I'm really struggling to find ideas. Any tip is greatly appreciated

Hello everyone,
TLDR: I'm an experienced coder who's struggling to find any ideas for a side startup and a bit burnt out from previous failures.

I've been coding approximately since I was 13. I've a semi decent knowledge on anything that requires code (Im proud to say Im quite a fast learner).
These past years, I've tried to make 2 startups as a side-hustle but both failed for many reasons. Although primarily: just when I launched it/released them, I found an un-fixable problem (both were HEAVILY dependent on different third-parties). This stopped me from expanding such projects and ultimately making me lose total interest on such; to an extent where I kind of felt shameful upon even mentioning them.

Right now, I've PLENTY of free time and I really really really want to make use of it. I've been spending the last couple of weeks scrolling endlessly through producthunt and indiehackers yet no idea I find fits my interest or I find worth my time. I really fear that after investing much time into it, the same thing that happened with the 2 previous startups will happen again.

It is important to mention that one of my primary incentives is money. Im currently a student and I've always dreamt of having my own startup.

How can I find new ideas I can work on? I've read many articles and I know about the "find something more or less good, sell it as a better product"; yet again, I struggle to find a product as such which will motivate me to keep working on it!

  1. 22

    Hi @ErikDz, a few thoughts for you to go through on your own time.

    • Start with the money.
      If your primary incentive is money, then put money as the first task on your "new project todo list". I had a similar situation in a couple of failed projects where the project wasn't a failure, but rather the monetization was. I failed to literally do anything to get paid. I fixed that a year ago when I launched Better Sheets. it was paid from day 1. Literally within 24 hours of starting the project I was able to be paid. So my advice, if you want to be financially successful, start with payments on your next project.

    • Think Project(s) First
      My mindset changed from "startup" to "project" and I am so much happier. You could potentially do the same. Instead of thinking of a billion dollar idea, do something to help someone and get paid for it. There are thousands of millionaires who did not start a company. They happily get paid for their work and that's that. If you are constantly building something, keep building things. @AndreyAzimov did Hardcore year and @yongfook also attempted 12 startups in 12 months. Each one found a killer idea after a few, and focused on that. From Quantity comes Quality. Create 12 projects in 12 months and I bet you don't get to the 12th.

    • Talk to People.
      I can't stress this enough. Just talk to a lot of people. your super power right now is time. Use that time to book calls with students, ask for struggles. Ask for people who have their "hair on fire" over a problem. You're a good coder, if you want to get out of the student world, sign up to be a mentor: codementor.io might be the right place, or growthmentor or mentorpass. Create a fiverr account or an upwork account and target for a specific type of person. Make it searchable and findable by that person. If you have people you can contact later when you have a project built, your first customers are done and dusted.

    • Take Notes
      But don't stop at talking to people. Take notes. Keep notes. Organize your notes. Review your notes. Learn the actual lessons from failure. Keep notes on your failures and make sure you internalize that you actually learned from your past. Keep it. Review it. Note down when you think you should have done something differently. Number one thing I changed was charge upfront. I actually learned this from past projects. 1 which ppl used but never paid me. And the 2nd project I did where ppl didn't use it but also didn't pay, they had no affection or tie because they didn't pay up front. 3rd thing... pay upfront.. now I get cash flow and ppl use it. OMG.

    1. 2

      This is great advice - in particular "Talk to People" !!

      In my opinion, every good startup begins by building a really solid understanding of a hair on fire problem. Here's a framework used at companies like Canva and Stripe that helps you to find those kinda problems. Hope it helps you get your creative juices going!

      Follow an important problem with an open mind and you'll find the right solution to build.

      1. 1

        Hi @danielkyne!
        Just finished reading the article and I must thank you very much for recommending it. I really like that it makes references to the book "the mom test". It was one I was planning to read!
        I'm a big fan of the idea of surveying. Will give the method a definite try!

        1. 1

          Good to hear! Give me a message if I can help along the way :)

    2. 2

      Thanks for putting this wealth of info out there!

    3. 2

      Hi @AndrewKamphey. First of all, I am hugely thankful for such an in-depth response. Definitely what I needed. I loved the idea of "12 startups in 12 months". I'll definitely give that a go, but I see myself struggling on which projects to pick for each month...

