How did you come up with your business idea?


For those of you who have successful businesses, how did you come up with your business idea?

I'm trying to think of a business idea but none of the ideas I've come up with so far (currently about 30; I keep a list) are anything I'm terribly enthusiastic about. If I'm going to put all my time and energy into something, it can't be something I have tepid feelings about.

If you want to give me some advice, that would be fantastic, but I'm mainly interested in how YOU came up with YOUR business idea.

Strategy Ideas Business Model Business

asked Nov 23 '10 at 01:23
Jason Swett
555 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll

9 Answers


Solve a problem - Either your own or someone else's.

Our Virtual TimeClock software was created more than a decade ago after a consulting customer asked me to look into the availability of employee time clock software for his computer. Well over a hundred thousand employees in over 50 countries now use Virtual TimeClock every day.

answered Nov 23 '10 at 04:32
Keith De Long
5,091 points


The primary way: Find an itch and scratch it for them.

Said differently, the traditional way I've seen ideas happen is by making yourself exposed to people who have problems. Sales people, in consultative domains, are a good example. By selling one thing, you often hear of other peripheral problems. Many of those are often the start of a niche product. Devs who don't hide in a closet, and actually interact with business users, are another source.

The reason I stated those examples above is because each led to one of my two startup involvements.

The second way: Adapt scratcher to a similar, but new itch.

A third startup I am interested in launching is to adapt one of my above ideas to a different market, with some market-related changes.

answered Nov 23 '10 at 07:38
1,383 points


In response to the "steal from others" comment, check out this ChangeThis manifesto, called The Fallacy of The Great Idea. It argues that "starting up with a tried and tested concept is very sensible. The real key to success is focus and brilliant execution" rather than a great and completely original idea. I found this manifesto quite empowering. Trish

answered Nov 25 '10 at 19:24
186 points
  • Great point. One of my recent "ah-ha!" moments was when I realized that it's not necessary to come up with a completely novel idea in order to be successful. – Jason Swett 13 years ago


By starting with an initial idea and evolving it constantly over the years with much hard work listening to the market. This is how most ideas are formed, it isn't the romantic ideal of a light bulb appearing over someone's head in the middle of the night.

answered Nov 23 '10 at 06:13
David Benson
2,166 points
  • So what was your idea? – Jason Swett 13 years ago
  • My original idea was to partner with the guy that wrote this software,, and commercialize extensions to it. Over time we realised that a niche market was forming for a diagram component in native browsers, so we created Our currently idea is a mix of the native browser technology, cloud computing and the rise of personal storage platforms. We were fortunate that my partner was very skilled technically and I brought the commercial side to the mix, the balance was more luck than skill... – David Benson 13 years ago


I exactly know the position you are in .. because I have been there.

Here are some resources for you to get over this feeling
1) Book - How to get rich
2) Video - In short - instead of spending a long time thinking about the idea, just pick the best idea from the list of 30 or so ideas and start doing something.. you will learn from it and along the way you will see more and better opportunities..From my experience - just make sure that the techonology and domain are something you are really interested in even if it is not the best idea that you have..

In some cases it may be a combination of fear of failure and first time entrepreneur phenomenon ( )

Plus another link from this community that might help you - 5 tests my next business idea will have to pass - Can you add more ? Good luck..

answered Nov 23 '10 at 15:19
Neo Syne
75 points


The best ideas are the ones you steal from others!

answered Nov 23 '10 at 17:21
2,079 points
  • @Franky B: Could you expand? As your answer stands, it is not clear whether you recommend "stealing" ideas or not. Additionally, I don't really see how ideas can be stolen, given that abstract ideas cannot be patented or in any other way be exclusively owned. – Jesper Mortensen 13 years ago
  • My apologies for the short answer. I find that a lot of 1st timers in business struggle with the question "what will i do" or "all the great ideas are already taken". The easiest way to avoid that problem is not to acknowledge it as a problem. Maybe the word steal is wrong, but more gain inspiration from other ideas. Xerox might consider that apple stole their concept of a UI, and many claim that microsoft has stolen ideas, such as C# being very close to java. The trick is not to think has this been done already, but how can i do the same exact thing and make it a little better or cheaper. – Frank 13 years ago
  • Bottom line the best way to look for a good idea is to copy an existing idea and do it again. A good rule in life and business is if you talk like a duck long enough you will be a duck. The advice I give my younger friends is to hang out around people who they aspire to be like, after a while you will talk like them, think like them, and eventually act like them. The same is true in business, take an idea of a successful company, both in relations to business products and how they run their business or company culture, and run with it. Over time make it your own, making it better. – Frank 13 years ago
  • Business is never a Zero sum game. There is a lot of room for many players. And nobody should complain about being the 100th biggest seller of online DVD's or perfume, or CRM software if they are happy with what they are offering, living a good lifestyle, and working for themselves rather than anyone else. So, skip the part about coming up with your own idea, and steal a good one or one that inspires you. – Frank 13 years ago
  • @FrankB: "Steal" is a loaded word. :) I would use "inspire" or "repurpose". Lots of startups come from old ideas tweaked and applied to new markets. One of my startups was nothing anyone would see as a crazy-novel idea, but we're now the market leader in that space. – Alphadogg 13 years ago
  • I like steal, because it ecompasses what I believe a true startup is. For success you must be willing to sacrafice, bootstrap, steal, go without food and water, and live off red-bull, working 12 hour days, 7 days per week. That type of passion is what inspires me. The startups who are busy writing a business plan, cruising crunchbase, and daydreaming about angel investors, they probably dont understand the true meaning of the word Steal. – Frank 13 years ago
  • One other thing,,, I dont think Joel and his buddies exactly invented the idea of a Question and Answer forum? And it seems to be a pretty good idea, specially stack overflow. PS. I like it when you vote me down, it costs you points! – Frank 13 years ago


I am with Keith. The best idea is the one that solves a problem, not the one you think could work, or it's cool or whatever. Just give customers what they want.

answered Nov 24 '10 at 20:11
184 points


The best business ideas are the ones you create for yourself...based on a solid understanding of who you are, where you have been, what you are trying to achieve and so on.

Any idea can become the 'next big thing', but if you don't have the skills, resources or personal desire for that business idea then it is almost destined to fail.

Choose a business idea that is right for you...then make it the 'next big thing'!

answered Jan 24 '12 at 06:59
1 point
  • Can't say that what you create for yourself may be the same as you would have to create for others. – Karlson 11 years ago


You can start with the niche that is not too small and not too big. Talk to the professionals in this niche, try to understand their problems and find a way to solve one of them.

answered Nov 23 '10 at 05:11
970 points
  • So what was your idea? – Jason Swett 13 years ago

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