As we all know, a business starts with an initial idea which, due to the individuals' action becomes re-iterated and eventually develops into a real business opportunity which can either be exploited or not. So far so good. But where do people get these very initial ideas from? Well, there are obviously many different approaches for this and it varies from person to person and idea to idea. When it comes to starting a business, there are always three things (not necessarily in this sequential order) the entrepreneur has to do:
- Come up with an idea
- Take the general decision whether or not he or she wants to become an entrepreneur
- Figure out how to actually start a company...
So how exactly do you come up with a good business idea, or any idea at all? Well, business ideas are everywhere and all around you. You only need to put your idea generation hat on and start seeing the different possibilities which are all around you. While some ideas come from a systematic analysis of market trends and customer needs, others come up serendipitously. You might also receive an idea from one of your contacts and friends. It could, however, also just be a result of purposeful search for an idea.
The most important and first question you should ask yourself is whether or not there exists a specific problem you would like to address. Is there something which you dislike in everyday life? Something you think should be done a lot better or different in order to facilitate things? This is a great first step. However, if you cannot come up with an idea right now, don't worry. There are also more systematic approaches of how to find an idea.
Other questions you can ask yourself and things you can do to quickly find a suitable business idea:
- Do you have a specific talent or proven track record which could serve as a basis for a business?
- Do you surround yourself with inspiring people? Do you have entrepreneurs in your network who could help you out? No? Then simply attend some startup event and join networks to get access to such individuals. Do you enjoy playing with ideas and discuss them with your friends and family?
- Do you participate in conferences and networking events in your domain of expertise? These are good sources for ideas. We're not saying that you should steal ideas away from others (unless they're of course really really good) but for sure you'll get inspired by them.
- If you're very imaginative, creative or tech-savvy you can of course invent a new product or service. This goes back to the point of "Is there anything which you would do different if you could?" This, however, doesn't have to be a disruptive innovation but can also be an incremental innovation starting from an existing product or service which you want to improve.
- Look around also in markets or industries which you are not so much familiar with at the moment. This will not only broaden your horizon but most likely offer potential of transferring knowledge and approaches into your own market or industry.
- Try to figure out where the trends are going. Ideally you are at the forefront of the trend and can quickly react to implement one of the early versions of a solution.
In the following we will showcase a few quotes from entrepreneurs about how they got to their business ideas:
- Miral Kotb (Founder of iLuminate): “It was at the Apple developers conference in 2009. They were talking about how wireless devices were something you could place in different places, like kids' toys. And I thought, "What if you could connect to dancers wirelessly on stage?" Then it turned into, what if there were lights on the body, and you could turn the lights on and off to react to the movement and the music? Then I started exploring the programming of the lights, the choreography and music, how to make people appear and disappear. That’s how the idea of iLuminate came to be”
- Fred de Luca (Founder of Subway): “I was working at the hardware store in the Bronx and needed money for college. My parents took me to a family friend and I thought he is doing well, so I will ask him if he has any good ideas for college, kind of hoping he would reach into his pocket pulling out a stack of 100 dollar bills and give them to me. I said: Pete, what should I do? Very simply he said: You should open a submarine sandwich shop. After he saw that I got enthusiastic about this very simple idea, he handed me over a 1000 dollar check and said that he would become my co-founder.”
- Krishna Barat (Creator of Google News): “It was right after September 11, a lot of people were reading news and to keep up with what was happening, they had to go to multiple sources of information and I realized that the process of tracking a story from different sources was currently very inefficient. I thought it was part of Google’s role and mandate to figure out how to make this process more efficient. So we created Google News to aggregate all information in one place to make the process of reading news more efficient.”
- Joe Kraus (Co-Founder of Excite): “We decided to start a company together before we had any idea what we were going to work on…we met at a restaurant and started brainstorming. We came up with a bunch of bad ideas until one of us said: Why don’t we do something in the search space. All that stuff was built in the 50s. There’s got to be an opportunity to do something there”. This brainstorming developed into one of the most visited websites of the 90s.
As you can see, it doesn't really matter who you are, where you're from and what your current situation is. You can find many prominent examples of individuals who were in exactly the same situation as you are now and started some of the most amazing companies in history. Good Luck with yours...