START YOUR OWN BUSINESS
This option is the one I prefer, as seeing problems and possible solutions are not something I have troubles with :). Quite the opposite – there is rarely a day when I don’t have a new idea for a project. It is very easy to get distracted and excited about the next idea, so I have to force myself to just write new ideas down and focus on the current one. There is a great image that is super descriptive of my “problem”:
Even though you can see a lot of great ideas out there, I noticed that lots of entrepreneurs have a problem – How to find a good idea for a startup. The challenge here is that it is really hard to understand if the idea is good or bad until you start testing it. I have had many ideas that I was very excited about and thought they were great, but talking to potential customers and looking at the data “killed” a lot of them. And that is fine. So, now I just write down all of them on my Ideas list (I am using Wunderlist app for this purpose, but anything can work, even a piece of paper), and when the time for the next idea comes, I follow the lean startup methodology to “test” if this next idea is worth pursuing. I’ll explain this process later.
Business ideas sources I use:
- Personal observations
- “Listening” to what people say
This is probably my biggest source. As I already mentioned earlier, my mind is constantly “working” on noticing problems, annoyances, confusions, etc. and almost instantly thinking of how this can be improved or fixed. I think this comes from my UX design passion and the core principles of that “science”. By the way, UX design, and specifically User-Centred design approach is very similar to the Lean Startup methodology that I am covering on this website. Thinking about me 5 years ago, it feels that the skill of noticing problems around you can be developed. The more you think about what makes your life harder, the more of this you can start discovering. I think what was also helpful is some reading on User Experience, specifically Don Norman’s “Design of Everyday Things” (Buy on Amazon→). This book is a great showcase of product problems everywhere around us. I remember reading this book and thinking “This totally makes sense! This IS annoying“. Highly recommend this book to “open” your problem-seeing eye. Warning: I doubt you can “close” this eye after it is opened, so think twice before choosing the red pill =)
“Listening” to what people say
This one is huge and has multiple sub-sections which I may cover in a later post. To summarize, you should listen carefully to what people complain about and what annoys them. Sometimes, it won’t be literally speaking with them, but observing their frustrations and reaction to using other products. This skill also comes from the UX design and is similar to usability testing method where you observe how people use the product, which helps you discover what causes confusion, frustration and other symptoms of bad UX design. Some time ago I was lucky to work at a startup and my work involved talking to a lot of end-users and observing how they used our products in real-life. This was an amazing experience that allowed me to discover usability issues of our mobile and web apps, but more than that – hearing users’ pains and problems gave me ideas for new products and features. Asking the right questions is very important. I prefer very simple open-ended questions (e.g. “What is the biggest problem in running your company?”, “Describe me your typical day”). There is a potential trap that people will try to describe you a specific solution they need, but quite often this will be just a tip of the iceberg and the underlying problem will be different. Make sure you try to dig deeper and figure out the core of the problem. Recently, I was reading a great book “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries (Buy on Amazon→) and he mentions the 5 Whys method that can help you to get to the core of the problem. Highly recommend this book. Being able to hear people’s problems without asking any questions is a skill I think can be developed, but will take some time.
Listening to podcasts about startups and other entrepreneurs is a fantastic “passive” way of thinking about new ideas. Usually, I use my commute time for this. Just listen to other entrepreneurs’ success and failure stories, hear their thought process, how they came up with their idea, what problems they had, etc. There are a ton of great podcasts; more and more people think that podcasts will replace blogs. I have tried 20 or 30 different podcasts, but my top 4 are:
- This Week in Startups by Jason Calacanis
- The Tim Ferris Show by Tim Ferris
- Startups For the Rest of Us by Rob Walling and Mike Taber
Similar to podcasts, but more in-depth. Reading the stories behind big names, their struggles and how they make decisions, very inspiring and sometimes very eye-opening. I will add another section on this website for books later. A few great books I read recently:
- “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz (my best pick, so far, highly recommend!) (Buy on Amazon→).
- “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries (Buy on Amazon→).
See best entrepreneur books in my Reading List section.
BUSINESS FOR SALE
Buying an existing business may be a good option if you want to skip the first few steps, which has its own pros and cons, and I will write about them later.
Read the next post to find out what to do next.