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4 Ways to Brainstorm Startup Business Ideas

4-minute read

Are you searching for the "what" that will make you an entrepreneur? Here are 4 ways to brainstorm startup business ideas and start tackling your venture.

4 Ways to Brainstorm Startup Business Ideas: Poppy Barley Made to Measure Footwear.

1. Don't lock yourself in your room and say, "Think of a startup idea, think of a startup idea..."

Instead, go out in the world and live your normal life, but with this lens:
  • What problems do I have?
  • What seems to be missing?
This is the single most important thing you can do. It requires you to stop taking the current state of the world for granted. By limiting yourself to problems and gaps you experience (instead of think up), it is more likely to be a real problem, not something you created in hope of becoming the next Instagram. If you have a problem, it is very likely that some other people share that same problem. Solve it, and these people are your customers. *Important note: for your startup idea to work as a real business, people also have to be willing to give you money to solve their problem or provide what’s missing. Boots that don’t fit (idea: Poppy Barley), coffee that is too hot and then too cold (idea: Coffee Joulies), Paypal sucks (idea: Stripe)—are just a few examples of startup business ideas that target a problem and find a solution. Find out what's missing and fuse it with something that works, ie. "My neighbourhood/city needs a yoga studio/coffee shop etc."

2. Explore a new area/field/discipline/career.

Good or bad, what we study and do for a living shapes how we view the world and how we think, creating masses of people who think the same way. It is hard to think outside the box when you are in the box. For this reason, plus the fact that you are not invested in the status quo, curb-jumpers (i.e the revolutionaries of an industry) are always outsiders. This Guy Kawasaki clip explains this concept in more detail. Explore a new area and you’ll bring your skill set and worldview to a place where people think differently and have quit noticing what's missing—and that is a powerful intersect for new, good ideas.

3. Travel.

Travel = mind-opening = creativity (especially since creativity tends to decrease with increasing age). Traveling is one of the best ways to foster creativity and increase openness. Plus, you see how other people are living, whether it is new technology or trends, or reminders of a lost art in your country (like handcrafted footwear.) San Miguel de Allende Sometimes you don’t even need to be original—if you see something taking off elsewhere (like online flash sales in France, or online coupons in the USA) be the first to do it in your country—like Gilt in the US, or the Groupon clone CityDeal in Germany (bought by Groupon for a cool "three digit million number"). Also—to get an idea, you need to think, not just do. Very often in our day to day lives we get so caught up in the "do-ing", there isn't time for the thinking. Travel to give yourself some space for deep reflection.

4. Look for stagnant industries and change the business model.

Some of the latest and greatest companies have come from taking an existing product from a stagnant industry (in innovation, not sales) and changing the way it’s sold.

4 Ways to Brainstorm Startup Business Ideas: Poppy Barley Made to Measure Footwear - You design. You Measure. We deliver.

For example, Poppy Barley identified that 60% of women struggle to find footwear that fits. We remove the middleman, avoid traditional markups, and deliver high-quality, handcrafted and perfectly fitted boots and shoes for a price unheard of in the bespoke good industry. A few other examples:
  • BHLDN offers boho-chic wedding dresses that ship immediately, instead of requiring an 8+ month window from order to delivery.
  • WarbyParker challenges the huge markups in optometry by selling glasses for $99/pair and avoids traditional retail markups by selling online.
  • Clearly Contacts sells contacts online.
Hopefully this is a launching point to help you brainstorm your own startup business ideas—I would love to hear your own advice, thoughts and questions on this topic. (Some inspiration for this post provided by Paul Graham's "How to Get Start-up Ideas". Other relevant articles on this topic: here and here.)

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