      When you talk about your Better Sheets project, how did you market it so that you had a customer on the first 24hours? What would be the smartest way for me to market my "one-month startups"?

      I'm already on Freelancer and fiverr, but those are two over-saturated markets with people fighting for inhumane prices per hour. I haven't visited them on a while so I might get back to them.

      As for the note-taking, I've done it only for "ideas" which I had. Again, none really worth the effort. But I really like the idea of taking notes on what I did wrong and learn from that. I'll definitely give that a try as well :D

      1. 2

        I didn't get paid in the first 24 hours, but I was able to be paid. There was no friction between someone wanting to buy it and them actually purchasing it. Which was very new to me at the time. Previously I only made money by selling ads in a newsletter and those were long sales processes.

        The first buyer of Better Sheets came around 3 days after I launched. I'll never forget Carlos :)

        the 12 startups in 12 months is a forcing mechanism to get you to do something. and keep it small. Honestly you should be able to code within 6 days and get a product w/ paywall or something to be paid up. Then spend the rest of the 30 days sales and marketing. If you have more than 12 ideas and can't pick even one to build within 6 days you have a far different problem.

        I had an old boss (when I was making videos on cruise ships) say "Notes will save your life" and they did. Now with a project I start a "handover doc" day 1, as if I'm going to be giving this whole thing to someone one day. And it's usually me who has to look up the notes.

        1. 1

          I'm really keen into the idea of note-taking. Not only its helped me in my studying life but in general as well. Although I've never tried it as you mention it before.

          About the 6-days making and 24-days marketing I think it's just the right thing for me; I do really get stuck on perfecting the product and never finishing it. At the end of it, I never get good marketing.

      2. 1

        Also, if you're interested/curious about what were my two previous projects please feel free to tell me where I can send you a link through.

        1. 1

          I will ne curious to know your previous project. If you can share it will be great . You can share with my email

        2. 1

          you can email me anytime. I saw at least one was for students.

          1. 1

            Yes, it is. I'll send you an email briefly explaining both :D

  2. 5

    Never look for ideas, always look for a problem people have. Best case scenario: you have a problem what annoys you.

    1. if you found a problem, try to find people who struggle with the same problem. If you can't find anybody, then the problem is probably not so important.
    2. If you found a problem what people really have, talk to them and suggest them solutions.
    3. If they are interested, then build the solution in public.
    4. When the MVP is done, ask your target group to test the app and charge at least some money for it.
    1. 1

      Never tried such approach! Will put it into use. Many thanks!

  3. 5

    Exactly facing same problem, thanks to the everyone for your replies and thank for the question

  4. 4

    If you are still a student and you have two failed projects those are badges of honor. Most of what gets built fails more often than not. Especially with external dependencies that aren't in the habit of catering to a student to prop their project up. You can look for problems within your own space (being a student) but that's kind of beaten to death. You might just want to build a series of demo products that do things in a similar fashion as other products as a kind of portfolio.

    You might be jumping the gun a bit having not finished school yet or worked as a software dev for someone else and your personal expectation is that in one of the first two projects you built you aren't on your way to fame and fortune already.

    Don't get discourages, build something small and stand-alone that doesn't require anyone else's product or service to make it go. If I were just coming out of school this moment I would consider developing an expertise in creating integrations between apps. Everything talks to everything now but I am sure lots of small businesses cant make all their shiny toys place nice together and reap the benefit of having their CRM talk to slack which talks to email which talks to google sheets which talks to QuickBooks and all that. Being able to bolt all these things together may not be the same as building a software app but I think its a very in demand skill for a side job.

    If you can build out full front and back-ends that do things similar to other software as a demonstration of yoru skills it would help you become an early hire in someone else's startup and there are worse ways to start your career than that.

    1. 1

      Thanks a lot for the reply. Just to clarify: I never expected "fame and fortune" with any of my two projects. Only a side income, only something that would compensate the hours I dumped into them.
      For example: the first one was a software. It didn't get any sales and I stoped promoting it due to the explained reasons. The second one was a website which operated with google ads. I never got to generate enough traffic since the content (I think) wasn't enough. I also got to pay for ads but it never hit the point of ROI.

      As for my portfolio, the two previous projects are still "up" with websites running. They look pretty good in my opinion which makes them good enough for a protfolio.

