Looking for a Startup Idea? Try These Proven Strategies.

Surely, you’ve heard the popular phrase, “An idea is worth nothing.” It’s true. An idea is worth zilch. Anyone can have one. And it’s not worth a damn thing unless it’s flawlessly executed and becomes a product or a service that people are willing to open their wallets for. Despite this, many entrepreneurs tend to be secretive about their ideas, so much that they’ll force you to sign a lengthy nondisclosure agreement before sharing it with you. It’s their idea, their baby. And even if it’s just marinating in their head, it’s theirs and theirs alone.

So, this begs the question: how do you come up with a good idea? You know, one worth protecting? One that gets you fired up, that you believe is an idea worth fighting for?

An idea if the first early hurdle to overcome in the startup process. Many people know they want to become entrepreneurs, but get stuck from the get-go, frozen during the ideation process. If you are stuck on your startup idea, try the following strategies.

How to come up with a startup idea

Become self-observant: look for problems.

Stop fixating so much on an idea and start fixating on problems. What problems do you experience, or those around you experience, that you feel are worth solving? It’s easy to go through your day and ignore your typical challenges and annoyances. Make time to reflect on your day and quickly journal about problems or inefficiencies you may have faced yourself, or observed others face. Again, don’t get lost thinking about solutions, not yet. Just think about problems. Who has them, why they matter, how they impact people.

Look to sci-fi to pique your imagination.

You can look at science fiction movies good entertainment, or you can view them as a tool for exploring new concepts. However you feel about science fiction movies, they safely explore new ideas in the realm of on-screen entertainment. There’s no boundaries and no worries about a practical business plan (other than one to sell box office tickets). Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and innovative organizations like XPrize frequently count on science fiction to push them just a little bit farther. Take the time to watch a few movies and let your mind wander. It’s a safe, cheap and wild way to brainstorm and see what “out there” concepts you dream up.

Consider your passions and lifestyle.

What sorts of interests or hobbies or lifestyle choices are you closest to? Think about you are as a person—a runner, a mom, a student, a health nut, a fiancée, an organizer—and consider the inefficiencies or unique challenges you work through in each “category”. You being an expert in your own life in these areas gives you a certain edge and lens through which to view challenges. For example, startup Pace Match, a finalist in Girls in Tech’s AMPLIFY pitch competition, was created by a runner who knew it was challenging to find a running buddy with the exact same pace.

Bring existing concepts into the modern era.

You could create a radically new technology or imagine an entirely new way of living. That’s one way to go about it. But you can also take an existing idea and modernize it. Dating apps have done this. Dating isn’t a new thing, but a dating app and the ability to “meet” virtually is. Look to hot interests or daily needs like cooking, gardening, house cleaning, child care and consider how you can update the concept for a digital audience.

Once you come up with a few solid startup ideas, next consider their viability. Think through how you’ll test your ideas, and what resources (people, capital, and technology) you’ll need to get the ball rolling.

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