How to Come up With Startup Ideas

Group of people brainstorming ideas.

Ask any successful entrepreneur: coming up with great 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 asking yourself, “how do I come up with the perfect business idea for my future startup?”, we’ve got the answers with this guide to everything you need to know about how to come up with startup ideas.

Recommended: Check out our guide on how to start a startup and our list of the best business formation services to help you form your startup today!

How to Get Startup Ideas

Identify Problems and/or Needs in the World

One of the goals of startup companies is to provide an innovative solution to a widespread problem. To come up with a great startup idea, think first about the problems or needs you have in your own life.

Rather than spending time trying to think up problems others face, look at problems and needs you personally struggle with. Not only does this strategy motivate you to solve the problem, but it also ensures the problem you’re solving actually exists. Chances are if you struggle with it, others do as well.

One reason many startups fail is because they create products or provide services that don’t have an interested market. Generally, this is because entrepreneurs focus too heavily on coming up with any idea instead of identifying the demand first. Spend time identifying the needs and problems that affect you and the people around you, and center your startup ideas around solving them.

Focus on What You’re Passionate About

Passion is one of the most important traits that a startup entrepreneur can possess. If you create a startup company with an 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 whether the market is too saturated. You may have a great 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 is 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 are willing to center your life around your passion or if you would rather keep it as a hobby.

It’s likely that 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.

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, such as Google, Apple, and Facebook, started with their founders thinking outside 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 your comfort zone. Discomfort has a way of breeding creativity, so consume media that is outside 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, giving 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 startup companies is innovation. Challenging the status quo to turn an industry on its head starts with creative thinking.

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.

Let’s look at the first technique, prioritize quantity first. During brainstorming sessions, the phrase “the more, the merrier” should be applied. You have time to narrow down your ideas afterward; during this time, focus on coming up with as many ideas as possible.

Secondly, 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.

Last but not least, invite differing viewpoints. A brainstorm is best when there is not only a group of people but the group has diverse viewpoints and lifestyles to influence their contributions. Remember, innovation doesn’t thrive in an echo chamber.

Identify Competitors

Your competitors can be either successful, established businesses or other entrepreneurs that are 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. 

Do Your Research

You’ve most likely heard the phrase “knowledge is power.” When starting your own business, 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 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, molding to accept new trends as they increase in popularity. When coming up with new startup ideas, research not only the foundational information about your industry of interest but 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. 

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, especially when deciding on the right startup idea. As they say, there is power in numbers.

Collaborating with other businesses, organizations, or even friends can boost 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 not only whether your startup idea is promising but also how you can adapt it to appeal to a wider audience or tap into an open market.

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, including 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 be seeking 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 ideas generator or sifting through our guide of the 77 Best Startup Ideas.

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

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