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47 Comments

How did you get your idea?

Hey IH

Apologies if this is a common question, I've been lurking on here for a few months now enjoying the newsletters and product listings. I am a 23 y/o comp science graduate, had a dev job now an SRE at a cloud provider. I enjoy architecting and building things on a high level, putting components together. and want to have a go at making my own SAAS or service based business. Problem is I can't think of an idea that makes me say "Yup I wanna do this and put lots of effort in".

I got my interest in computing through gaming and servers, I've always wanted to have a hosting business but I get discouraged from the small margins and well established brands in the market. I have been thinking of an "Apps as a service idea" where security and management/monitoring is all in one package and I write terraform, scripts and such to quickly spin up common apps like Wordpress sites, game servers, email servers etc all fully managed -- but then I wonder where the value could be and how difficult it may be even if I had 5-10 clients all reliant on just myself to maintain their infrastructure. Like Bitnami.

It's difficult I kinda don't want to build a really niche application like a text to speech AI generator or something, I want to build something everyone needs but position it at a lower cost or something and look towards innovating. Like a CDN, Payment Processor, Transactional Email, Communications, DNS Services, VoIP, Accounting, CRM, File Hosting, Security etc. Things that IT Companies or any companies would run on servers or client PCs.

I understand from Paul Graham startup ideas, most good ideas seem to take time and are 'noticed' by people during their daily lives. So my plan was to keep working, maybe start a tech blog and see if something pops up along the way.

  1. 13

    My idea was part "scratch my own itch", part "I heard it on the IH podcast"

    Scratch my own itch: I've always wanted to have a remote job which was part time (ideally 3 days per week) to allow me to work on side projects, but I never found any website which did this

    I heard it on the IH podcast: I was then listening to an IH podcast and Courtland said "yeah, its kinda crazy that jobs are either all or nothing"

    I launched v0.1 of 4dayweek.io a few weeks later

    I'd say focus on addressing a problem you already have - it makes it so much easier. It also reduces the need to "talk to your customers" which is great if you don't really like doing this part (me).

    If you can't think of any ideas, just build something, anything. I guarantee you within a few weeks you'll have a "damn, I wish X existed to help me do Y" moment.

    Otherwise just listen to the podcast for ideas :p

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      Your website's design is gorgeous

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        Thanks a lot! I really appreciate it :)

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          I like it as well. what's the tech stack you used to build it. I am trying to build a landing page similar to this to validate my idea. Any help would be appreciated and good luck with your hustle. Thanks

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      Hey, do you have an RSS feed for 4dayweek?

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        Not yet unfortunately but it's on my todo list (!)

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      That's cool, i was too looking for a job which is 4days/week.

    4. 2

      Thanks for reply - yeah scratch your own itch sounds good I’ll listen to it. Definitely feel I can start working on something and see if I can find problems and pains from that.

      4 day week sounds awesome!

  2. 3

    Instead of a blog, how about picking a SaaS idea and trying to put it together and seeing where the pain points are.

    That gives you some insight of your own, and you can discuss those pain points with other SaaS founders as a fellow founder, and get their real solutions and opinions on it.

    1. 1

      Thanks for reply - yeah that sounds like the best thing to do - go out and find the pain points by documenting them.

  3. 3

    I think you're on the right track - to build a niche application, you have to have niche knowledge. I highly suggest continuing to work and as you are working for other companies - just take notes of ideas of where you think things could be done better. A journal would be a great idea. After a while you see common themes. You can learn alot of what "not to do" working for other people.

    For us - our idea grew organically. We build software apps for other startups. It started out by us sharing a contract with each other every so often until we realized it was more profitable than our day-to-day job.

    I.e. Let other people fund your living expenses while you experiment on the site. At first those experiments will cost you time and money. Then some of them start making a couple of sales. Then some start paying for themselves. Then after that some make more money than your job and you can go focus on that.

    I think Paul Graham's advice of "Do things that don't scale" is perfect for finding profitable ideas. Because the more you do those things that don't scale - the more you see the commonalities where they can actually be scaled.

    1. 2

      Thanks for the reply

      Cool to hear about your startup apps idea, growing and experimenting on the side is definitely something I want to do. Taking in thoughts from the other comments I plan to start building small micro apps I am interested in and see where that can go.

  4. 2

    I've always collected ideas and (sometimes) started projects around them. However, choosing the proper domain name was a hassle. All the good ones seemed taken.

    So I scratched my own itch and made namy.ai :)

    https://www.namy.ai/

    1. 2

      Thanks for the reply

      Nice one! It sounds great to be trying to build things and hit a problem like domains and then fix it yourself that’s the way.

      I think I have heard if you encounter a problem there is a very high chance someone else has too, so there is a market.

