How did you conceive your startup idea?


I think a lot of conceivable startups have already been conceived. A lot of workable business ideas have already been worked out. How did you manage to conceive your startup idea?

All is well if you have a pain and you know how to solve it. But let's say current technologies and tools are already adequate for your need? How did you conceive a startup idea even though you don't have any problem of your own to solve?

Getting Started Ideas

asked Oct 22 '09 at 17:59
871 points
  • "Everything that can be invented – has already been invented." [misquoted]( from commissioner of the United States Patent Office in 1899. – Torben Gundtofte Bruun 12 years ago
  • "Anything that won't sell, I don't want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success." - Thomas Edison – Torben Gundtofte Bruun 12 years ago

12 Answers


From the question:

"a lot of conceivable startups have already been conceived, a lot of workable business ideas have already been worked out"

That's like saying a lot of music has already been written. Of course it has, but there's always another song. And there's always another new solution to the world's problems.

Start writing down every idea you have. Every idea. Even if it's not something you think you could even solve. The point is to get yourself in the habit of writing down ideas. Once they are written down, you can research and refine them.

I use the notepad on my iPhone because I have it with me all the time. Sometimes I spend time just thinking about ideas, but most of the time the ideas pop up in the course of my normal activities. I've trained myself to listen and be aware of what people are saying and look for ways I can alleviate pain.

I regularly review my list of ideas. Many of them have already been done, but that isn't a reason for discouragement. It proves that I have great ideas! Someone I follow on Twitter just posted about his need for what one of the ideas already on my list solves. That idea is getting moved up!

One of my ideas would take millions of dollars to pull off. That one is probably dropping to the bottom of the list.

I am currently working on launching and/or prototyping 3 of my ideas. I think my problem now is that I have too many good ideas and I don't have the capacity to pursue them all.

answered Oct 22 '09 at 23:49
Coder Dennis
691 points
  • "a lot of conceivable startups have already been conceived..." Dead flat wrong. Why? New technology platforms (cloud/mobile) and people having new problems they need solved with those technologies (a Amazon S3 good client for mere mortals, speaking from experience) – Bob Walsh 14 years ago



  1. Solving my own pain
  2. Solving other people's pain
  3. Be imaginative and try to predict where the trends are going

If there is anything about history, this argument of "a lot of conceivable startups have already been conceived" has been proven wrong again and again. Imagine if Henry Ford thought the same line a century ago. Maybe we all still riding a horse today.

There are heaps of problems waiting to be solved. Go out there and help make the ideas become reality.

answered Oct 22 '09 at 22:19
Hendro Wijaya
1,408 points


Most good startups are conceived by frustration over current solutions - so unless the world is perfect 'I think a lot of conceivable startups have already been conceived' is completely incorrect.

For us, I tried paying for a tool - that didn't work. So I built a prototype - and that failed. A dozen iterations later, we got the technology side working so that we are happy with. Similarly on the business side, I talked to alot of people who would be interested in joining our company and would be interested in using the product - and I learnt more of what is needed in a solution.

A good startup is often based on someone's pain, and (IMO) iterated alot with feedback from others.

answered Oct 22 '09 at 22:42
1,080 points


Hendro's right. But I'd stick with solving your own pain. Focusing on things you need versus things other people need is exponentially easier. The quality of the things you produce is so much better, just because you have a harder time letting things slide because you depend on them working well.

"All is well if you have a pain in ass and you know how to solve it. But let's say current technologies and tools are already adequate for your need?"

That can't be always true. No way! :) There must be something that frustrates you. Look at how finding a startup idea frustrates you, it sounds like. Is there a solution in there for you?

Or go take one of the tools you use today to accomplish something. Do you use it enough? If you started becoming more of a power user does it start to get more frustrating? Go to a support forum for one of these tools you use. Are their problems something that is actually your problem if you were using the tool more?

Another good way to get inspiration is to just increase the frequency of trying out new projects. People who consult independently are usually in a good place to do this. They don't work on the same exact system for years like many employees are. When you work on the same system for years you get comfortable, and that's not good. For people who run independent consulting shops, they often get to work on at least a few projects a year for different clients. Seeing new industries. Having to work with their clients different ways and solving different problems. There's more discomfort for yourself in doing something like that, which can lead to more things that need solutions.

answered Oct 23 '09 at 03:26
Nathan Kontny
1,865 points


I approached it from this angle.....

First, I asked, what technology is big, expensive, complicated, and only available to the large companies that can afford the software and all of the consultants and support staff around it.

Then, I've looked for one of those systems that could be packaged up and marketed it in a much simpler, more accessible, and cheaper format.

Democratizing and commoditizing technology is a well trodden path....

Look at the iPhone which is heralded as revolutionary, but in my eyes is only an evolutionary step - a simpler, glossier PDA/Smart Phone, executed brilliantly and targeted at the consumer.

answered Jan 11 '10 at 05:54
Benjamin Wootton
1,667 points


many people did this by simply thinking about problems in their own lives and researched solutions only to find there isn't one out there. So, they made one...

answered Mar 15 '10 at 14:45
Ron M.
4,224 points


I believe the success of a startup is very much in the execution rather than the originating idea.

  • Adaptation to circumstances
  • Refine the business idea as you gain more information
  • Depending on how you treat your customers' "pain" you'll either succeed or fail
answered Oct 28 '09 at 21:55
Anders Hansson
606 points


Completely agree with Dennis response You normally get lots of ideas just when you listen. IMHO I think ideas are cheap, but its much harder to solve the problem/idea than thinking about the problem. If you can break down into smaller steps then you are making progress.

answered Oct 23 '09 at 03:56
264 points


You could try learning more about the business aspects of an industry you have an interest in. Find out what some of their domain-specific challenges are and see if you can get inspired and come up with a creative solution. Ultimately though I think it's not so much the idea but the implementation of an idea that counts in the long run.

answered Oct 24 '09 at 18:12
Oleg Barshay
2,091 points


Mine didn't come about by sitting down and brainstorming. I think most come about through a particular set of circumstances and an underlying interest in starting a business.

My personal route was I did an MBA. Completely useless on it's own, just buzz-words. But it got me interested in Busineess Process Modelling, so I started working on an open source BPM solution. While doing that we needed the visualization for that system and my interest shifted to that. For that visualization I used another open source project and saw a market there. I co-founded with the author of that project and so on for the next 8 years.

Follow your interests, talk to people. That's it.

answered Dec 11 '11 at 06:31
David Benson
2,166 points


You can think of why you are NOT paying for someone else's solution to a problem you have, and compete against them, just do it better and solve the problem how you would rather it be solved.

answered Oct 25 '09 at 03:06
Ben Mc
421 points


Usually your initial idea of what the market needs will be completely wrong. So, it's good to fail fast.

In my case, I created a few small "test" products to see how my target market work. I read blogs and learned about my market for 12 months before I found the real pain point -- and it was completely different from my "test" products.

answered Oct 25 '09 at 02:24
749 points

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