Are you the guy who nailed the right startup idea and turned a small startup into a big success? Nah. If you were, you wouldn’t be here. Let’s face it: if you’re reading this article, it can mean one of two things: either you tried and failed, or you didn’t try at all.
If you failed, good for you! All the successful people failed dozens of times before getting it right. But maybe you’re not trying simply because you can’t. You watch those startups get filthy rich and think: “hey, I’m smarter than those guys”. You might be. But you just can’t think of a smart startup idea to save your life.
Stop listening to other people’s fish stories. Let’s go fishing instead. You’ll clear your mind and learn some useful tricks…
Don’t choose the spot because of the scenery
You’re fishing, aren’t you? You’re not hiking. Sure, those snow-capped mountains and green meadows behind that lake are a great thing to look at, but shouldn’t you check whether there are any fish in the lake before wasting your day?
Don’t create a product or service and then look for people who want it. If everybody says “it sounds good, I’m sure somebody will use it”, it means nobody will use it. No matter how good it sounds, there should be a need beforehand. Look for people who badly need something. It doesn’t have to be a big group. You can start in a small niche as long as there’s a genuine need for what you are developing.
You see, such people will buy even if your product isn’t polished or very attractive. Then you build on that; you spread your net in every direction. Eventually, if your startup idea catches on, you move out of the niche. But you must start with something real.
Use the bait you’re familiar with
Everybody’s talking about those fancy electronic lures, so you bought one and spent the afternoon waiting in vain. Even if you manage to catch something, you’ll never be as good as the fishermen who really know those lures. How about you take out those worms and leeches that you’re so familiar with? They might not look like much, but they work.
When you aren’t inspired, look at your area of expertise. Did you ever wish somebody would invent a particular thing that would make your job easier? Did you hear others say the same thing? That might be it. As Gandhi said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Startup ideas are hidden in the complaints of people around you.
If you’re an expert in a subject and have some free time, study a very different subject that interests you. The chances of stumbling upon an original startup idea will grow exponentially. Cross-pollinating can produce extraordinary results. And it never hurts to learn something new.
There must be a reason why everyone fishes over there
You take one look at the forest of fishing rods on Lake Popular and decide you’ll be smarter than everybody else. So you move to a deserted lake and wait and wait and wait…
In all probability, you’re not a genius. You won’t have an incredibly original and lucrative idea that nobody ever thought of. What usually happens is this: you think of an idea and get discouraged right away because you’re sure somebody else already thought of it. Just in case, you google the idea. Yes, just as you thought: other people are providing services similar to your idea.
But don’t give up just yet. Is there an aspect of that idea that you’ve figured out better than they have? Check your potential users. If the competition missed a crucial aspect of the product or service that the customers need, and you nailed it, you have your customer base.
It doesn’t matter how big the market is. In fact, the bigger, the better. After all, if you start in a big market with strong competition, it means there’s big demand. In such a context, even a small improvement can bring big money.
That fish just might be delicious
Don’t throw that ugly bastard back into the water. It’s grown so big precisely because nobody wanted it. You catch fish to eat them, not to admire them.
Good ideas can be unattractive.
Of course you’d rather do something that doesn’t involve accounting or legal disclaimers or other annoying real-world issues. But many ideas are shunned by startups precisely because of such baggage.
Great opportunities stand in plain sight but aren’t taken because people are afraid of them or hate dealing with them. Nobody wants to touch garbage. But Tony Soprano made millions on it. OK, I’m not saying you should get a startup mafia going, but you will get your hands dirty if you work seriously on any startup.
You can’t fish in an aquarium
So close and yet so far…
Reading stories about successful people isn’t enough to have a bright startup idea, you know. Put your fishing boots, go out there and develop a killer instinct to have a successful startup.
Content Manager @ Startup Buffer. The proud owner of several million words and not much else. But that doesn’t stop him from having a good time in Croatia.