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    position it at a lower cost or something

    Scratch that. It's bad practice and you'll probably regret it in the future. Trust me. Been there done that.

    Always convince with product, not price.

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      Thanks for reply - I do agree with the price product convincing, I would definitely rather price higher and keep the margins healthy and provide excellent customer service and quality.
      I was just worried about competing with the big guys.

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    I looked around for products that were successful in the space that I was interested in (web components)

    I selected those products that I felt I could improve in the area of user experience (think animation / nice ui style).

    Picked the most popular one of those and got started on my MVP.

    Advantage of this approach was that I knew there was a market. I “just” had to beat my competitor but knew I could do so in the UX space. Only gamble was that the audience would be looking for better UX as well.

    That was around 2016, now at 20K MRR with the third iteration of the web component I built (https://pqina.nl/pintura/).

    Turns out exceptional UX is definitely something devs want to pay for.

    Look for products/services that contain the stuff you enjoy working on, or could contain that.

    // Reading the post again I think you’re already doing the above so maybe you have to stick to it a while longer because it seems like you’re approach is already very clear headed 👍

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      Thanks for reply - UX is really cool! Lots of devs seem to shy away from it but for me I like things looking professional and always look for material frameworks and nice components.

      I like the idea of looking at products I am interested in or enjoy using in areas then adding to those. Seems like the idea is to find a popular product and add what’s missing or what can be done better and position it well.

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        Exactly, or offer a subset of features at a lower price point, that often fits perfectly with MVP approach.

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    I think most of the people have very good suggestions. If you have some time you can also go through the below link:
    https://jamesaltucher.com/blog/the-ultimate-guide-for-becoming-an-idea-machine/

  8. 1

    I've been thinking about this recently too. My current setup is listening to either IH podcast or simply reading about Indie businesses atleast once every day. This keeps these things going in my head. Each time I think I have an idea, I try to note it down in notion immediately.

    Once I came up with around 10 potential ideas, I decided to pick the one which is quickest for me to build and launch. Personally, momentum is quite crucial for me and I know that if I can quickly launch that first product, I'll be able to either iterate on it (if it works out) or work on the next idea.

  9. 1

    Great question!

    My current "tiny" idea came as I started planning on building my "big" app. The big app is a SEO Crawler Audit tool and in the process of planning, I actually enrolled into Glen's SEO courses and started doing professional website audits.

    As I started doing more of the audits, I came across the pain point of comparing to previous audits. I decided to test the waters with a wordpress plugin for SEO change monitoring.

    I decided to build in stages and release each major feature/function that can stand on its own as a plugin or tool. Here is the progress and bit of history https://www.crawlspider.com/seo-monitor-track-seo-changes/

    1. 1

      Thanks for reply - Cool SEO is a great area lots of products and customers in that. Interesting you got the idea from building your larger app, that seems really logical. I'm going to try building an app I want to build and see if I can brainstrom from that journey.

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    As you said "I want to build something everyone needs but position it at a lower cost or something and look towards innovating"

    You should be thinking about the audience first but you can't serve everyone at once. Apart from the basic needs, there isn't something that everybody needs.

    Here are a few Audience-First Chrome Extension ideas for you: https://chromeextensionideas.substack.com/p/chrome-extension-ideas-1

    There is an audience asking for these ideas, you just need to build it and give it to them.

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      Thanks for reply - yeah audience first and problem first then solution next I will work on that.

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    You are definitely on the right track and already have a list of topics that interest you. I would second the sentiment that you should build something - even if it's a copy of something that already exists - just so that you get a feel for it, and discover possible pain points you could alleviate.
    There seems to be lots of potential in packaging those services you mention into easier-to-use versions which help others adopt them and use them.
    Another route is to apply technology to a new area where it's not been used before - which is just a bit of "out of the box" thinking.. that's what I did with https://askdigsby.com. I was interested in chat bots and happened to be booking a holiday and thinking how the guest service could be improved.

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      Thanks for reply - Your bot business is great I have seen/heard of chatbots on facebook messenger for companies applying that to air bnb is genius!

      I plan to start building apps I want to create and see if I pick up on some pain points from that.

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    By Solving my own Problems
    Sound familiar but most side projects out there comes out from this. We all started with some problems we faced in our daily routine or happened to us once and we decided to improve them or solve them.

  13. 1

    The idea of ​​https://www.price2spy.com/was born out of pure necessity. I own several shops operating on the Serbian market. Basically, Serbian customers are not that much wealthy, therefore before buying a product, they check all available shops to find the one that has the lowest price.

    So, we used to spend hours and hours checking our competitors’ websites in order to find the price changes of our competitors. Over time, we started to spend more and more time and resources, until we decide to build a tool (now known as Price2Spy) for us.

    As for https://botmenot.com/ - after more than 10 years with P2S which is basically a very complex bot, I decided to offer the possibility for everyone to check if their website is protected from bots.

