5 steps to finding the right startup idea for you

Opinions expressed by entrepreneur associates are their own.

Want to start a business but don’t know where to start?

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I’m the VP of Business Operations at Intro, a marketplace that connects people with entrepreneurs. I spoke with some of the most successful founders in the world (like Alexis Ohanian at Reddit and Spencer Raskoff at Zillow), and shared my top 5 tips on generating the right business idea.

If you want personalized help and advice, you can book one-on-one video calls with these founders and many more on Intro.

1. Start with a problem

“The way to come up with startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas.” Rather, look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself.” – Paul Graham, founder of I Combinator

Nick Huzar founded OfferUp because he had a child and didn’t have room in his house. He had to sell things.

David Greenfeld founded DreamPops because he loved sweets and became lactose intolerant.

Starting a business is not easy and the most successful entrepreneurs are those who are truly invested in the problems they are trying to solve. So, before you start brainstorming ideas, ask yourself:

  • What are the issues I care deeply about?
  • What problems have I faced in the past that I know how to solve?

If you want to seek venture funding, you need:

  1. A problem that affects a lot of people
  2. A market that is growing 20%+ per year
  3. Something that needs to be addressed immediately
  4. A problem that affects people regularly

2. Create a solution

(Note: Don’t start here! Trying to find a solution to the problem is an exercise in frustration.)

Once you’ve identified the problem you want to solve, it’s time to start thinking about how to solve it. And one of the best places to start is by looking at what already exists.

  • What products or services are currently available in your industry?
  • Is there a gap in the market that you could fill?
  • Is there a way to improve existing solutions?

3. Consider your experience and expertise

Why you against someone else?

Your experience and skills are valuable assets when it comes to starting a company.

Think about what you are uniquely qualified to do and how you can use your experience and expertise to solve the problem you have identified. You should have some advantage over any Joe Schmoe off the street.

4. Get feedback from potential customers

Sarah Leary, co-founder of Nextdoor, knows the power of getting useful feedback from users.

Talk to potential customers, but avoid asking leading or evaluative questions. Instead, focus on gathering information about the customer’s historical and current actions, behaviors and needs:

  • Focusing on customer actions and behavior: Instead of asking for someone’s opinion, try to understand what they are actually doing and why. For example, “How are you currently solving this problem?” or “What made you want to use our product?”
  • Asking open-ended, non-leading questions: Instead of asking “Do you like our idea?” try asking “Tell me about the last time you used [insert name of a similar product in your industry].” or “What are you using [product name] For?”
  • Avoiding yes/no questions: Questions like this can be limiting and don’t provide much useful information. Instead, try asking questions that encourage the prospect to elaborate on their thoughts and experiences.
  • Active listening and taking detailed notes: Pay close attention to what the customer is saying and try to capture as many details as possible. This will help you better understand their needs and pain points.

The more you can learn from potential customers, the better.

5. Don’t be afraid to turn

Don’t be afraid to kill your baby.

Intro started as a personal networking tool and transitioned to a virtual consulting platform.

Even the best startup ideas may need to be tweaked or changed completely as you learn more about your market. So don’t be afraid to pivot if you realize your original idea isn’t working.

We hope this guide helps you navigate the waters of finding the right startup concept. Choose an idea where you care deeply about the problem and the customers. Something that excites you and that you believe has the potential to be successful. With these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to coming up with a startup idea.

If you need help along the way, don’t be afraid to ask.

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