Startup Studio: Creating Innovative Ideas, Problem-Solution Fit



The entrepreneurial journey includes searching for a problem-solution fit. Searching begins with curiosity and observation, an awareness and understanding of our environment and the broader world around us.

Creation Realities, Now Legendary Lore

Zipcar: Car-sharing company launched in 2000, IPO in 2011, and acquired by Avis in 2013 for $500 million. In 1999, the founder returns from a trip to Europe where car-sharing concept is popular and cofounders based business on existing German and Swiss companies. Launched concept in Boston and across the US.

Rent the Runway: Founder observed her younger sister, Becky showing off a $1,600 dress she had just purchased for a wedding and noticing the “kazilion” other dresses in Becky’s closet and how the sister couldn’t stand to repeat an outfit. A closet full of dresses, but nothing to wear. Rent the Runway now offers over 50,000 dresses and 10,000 accessories from over 200 designers. Company has raised $160 million in venture funding and has more than 5 million users.

Dropbox: Drew Houston. Graduated MIT in January 2006. Summer 2006, while waiting for a bus from Boston to NYC, realized that he had forgotten his USB drive back at his apartment. Frustrated and on the 4-hour bus ride, he began writing the first lines of code that would later become Dropbox.

Identifying Venture Opportunities – Where to start looking for an idea?

  1. Dominant source of venture ideas is prior employment—work experience
  2. For younger entrepreneurs, your college experience. From dorm room to campus
  3. Travel and personal hobbies
  4. Experiences, particularly frustrating ones
  5. Observation of customer needs, complaints, and unfulfilled wishes

What are the key skills that innovative entrepreneurs use to identify ideas for a new venture?

5 Discovery Skills:

  1. Associating: connecting unrelated questions, problems or ideas
  2. Questioning: asking questions that challenge conventional wisdom and the status quo
  3. Observing: scrutinizing common phenomena, particularly the behavior of customers
  4. Networking: cultivating a network with diverse perspectives, expertise, and experiences
  5. Experimenting: reducing uncertainty by testing assumptions and learn by doing

The Innovator’s DNA by Jeffrey H. Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton M. Christensen, December 2009, Harvard Business Review



Now, get out there and start innovating!


Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by TechCrunch

About the author: Grant Son

Grant Son built a previous startup into top 10 sports website that was acquired by ESPN.  He is currently the CEO of Greater Good Ventures, providing venture services to early stage ventures, large corporations and Ivy League Universities.  Grant also teches Entrepreneurship at Columbia University and Sports Marketing at Columbia Business School.  He serves as a Mentor and Entrepreneur in Residence at Cornell, Columbia, Wharton, and Johns Hopkins.  Grant also recently served as judge for business plan competitions at Columbia, Wharton and Cornell.  

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