  14. 1

    My idea was just an automation to things I did every week and every month.

    As a user of my own idea, it is very easy to just fulfil your own need, and expand to other their needs with the feedback you receive.

  15. 1

    I love exercising and learning about fitness and health, I could not find a general solution that would satisfy me, so I decided to partner up with a friend with the same need and started working on it.
    I had tried pushing myself onto other ideas earlier; looking at it now, probably they all failed because I was truly never motivated or 'fell in love' with them.

  16. 1

    My first idea came as a result of me and my friend wanting to see what it takes to build and launch an app. We wanted to have at least 5k downloads and we did research to find what would make people feel good about themselves, thinking that this is how we can get the number of users we wanted to.
    We did end up getting 100k+ downloads for an android app, available in only one country, but we didn't know what to do next and we lost interest. That's why now I think that building a product just for the sake of doing it it's not a great idea. You should work on something that keeps you motivated long term, something that you consider meaningful.

    Now I'm fulfilling my own needs and because of this I feel motivated to keep working to improve the product. I know that Spottid will have at least one user that is happy with the product.

  17. 1

    Hey Andrew, that's a good question.

    1. I want to build a successful global SaaS startup.
    2. I understood I need to build a team before starting a startup. I want to commit to this 8-10 years journey with trusted people.
    3. To build the perfect team people should work together in a while.
    4. What if work on bootstrapped profitable micro-SaaS before the startup?
    5. Profitable micro-SaaS can be a simple niche alternative that earns $10k – $30k MRR to makers. Why not? Money, work together and experience in SaaS building.
    6. I have my pain point when I need to build a landing page for my new product idea. That's the reason I decided to build my own solution for solving this problem.

    That's how I got my current idea. =) What do you think about it?

  18. 1

    Maybe the problem you are facing is an opportunity in disguise. I am pretty sure there are many people like you (you can find tons on IH itself) who have the relevant skill and zeal to start a microSaaS startup but do not have an idea with enough conviction.

    That is one problem you can try to solve.

  19. 1

    The short: I had been at my job for 5 years (software engineer) and most of my time is spent in meetings. Eventually I decided to leave said job, and had to interview at what felt like 10 million places, working with my recruiter, scheduling interviews.

    It was a massive headache, one that could have been solved with a scheduling tool. I eventually got a new job, and started mulling over the idea of building a meeting scheduling tool. I built at mvp of Schedulr in about 2 weeks and launched it.

    Fast forward 3 months, and this new job fired me for working on my side project in my free time. So I was back to interviewing, and in need of a scheduling tool once again.

    I eventually got a new job, and knew that I wanted to work on Schedulr on the side for sure. So here I am!

  20. 1

    Good advice in the comments here already. I would add that it is very helpful to take on a habit of recording everything. If you have an idea write it down somewhere. If something seems very difficult at work and other coworkers agree it's hard, write it down. Having spent 6 years at my previous job, I wish I had started that earlier. I had a couple coworkers who left to work on these ideas. Lots to learn.

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      Thanks for reply - Yeah definitely going to be keeping a lot of notes from now on!

  21. 1

    During my freelancing days, I observed that most clients had the same requirements for their websites i.e. lead collection, contact form, appointments, polls etc. Implementing these features isn’t challenging but it made my work repetitive and boring. To solve this problem, I decided to develop reusable widgets, each designed for a specific purpose. My goals were simple - the widgets should just work the moment you plug them into the website and without writing any backend code. Also, since some of my clients had a hard time accessing the CMS to retrieve the captured emails, poll results, feedback etc. the widget should integrate with relevant cloud services that the clients already used. Hence, Particle Systems was born.

    Here is the website:
    https://particle.systems

    So, maybe you can look around and identity issues that's eating up your time or money? ;)

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      Thanks for reply - those widgets look really good definitely solving problems as you said. I'm going to work on building an app and see if problems appear which I can disect and work out from it.

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        That's great :D
        Do you already have something in mind that you are planning to build?

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        Hey, thanks : )
        What about you? What are you working on?

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          Rn on nothing, as I won't have any problem to solve so started Freelancing and see

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            Good plan. You can uncover tons of problems when you go through freelance jobs. One of the best ways to identify problems others are facing imho

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    Hey, where are from? Let’s connect :)

  23. 1

    Lean20 was built because my co-founder and I challenged the status-quo of SaaS pricing.

    Most companies are VC-backed and need to grow fast / produce big returns. That leads them to charge more for a product than they should($99/m for a status page, anyone?)

    We decided to build a suite of tools specifically for smaller companies

    Take our uptime monitoring, for example. In our experience, smaller companies don't need integration with Pager Duty. By keeping our stuff lean (and tailored for the majority of use-cases) we can price fairly for all.

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