussed in Lesson #50, unless you are passionate about what you are building, your startup will most likely not survive all the potential pitfalls that come along the way.  It is much easier to get frustrated and walk away from a business you are not passionate about.  It is much harder to walk away from a startup that hits you in your soft spot.  Every good entrepreneur needs that extra drive to get through the good times and the bad times.

Launching iExplore was like that for me.  I was passionate about adventure travel. As a traveler who had been to 50 countries I was looking for an easier way to plan trips to remote destinations, based on the pain points I had identified in the process of booking my own trips. That passion fueled the business through both the good times (e.g., the dot com boom) and the bad times (e.g., after the impacts of 9/11/01).  When you are passionate about something, you want it to succeed that much more, regardless what hurdles get thrown your way.

So, what is the best way to identify real world problems that need solving?  Simply living your day-to-day life will identify plenty of opportunities.  Every time you get frustrated about an inconvenience you experience, write it down in a notebook.  Before you know it, you will have pages of inconveniences that most likely millions of other people are frustrated by. Then, prioritize that list of inconveniences around the products or services that are most meaningful to you.  Perhaps these are your hobbies, or certain interests that really get you excited.  And, worth mentioning, the more first hand experience you have around a topic, the better you will be in building a business around that topic.

So, as an example, in my life, I am passionate about many things.  I love movies, music, collecting books, traveling, college football, history and spending time with my family, to name few.  We already learned iExplore was born out of my love of travel.  So, what other pain points exist across these topics, that a startup may solve real world problems?  As one example, I hate movie reviews from professional film critics, as I usually never agree with them.  I would rather rely on the movie critiques of friends and family that I trust, who best understand my interests and would recommend movies that I would most likely enjoy.  Voila!  There is a startup idea of turning my Facebook friends into movie reviewers, in an industry I am passionate about, with a solution that will improve my life.  Whether or not it is good idea, or an idea an investor would back, would be the next question solved by Lesson #1.

So, keep your notebooks handy and you will find startup ideas will be aplenty!!

This article was originally published on RedRocket VC, a consulting and financial advisory firm with expertise in serving the start-up, digital and venture community.

Photo credit: Eric Acasio

About the author: George Deeb

George Deeb is a managing partner at Red Rocket Ventures, a Chicago-based startup consulting and fundraising firm with expertise in advising Internet-related businesses. More of George’s startup lessons can be read at “101 Startup Lessons — An Entrepreneur’s Handbook.”

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