      I really like your idea of "interconnectness" with slack,google sheets etc. Thing is, that I don't know what kind of connectivity these comanies want-

      Right now I'm not really interested in getting my hireability capability up. Im studying in what many consider a "good" college so employability isn't really my worst concern right now (many of the students get offers by FAANG on their second year). But making something of my own is.

      1. 1

        regarding the interconnectedness thing - making app hooks work amongst themselves - you don't need to know what the company wants, every single company is going to want something different for internal reasons you can't even guess at - being able to be the plumber is all that matters. building out a series of interconnected apps in any combo for no reason other than to see it work and to DOCUMENT that it worked becomes a portfolio you can use for proof of ability.

  5. 4

    Hey. that sounds familiar place to be.

    Back in a day i was working in e-commerce space as a developer and that dictated my ideation process. we made couple niche things but couldn’t sell, then i lost interest in e-commerce place completely.

    But i had to deploy webapps somewhere and without pain, and without huge bills so I’ve built https://appliku.com/ and this is already 2.5 years journey. And long way ahead too. But I am still insanely excited working on it.

    How did i come up with it? i was doing other things.

    Ideas are not born out of vacuum. You should solve certain pain points. If you are student, you might not be exposed to some of the problems existing workforce is having, so best option is to go build something on and on until you can find some repeating problem you don’t see existing solutions for, or existing solutions suck.

    And being your own customer kind of helps but also misleads you as in “it is not validation that other people need it or will pay for”.

    TLDR fk around, do something, try to promote things, eventually there gotta be something interesting.

    Also just had a thought - try to expose yourself to diverse group of people in terms of interests, hobbies, work, industry. Maybe you will find ideas that you can solve AND sell or get somebody who will become your non-tech co-founder who knows the industry.

    PS it is Sunday and i am tired, so forgive me if something(everything?) doesn’t make much sense. :)

    1. 1

      Hi @kpalovic!
      Thanks a lot for the reply. I'm in a situation where anything I can grasp on is of enormous help. I see there is a recurring theme: "just fk around". But here's the thing: how do I know which thing is worth "fking around" sort to speak?

      I really like the idea of exposing myself to diverse groups of people because right now, I've been VERY isolated. Uninstalled all social media, removed anything that would distract me and don't go out that often. Indiehackers and producthunt have turned into my main source of "entertainment", yet I struggle to find anything.

      1. 3

        IH/HN and that type of things are not the best in my opinion for your situation. Because “everyone is so successful on the web” syndrom.

        There are people that are super lucky with dumb ideas, there are people that tell 0.5% of story and it is sooo misleading. It works both for false hope/optimism and demotivation at the same time.

        I would suggest unplugging your self digitally for a day and think what personally you would want to DO. not business you want to make(hard i know, esp when you prefer to think about money). What ever journey you choose it will take a while before you reach the money part anyway.

        So start playing around with stuff, it was gamedev for me, then learning frontend then building multiple apps and reaching the Appliku idea eventually (which is not paying all my bills yet btw).

        But generally i would suggest getting into dev role remotely and this will give you immediate money(some) and you will be exposed to people actually doing business and their pain-points can be a place to start.

        1. 1

          Mmm I see what you mean. That is definitely true. I've also tried gamedev (on GODOT) and I really enjoyed it, yet I found that the whole "artistic" plane to it wasn't of my suiting (never been really good at it xd).

          The thing is, that I've been "playing around" with stuff for what feels like too long for me. Thus my broad knowledge on anything code-related.

          I've tried Upwork/Fiverr/Freelancer but those sites are truly discouraging. By the end of the day, I found 10 guys which would make the same project on a tighter due-date and for 10x less the money (which made it wayy less than the lowest-wage legal in my country).

          By the way, I must say I really like the desigh for Appliku, it's truly great and really neat. Props to you on that! :D

          1. 1

            thanks for kind words about Appliku. Well,next project you know where to deploy lol (native ads haha).

            Anyway, don’t worry about lower wage workers on Upwork. You don’t need all the jobs, you need 1(okay maybe 2 if part time).

            It is like fishing. You need to spend some time there seeking for the proper project. I use it too as a freelancer from time to time.

            My general advice is be your self, show you are knowledgeable, don’t be a jerk. Don’t withhold advice, don’t lick asses being over polite(that’s how agencies and low skill workers compensate for the lack of experience). That all is words of my clients when we talked why they picked me.

