How to Get Startup Ideas

Group of people brainstorming ideas.

If you ask any successful entrepreneur, they’ll tell you that coming up with the very best startup ideas can be challenging, rewarding, and a little overwhelming. The makeup of any great startup idea is a creative solution, a standout product, and a passionate founder dedicated to growing the company. If you’re wondering how to come up with the perfect business idea for your future startup, we’ve got the answers with this guide to everything you need to know about how to get startup ideas.

How to Come Up With Startup Ideas

Before you can build a business, you need a strong startup idea. This likely means not settling on the first idea you come up with. Identifying a startup idea worth pursuing requires research, evaluation, and validation to ensure it has the right elements to become a successful startup. Follow the steps outlined below to learn how to come up with startup ideas and start building your business.

1. Identify Problems and Pain Points

One of the most effective methods for generating startup ideas is by identifying problems and pain points in your surroundings, this is where good startup ideas tend to be found. Start your search with the following tactics:

  • Observe the challenges people face in their daily lives, both personally and professionally.
  • Conduct market research and surveys to gather insights into the needs and frustrations of potential customers.
  • Analyze customer feedback and reviews of existing products or services to identify gaps and opportunities for improvement.

By focusing on solving real problems, you increase the chances of creating a startup that addresses genuine needs and adds value to people’s lives. Keep an open mind and look for pain points in various industries, such as healthcare, education, finance, or transportation. The key is to find areas where existing solutions are inadequate, inefficient, or nonexistent.

2. Explore Your Passions and Skills

Passion is one of the most important traits a startup entrepreneur can possess. If you create a startup company with a good startup idea that leaves you passionless, chances are you won’t be as dedicated about selling your product — which doesn’t bode well for your startup. So, how do you assess whether your passion would make a great startup idea? Start by following these tips:

  • Determine if the market is too saturated. You may have a brilliant idea, but you need to figure out how many others have the same great idea to ensure your startup is able to stand out.
  • Assess whether there’s a demand for your startup idea and if the market is large enough to get you moving toward your financial goals.
  • Ask yourself if you’re willing to center your life around your passion or if you’d rather keep it as a hobby.

It’s likely your level of passion is matched by others who will want to buy your products or services. By focusing on the industries, hobbies, and topics you’re most passionate about, you can open up the door for innovation to create a startup that excites you as much as your favorite activities do.

3. Think Creatively

Originality is key to a successful startup. If your startup isn’t equipped with a product or service that stands out from the competition, your chances of success are limited. Not to mention, some of the most successful startups in the world (e.g., Google, Apple, and Facebook) started with their founders thinking outside of the box.

Get the creative juices flowing by trying these creativity-boosting techniques:

  • Change your location. Take a walk or drive to remove yourself from your typical workspace to heighten your senses and clear your mind.
  • Do something outside of your comfort zone. Discomfort has a way of breeding creativity, so consume media that’s outside of your comfort zone, do something that scares you, or talk to a stranger.
  • Draw from your resources. Friends, family, or acquaintances are a great resource for bouncing ideas off of, and, typically, their viewpoint will vary from yours to give you a fresh perspective.
  • Try stream-of-consciousness writing. A useful tool to get out of a mental rut, stream-of-consciousness writing allows you to follow every train of thought to new, creative heights.

Remember when we were talking about identifying problems to come up with startup ideas? If you’ve identified a widespread problem or need, thinking creatively can help you generate solutions that are unique and impactful. The defining characteristic of successful companies is innovation. Challenging the status quo to turn an industry on its head starts with creative thinking.

4. Conduct Brainstorming Sessions

Brainstorming is a popular business tool to generate ideas for one reason: it works. If you haven’t already conducted brainstorming sessions individually or with a group, it’s time to give it a try. Brainstorming can be done by creating lists, mind maps, or simply writing ideas on a piece of paper. The right way to brainstorm is the most effective method for you.

Conduct effective brainstorming sessions with these three techniques: prioritize quantity first, create a no-judgment zone, and invite differing viewpoints.

