I used to struggle coming up with ideas. It was so difficult and painful.
I actually STOLE the idea I’m working on now.
The guy I stole it from just decided to make me owner & CEO of his business. It’s funny how the world works sometimes. But that’s besides the point.
Stealing someone else’s idea is just one of the many ways to come up with an idea for your next startup. Before stealing the idea for my current startup, I had become an expert at coming up with ideas, not just stealing them. Most of them were awful, but some were quite good. You’ll get to see many of them in this post. Steal them at will.
You’ll probably need to come up with many ideas to end up with a few good ones.
Here’s how to do it.
#1 Review Kickstarter to see what ideas are the most heavily funded
Use this link: http://www.kickstarter.com/discover/categories/technology/most-funded#p1
Example idea: It’s clear from the Kickstarter technology space that 3-D printers are going to be the next big thing, so if you can think of a product, service, or app that fits with that emerging technology, you might have a first mover advantage.
#2 Review these Reddit forums where people post things that they want to buy
Example: I had luck visiting Reddit for my hometown (Austin, TX) and seeing what people were complaining about. For example, in Austin one of the biggest problems for people is Cedar Fever so I had the idea to come up with a Cedar Fever Care Package that would combine all the known relief aids and remedies in one basket and be delivered to the person who is ill. I could also build a app that sends text message alerts when Cedar Fever and other pollen counts are high in the area based on zipcode.
#3 Do a Twitter search for the phrase: “does anyone know how”
- iPhone tips & tricks Youtube Channel or Blog
- An app that helps you remove stains from anything. Input 1 = What is stained? (polyester curtains,linen bed sheets, cotton t-shirt, etc) Input 2 = What substance caused the stain? (oil, grease, fake tanning spray, Coca-Cola, wine, etc). Output = Specific stain removal instructions.
#4 “Steal” ideas from visionaries
Hey, I actually did this! There are some links below, but your best bet is to research these people and read everything they write.
My example – This is how I came up with the idea for my 1st successfully validated business*. Noah Kagan had started a beef jerky of the month club called Sumo Jerky (disclaimer: I’m now the owner and CEO). His business was profitable within the first 24 hours so I copied it and niched it down to a beef jerky of the month club for people on a special diet called the keto diet (I have since merged Keto Jerky with Sumo Jerky).
*I consider an idea validated if I can pre-sell it to 3 people.
#5 Look within your own life for problems to solve.
- What problems or annoyances do you experience every day?
- Do you think anyone else has a similar problem?
- How could you solve the problem?
Problem #1 – I sometimes run out of things to talk about during long car rides. Is there an app that I can build that can help fill the silence? Maybe a combo of trivia + interview style questions (favorite movies, craziest party stories, favorite travel places etc).
Problem #2 – I often want to search for something in my iPhone texts and/or GroupMe texts, can I build an app that lets me search these at the same time?
Problem #3 – I hate that Google logs me out when I log into 2 different Gmail accounts. Can I solve this problem?
Problem #4- Shower lacks water pressure due to some silly filter / restrictor the apartment installs in the shower head to save on their water bill. I figured out how to poke a few extra holes in the filter to get MUCH better water pressure (Please don’t kill me environmentalists I take much quicker showers now to compensate). Could I offer this as a service to others? Even better, could I write an ebook on how to fix the problem and sell it for $20? I could also sell a replacement filter that already has holes that deliver the perfect amount of water pressure.
Problem #5 – My bedroom windows are a non-standard size and let in way too much light when I’m trying to sleep. It’s impossible to find blackout curtains on Amazon that fit my windows. Could I come up with some sort of adjustable curtain with leaded backing or some sort of removable / adhesive tint system that blocks out the light?
#6 Try to solve problems that your friends and family are having.
- Pay attention during conversations and be observant.
- What complaints come up repeatedly?
- What struggles are they having in their social life, their family life, and their work life?
- What do they want to learn or wish they knew how to do?
- My dad needed a special, small sized iron skillet to make a breakfast sandwich that he loves, so I’m in the process of trying to find it on Alibaba or trying to find someone on Etsy who can produce it. Chances are, if my dad wants one, so do other people.
- Many of my friends want new jobs and need assistance on their resumes. Can I write a book or a blog on how to get a dream job? Is there an app I can create that can make finding a job a simple, step-wise process?
#7 Ask your friends and family what business idea they think you should pursue.
- Maybe they’ll notice something that you missed about yourself.
- Maybe they have a great idea but don’t have the time or know-how to pursue it.
Here’s the exact email I sent to my friends.
WARNING: Most of your friends & family member’s ideas will be terrible, but they’ll probably say something that resonates with you and sparks a really good idea.
#8 What 2-3 skills are you great at already that you can teach to others?
- Email marketing
- Online dating
- Paleo / healthy cooking
- Negotiating online purchases
#9 Customize a popular item like iPhone, Kindle, Toms shoes, etc
- iPhone case that prevents overheating during hot Texas summers
- YETI Cooler stickers, YETI cooler pull cart
#10 Search the Craigslist gigs section and find people who want to spend money to solve a problem. Look for recurring requests.
Example search: Austin Craigslist – Gigs for Pay
- Model verification service. You set up a service where you photograph (candid photos, no filter, no airbrush, no photoshop) and measure local models and keep an up-to-date database of their skills and experience. You sell subscription access to it and share the $ with the models. People who hire models will pay you because you save them time in the vetting process.
- Write an eBook on How to Find & Hire the Hottest Models Using Craigslist
#11 Review Facebook & Twitter to see what people are complaining about and what common problems they have
- Facebook spoiler app. I saw people complaining on Facebook about Breaking Bad spoilers being posted, so I thought of the idea for a Facebook spoiler app that blocks all posts on my news feed and timeline that have the words “Breaking Bad” in it.
- Doggie vomit helmet. A friend was complaining about her dog getting sick and throwing up on her couch repeatedly so I thought of an idea for a doggie vomit helmet that extends from a neck harness and hovers in front of their mouth when they’re sick. Sort of like an Elizabethan collar, but the bottom would slide into a little puke retaining pool. EDIT: This is probably a bad idea and I’m sorry if it grossed anyone out.
#12 Copy ideas that are already validated
I did this too, essentially. Try this:
More resources for coming up with ideas:
Closing note: As you come up with ideas, be sure to jot them down in one place. I recommend a handwritten notebook. Don’t worry about thinking through all of your ideas immediately, just jot them down. Later you can review your notes and see if anything merits your time. The great ideas have a way of pulling you in and forcing you to work on them.
Here’s to big ideas.