14 habits and hints for finding great startup ideas


how to get startup ideas

Some people look at the glass and say it’s half full. Others see the same glass and say it’s half empty. Entrepreneurs look at the glass and wonder, “What can I make and sell to that guy to top off his drink?”

alcohol-1239004_640 (1)As silly as that introduction may seem, I think it really captures the different way entrepreneurs see the world: They look for opportunities everywhere!

And if you don’t get anything else from what I’m about to say, I want you to get this point:

If you want to be a successful business creator, you need to look at the world differently than 98 percent of the world’s population. You need to discover the opportunities around you. Most will have no commercial merit, but a handful will be valuable and worth pursuing.

With all the tools available to us on the Internet today, there has never been a better time to take your ideas on a test drive. Try things. Experiment. Since you can create an online presence for tens of dollars a month, you can throw a variety of ideas against the wall and see what sticks.

And here’s a habit you need to develop: Keep a notepad (either digital or real paper) handy at all times so you can capture all your ideas – even the ones that seem far fetched.

To get help you develop this new way of looking at the world, here are 14 practical habits and hints.

  1. Listen to your neighbors, relatives, and yourself. Every time they talk about a problem they’re having, put it in your notebook and consider solutions to it.
  2. Study negative reviews. See what problems people are having with an existing product or service. Can you make a better product or supply a better service that will cause greater customer satisfaction?
  3. Combine elements in a new way. Pokémon Go combined a mobile game with “enhanced reality.”
  4. Find a new application or adaptation for an existing product. What are today’s expensive air beds but an adaption of the air mattresses we all used to use when we wanted to float around the pool?
  5. Find a use for something that is currently a waste product. This gives you an identifiable group to market to (the eco-conscious) as well as cheap raw materials. It may also show you how to do something and create less waste and allow you to offer and product or service at a lower price.
  6. Take something from the “real” world and create an Internet version. For example, Pinterest is essentially an online scrapbook.
  7. Each week look through Google Trends. When you find out what people are looking for – if it’s something other than “Kim Kardashian” and similar searches – you know that there is some kind of demand associated with it – even if it’s just for additional information. Can that demand be monetized?
  8. Go direct to consumer. The recent rise of online “clubs” – shaving, wine, jerky, and many others – proves that you don’t have to have cutting edge technology for a successful startup.
  9. Do something that complements a rapidly growing market. You don’t have to have the $10-billion idea. Having the $10-million idea is good too! What service or product would enhance a quickly growing industry segment?
  10. Crowdsource something. Leverage the power of the Internet to assemble virtual cohorts around a product, service, or area of interest.
  11. Find a big industry and create a product or service specifically targeted to meet the special needs of the most affluent or biggest consumers. Think Mercedes-Benz vs. Chevrolet.
  12. Study failed businesses and find out why they failed. Sometimes it’s just an issue of timing – being too early. Think of the failed social media sites prior to Facebook. Is the time right now, or can you avoid the mistakes that caused failure?
  13. Add an element of style and – for lack of a better word – snobbishness to an existing product or service. After all, MP3 players existed for years before the iPod, but it was the style and Apple label that started the revolution.
  14. Watch those Saturday-morning and late-night infomercials. People are making a lot of money selling those products, which are often designed to solve very simple daily problems.

If you need some more specific suggestions, be sure to scan my list of 80 home-based businesses you can do. But, wouldn’t it be even sweeter if you discovered your own idea for a successful startup?