5 steps to finding the right startup idea for you

opinions expressed Entrepreneur Shareholders are theirs.

Are you looking 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’ve spoken with some of the world’s most successful founders (like Alexis Ohanian at Reddit and Spencer Rascoff at Zillow), and distilled my top 5 tips for creating the right business idea.

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

1. Start with a problem

“The way to get startup ideas isn’t to try and brainstorm startup ideas. It’s to look for problems, preferably problems that you face yourself.” – Paul Graham, Founder, Y Combinator

Nick Hozar founded OfferUp because he had a child and didn’t have a place in his home. He needed to sell things.

David Greenfield 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, ask yourself:

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

If you want to seek investment financing, you need:

  1. A problem affecting a group of people
  2. A market that is growing at 20%+ annually
  3. Something needs to be resolved immediately
  4. A problem that affects people regularly

2. Formulate a solution

(Note: don’t start here! A solution trying to find a problem is an exercise in frustration.)

Once you’ve identified a problem you’re passionate about solving, it’s time to start thinking about how you might tackle it. And one of the best places to start is by looking at what’s already out there.

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

3. Consider your experience and expertise

Why You are versus someone else?

Your background and skills are valuable assets when it comes to starting a business.

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. Should have some advantages over any off-street shmo joe.

4. Get feedback from potential clients

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

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

  • Focus on the customer’s actions and behaviors: Instead of asking someone’s opinion, try to understand what they’re really doing and why. For example, “How do you currently solve this problem?” or “What made you decide to use our product?”
  • Ask open-ended, non-leading questions: Instead of asking, “Do you like our idea?” Try asking, “Tell me about the last time you used it.” [insert name of a similar product in your industry]. or “what are you using.” [product name] to?”
  • Avoid yes/no questionsThese types of questions can be limited and not provide a lot of useful information. Instead, try asking questions that encourage the prospect to explain their thoughts and experiences in more detail.
  • Actively 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 learn from potential clients, the better.

5. Don’t be afraid to spin

Don’t be afraid to kill your child.

Intro started as a personal communication tool and centered around a virtual advisory platform.

Even the best startup ideas may need to be refined or completely changed as you learn more about your market. So don’t be afraid to switch to the hub if you realize your original idea didn’t work out.

We hope this guide helps you navigate the waters of searching for 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 succeed. With these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to realizing your startup idea.

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

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