How do you come up with initial business ideas?

It seems that the initial business ideas simply come to us, I know that is important to iterate until we can find product market fit. But if you have to force yourself to have a new business idea right now, how would get inspired? What would be your "framework"?

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    EDIT: I turned this comment into a more comprehensive post here.


    A good business idea needs to be good at four things: the problem it solves, the distribution channel to reach customers, the monetization model you use to make money, and the solution to the problem that you end up building.

    The #1 rule is to put the solution last. Your product/service should be the last thing you think about. Why? Because it's the most flexible. You can literally build anything, but the other three options are more constrained. You have to choose from a limited buffet of options there. It makes no sense to build a tool for the job before you even know what the job is. Seth Godin puts it differently: Don't make a key and go around looking for the perfect lock. You'll never find one. Instead, pick out a lock first, then make a key for it.

    So I recommend starting with the problem. A good problem is one that many people have. Ideally these are people you like, because they'll be your customers for years. It's better if these are people who naturally encounter, talk to, and make recommendations to each other, because then word-of-mouth growth becomes possible. And you want the problem to be one that you have, too, so you can empathize. It helps if it's a growing problem, so more and more people have it every year. You also want it to be a frequent problem, because that means people need the solution more often. Finally, and arguably most importantly, you want it to be a valuable problem. In other words, you want it to be a problem that people pay money to solve, preferably lots of money.

    You're going to have to brainstorm to find a good problem. For example, you can start by analyzing people and businesses to see where they spend money. Or take a look at your own life. What worries you, exasperates you, annoys you, and/or takes up a lot of your time and money?

    The key here is that you need to be ruthlessly eliminating problems that score poorly on how well they match up to the criteria above. You might have to analyze dozens of problems before you find a decent one. But you might get one first try, too. It's easier than you'd think.

    Founders typically have already made a huge mistake by this point. If you can avoid making any of these mistakes, you'll be way ahead already:

    • As I mentioned already, starting with the solution instead of the problem. Make sure you aren't attached to any particular solution, technology, product, code, etc. when you go out looking for a problem.
    • Ruling out already-solved problems. Way too many founders attempt to solve unsolved problems without realizing that they're unsolved because nobody cares. You want to solve problems that are already being solved. Almost all successful businesses start that way. Notice how none of the criteria above say, "The problem is unsolved." We'll think about this later when we get to the solutions step.
    • Ruling out high-value problems. Many founders—indie hackers in particular—mistakenly believe that they have to sell something for cheap to have a chance at success as a fledgling founder. The exact opposite is true. You want a high-value problem, which means a problem people will pay a lot to solve.
    • Not having a customer in mind. You want to be able to refer to the group of customers you have as straightforwardly as possible, in way that would immediately make them think, "That's me!" For example, "NBA fans" or "high school teachers" or "startup founders" or "novice developers," are good. Bad would be, "People who need productivity tools and like modern, clean UIs." That's not an actual group of people. The worst is, "Everyone! I'll build something and wait and see who uses it." That's playing on hard mode.

    Once you have a good problem, you need a distribution channel. How are you going to reach your customers? This is something that will change over time. In the beginning the answer should almost always be "direct outreach leading to 1-on-1 convos via the phone or in-person," but after a while you'll want a more scalable way to reach your customers.

    This ends up being not as hard as many people think, because there are in fact quite a limited number of viable distribution channels: SEO, press, content marketing, social media, sales, partnerships, ads, etc. You just need to go through the list.

    You want distribution that's repeatable, that you're good at (or can learn), that you'll actually enjoy, and—most importantly—that your customers are already making heavy use of. For example, if I was solving a problem that developers have, I'd be looking at GitHub, Hacker News, SEO (devs do tons of Google searches), conferences, Twitter, etc.

    Try to just pick the best channel you can find. If you can't find anything good, you may need to go back and pick a different problem, because that's usually a sign that you don't know enough about your target customers and how to reach them.

    Finally, think about your solution. How are you going to solve the problem for your customers? Think about it from first principles, based on understanding the problem and the idiosyncrasies.

