I’m always thinking about startups. On this page I have listed many of the ideas I have come up with over the past few years. Most of the projects listed here never become anything more than an idea. Some take an initial shape (often a doc and domain), and a few even go to market or are being worked on now.
P.S. Thanks to Ivy Xu for some of the points below from her podcast.
- Pay attention to your own problems – this is by far the bulk of the ideas on this page. Whenever you see a problem in the world, note it down and then brainstorm around what a solution might be.
- Niche down – think of an existing industry where you might be able to identify a niche. For example, food delivery apps but for Seniors, or Fitness tracking apps for HIIT enthusiasts, or Travel tips app for Japanese students learning English
- Old problem / New problem / Old solution / New solution – Map each of these on a 2×2 matrix and then use it to brainstorm. The one to avoid is old problem / old solution. You can come up with lots of great ideas with this matrix.
- Productize an existing service that’s normally customized – for example building websites is often a “custom quote”. Find a way to package it into products people can buy.
- Bundling/Unbundling – think about ways to bundle stuff together. For example with bundling, bed and breakfast (house + food), all-inclusive travel packages (air, hotel, taxi, food), all-inclusive website (building, hosting, security, reports) and more. Unbundling examples could be with mobile – you can buy a phone without a plan, or selling individual MP3s vs the whole album. More about this concept here.
- “Not Not test” – Adopted from Merrick Furst, ideate by asking the question: what would our potential target market say to themselves “I cannot not buy this!”. So for example with shopping online, a service that ships nearly anything to you for free for a monthly free. Sound familiar? Yep, that’s Amazon Prime.
How to use these ideation frameworks:
- List a target market that you care about – preferably one you are part of
- Note down all the problems they are experiencing, INDEPENDENT of existing solutions. Think more generally vs specifically.
- Go through each of the frameworks described above and ideate
Need more help? I encourage you to listen to Ivy Xu for more inspiration.
Here is my process (post the initial idea):
- Do some “napkin-math” to see if the idea is worth pursuing (blog post coming soon, for now, see here)
- Check for domain names – see if someone has thought of this
- Research to find out if someone else is building this already. If they are, visit their site and “glean” what they discovered and (often) what they missed (its ridiculously easy to get off track in startups)
- If nobody seems to be, explore the idea further to see if a community exists and if someone mentions the same problem
- Explore the business and startup canvases (google business model canvas)
- Consider the idea from a PM lens: “What could the MVP look like?”
- Think about partners and influencers that might participate
- Think about the Wizard of Oz version of the startup
At this point, if I get a good feeling and think it’s worth pursuing, I start the heavy lifting like
- looking for potential teammates and co-founders
- joining communities (there is a community for everything)
- reading blogs
- joining email newsletters
- asking on reddit for some pointers to resources
- listening to podcasts
- developing a mission/vision (something new that I’m working more on)
- and most important of all: finding and talking to customers to get a deeper sense of their interest and pain frequency
If I can stomach all of this customer and market research, and I’m still excited by the problem (I often stop being somewhere in the research), then I know I’m on to something that’s a great product/market/founder fit (google it.. its a thing).
In the past, (prior to becoming a product manager), I would have jumped headfirst into building the thing. Nowadays, I “front-run” problem discovery, customer surveys, and team building instead.
So that’s a little about my process.. enjoy the list!