  • Prioritize quantity first. During brainstorming sessions, the phrase “the more, the merrier” should be applied. You’ll have time to narrow down your ideas afterward; during this time, focus on coming up with as many ideas as possible.
  • Create a no-judgment zone. Every idea that comes out of brainstorming isn’t going to be a winner, but creating an environment where everyone (even yourself) is free to get creative with their ideas without fear of judgment will help encourage creativity.
  • Invite differing viewpoints. A brainstorm works best when it includes not only a group of people, but also a group with diverse viewpoints and lifestyles to influence their contributions. Remember, innovation doesn’t thrive in an echo chamber.

5. Identify Competitors

Your competitors can be either successful founders and established businesses or other entrepreneurs cutting their teeth in the same industry. Either way, identifying who your competitors are is essential to coming up with the most effective startup idea. Here’s why:

  • Established businesses that have found success in your chosen industry have many lessons to teach new entrepreneurs. For example, their initial marketing strategy could be an effective tool for you to improve upon and make your own.
  • You need to be able to offer customers a unique product or service that will draw them to your startup rather than to one of your competitors. Determining who your competitors are can help you narrow down your startup idea to give you a competitive edge.
  • It enables you to better assess holes in the market to appeal to a demographic that isn’t being targeted yet.

6. Do Your Research

You’ve most likely heard the phrase “knowledge is power.” When evaluating startup ideas, it’s more powerful and important than ever. Conducting effective research about all aspects of your new startup company provides you with tools to make informed decisions and smoke the competition. Let’s take a look at the areas in which you’ll need to do thorough research:

  • Your Target Market: These are the people your marketing strategies will target. Defining and researching your target market is absolutely crucial to effectively marketing your business. Get to know who you’re selling to by researching the average lifestyle, age, gender, and location of your future customers.
  • Your Industry as a Whole: Most industries adapt and change, evolving to accept new trends as they increase in popularity. When coming up with new startup ideas, research the foundational information about your industry of interest as well as the trajectory of its growth to come up with a startup idea to match.
  • Impactful Trends: What seems to be gaining traction lately? Staying on top of trends is important, and identifying impactful trends is even more important. Learn to differentiate between trends that are ripe for rapid growth and trends that are nothing more than a passing phase. 

7. Collaborate and Ask for Feedback

Build a network of collaborators to receive support and valuable feedback from. Networking is essential at every step of starting and operating a business, and it can be especially useful while you evaluate startup ideas. As they say, there is power in numbers.

Collaborating with other businesses, organizations, or even friends can boost your creativity and get you closer to choosing the right startup idea for you. Focus on building strong relationships with fellow entrepreneurs that can help you identify startup ideas with promise and leave the ones that may be less profitable. When you are finally in business, this network won’t cease being valuable.

Constructive criticism can be a tough pill to swallow. However, asking for feedback is one of the best ways to help you make an informed decision about if your startup idea is promising and how you can adapt it to appeal to a wider audience or tap into an open market.

8. Evaluate Your Startup Ideas

When you’ve generated a few new startup ideas to choose from, it’s time to put them to the test by reevaluating your selections. The goal here is to assess whether the startup ideas have promise and speculate which ideas are the strongest. Start evaluating your startup ideas by answering these questions:

  • What is the demand for this idea?
  • How am I going to supply the demand for this idea?
  • Am I passionate and excited about starting this company?
  • What are my assumptions vs. concrete information about the idea?

You want to establish a realistic, full-picture perspective on each of your ideas. This should include everything from how you personally feel about the venture to how you are going to produce the product to meet demand. It’s incredibly important that you have a distinct understanding of the type of startup company you’re forming — especially if you’re going to seek funding from outside sources.

Explore Free Business and Startup Resources

Fortunately for entrepreneurs, there are loads of free business and startup resources available online. Taking advantage of these resources is an easy (and inexpensive) way to develop a winning startup idea.

We recommend starting with this business idea generator or sifting through our guide of the Best Startup Ideas.

For more business help beyond coming up with your startup business idea, visit our Business Center for resources on everything from free legal forms to step-by-step instructions on how to start a business in your state.