    Make sure you're not just copying what competitors are doing. The whole point here is to stand out. You (hopefully) picked a boring, straightforward problem, but don't do that with your solution. This is where you innovate. If anything, you want to solve the problem in the exact opposite way of your competitors, and inject as much of your personality and ideals as possible. It can even be simple things. I made Indie Hackers blue because every other blog was white.

    More importantly, the essence of product-market fit is tailoring your product so specifically to your customers' needs that it's a no-brainer for them to use it, and you don't have any real competition. Stripe, for example, knew its target customer was developers, so they focused heavily on great API design and stellar documentation. This is the kind of advantage you can only get if you've identified a customer and their problems before you started on the solution.

    You also want product-distribution fit. Can you find a way to extend your solution so it perfectly fits into your chosen distribution channel? Adam Wathan, for example, tweets out educational tidbits from his upcoming books, and it's some of the best content on Twitter. Indie Hackers' #1 distribution channel was HN, so I specifically modeled the content on the site after posts I'd seen succeed consistently on HN. Again, this is the kind of advantage you can only get if you've identified a distribution channel before you started thinking about your product/service.

    (Hopefully you're starting to see why the #1 worst thing you can do is skip straight to this step and try building a solution before thinking deeply about the other aspects.)

    Obviously if you can't think of a good solution, or it's too hard or expensive for you to build the solution, or you look at the competition and it's absurdly dominant (due to something like network effects), then you may need to go back a step or two. Commonly, what you need to do is take the problem you identified in step 1, and shrink it a bit. Make it more specific, so it affects slightly fewer people (a niche), and then try to think of a solution for them.

    But if you can think of a solution, the final step is to figure out how to turn it into an MVP. Almost every product can exist in some sort of minimal fashion, but founders often shoot themselves in the foot by starting way too ambitious. Personally, I'd try to get something useful out the door in 1-3 weeks max.

    As a sanity check for all of the above, look at other successful companies and reverse engineer them by running them through this process. Check the interviews, the podcast, or the products directory for inspiration.

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      Thanks for this, i will start looking things this way so i start getting more ideas. Practice makes progress right?

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    What everyone else has said is useful (aka look for problems/annoyances in your own life/build what you would want). I started my business (a coffee subscription in Canada) because I was looking to buy a coffee subscription - and they all looked really boring. So I built what I would have wanted.

    A few other thoughts:

    • Brainstorm! James Altucher has this "10 ideas for ______" a day process he's talked about. The more you do it, the more you'll get better at it: https://jamesaltucher.com/blog/the-ultimate-guide-for-becoming-an-idea-machine/
    • Get inspired! Look at Product Hunt. Look at Indie Hacker. Reflect on their idea. What makes it interesting?
    • I've lately really enjoyed this podcast called My First Million, where the two co-hosts brainstorm ideas. It's really fun to listen to and it's fascinating to hear two entrepreneur veterans discuss the thought process behind business/idea generation: https://thehustle.co/introducing-the-hustles-first-ever-podcast-my-first-million/
    • Start building! The reason I'm a half-decent entrepreneur is because I've started a lot of non-interesting businesses and learned from it.

    Good luck!

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      Just read James Altucher blog, thanks you for sharing.

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      Definitely what i was looking for, thank you ♥️♥️

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    You'll be in a dangerous zone if you force yourself to do something because you need to do something. Secondly, there's so many frameworks out there, however, no one size fits all.

    Try to identify a problem (small/ big doesn't matter) and discover whether people feel the same. Estimate the marketing potential and just build something that you're passionate about. @rallao

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    I just started solving my own problems. I needed analytics for a website but couldn't justify to pay the price other tools costed.

    Before this I had tried to solve other people's problems, which made the feedback loop really difficult and slow. This time I can just ask myself: what features do I need, what price would I pay, ...?

    To your question: right now, I would look again for anything that (1) I need myself, (2) people already pay for and (3) doesn't rely on network effects or being a big player in the market (don't compete with facebook, spotify, ...).

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    You use technology every day. Make a list of things that bother you. These don't have to be massive pain points, just a simple list of inefficiencies. Now, have your family/friends/colleagues make a list. Cross-reference those lists and you'll likely have more than one idea that is half validated.

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      So keep eyes open and active looking for problems. Going to try this, thankyou

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