            First time i used upwork it took me 3 days to land on a full time job. Next it took me 3 weeks. Next part time gig took me several weeks too.

            I recommend to see this site as a social network. You come there, browse, reply to something that seems interesting(this takes a while and response rate is not high too btw), keep scrolling.

            I you want - drop me a line on twitter or join Appliku’s discord i can give you some further advice on this.

            Whole point of this is to stop being isolated and at the same time be in business environment, not just consuming content. Who knows maybe you will build something that your client will need and that will be where everything starts. Then seek for other clients and maybe they will need it too (as one option finding clients, and not the worst - they have money, they are ready to pay for something, maybe they will also pay for your thing too at some point).

            1. 2

              "My general advice is be your self, show you are knowledgeable, don’t be a jerk. Don’t withhold advice, don’t lick asses being over polite(that’s how agencies and low skill workers compensate for the lack of experience)"

              Man, that is some really good advice I've actually never heard before. It is a defect I definitely have, and until now that I didn't know I had to fix. Many thanks for that.

              I'll be joining the Appliku discord. Would be really really greatful for further guidance. Hope to see you around :)

              1. 1

                Hope this helps!

                Have you already applied any of that advice?

  6. 3

    Go through my Questions on my profile. I post lots of ideas which you may be intersting in building and launching.

    One more thing. Appreciate the fact that the internet is a technology which connects our most important organ. It is basically all our minds in one. Using this thinking its quite obv that building things which can further flow of information or storage and discovery etc will be usefull.

    1. 1

      I've gone through your profile and I must admit you've got some very nice ideas!

      The latter is definitely true. I constantly use the internet on that advantage (posting questions, reading forums etc)

      1. 1

        As I saw your response I thought of this:

        An extension which tells you the parent company of the site/productPage you are currently on. Here (www.livescience.com) for example it would be medias future group. Maybe it would be a popup in the corner? (On washington post it could even report it as Jeff Bezos?)

        Which I would definitely use it is it done properly. Which in my view means I am getting an extension which does not slow down my browsing experience and does not interrupt my website usage, but does provide the info I need in an easy-to-see place. Again without being anoying.

        Here is another: https://www.indiehackers.com/post/an-extension-that-provides-website-data-beyond-normal-analytics-15b41450b4

    1. 2

      I haven't but thanks a lot for the recommendation. I'll study about it now.

      1. 1

        Sure. Micro SaaS Ideas currently has 4K subscribers (Free and Paid) and is currently one of the biggest source of ideas to build a profitable Micro SaaS product.

        Again, it's not just random ideas. It covers a lot of things like like How to pick a specific niche, profitable products in that niche, provides technical analysis, marketing analysis to gain first subscribers and cost analysis for running the solution for 100 customers.

        1. 2

          Already subscribed to it with both of my emails. If I find it useful I'll go for the paid version. :)

  7. 2

    Hi Erik

    I would suggest to find problems that you have and try to make a product around those problems.

    Work on multiple projects , but reuse as much as possible between them, consider that the odds are against any project, so the best you can do is to work on multiple ones at the same time, on my experience I am reusing 80% of the frontend and backend for my projects.

    If you have a way to pivot your ideas based on what you previously build it would be easier to validate ideas, and create prototypes.

    My two cents, good luck!

    1. 1

      Hi @vicjicama!
      That's really good advice. I'll make an extra effort from now on to organize my projects and save them better for future use.
      The latter is most definitely true. I'll try to think around that.
      Definitely apported much more than two cents! Many thanks!

  8. 2

    Everyone says to solve your own problems - but you can combine it with a hobby to make it a fun problem you have to solve. Like I remember a cool knitting app someone made that tells you how much thread you need and how much you have left.

    1. 1

      That's for certain. One of my main struggles was that I lost interest on the startups when things got pretty rough. That had to do with the fact that some were projects I wasn't 100% passionate about.

  9. 2

    I will tell you one thing that works for me


    I have many products which I have created or am creating with the same approach in mind. It is very likely that other people face the same problem and will appreciate and even pay for your work.

    I created Timely to solve my own problem and here is how it is going:

    1. 1

      That's really cool! I like the general idea of Timely. Recently I'm trying hard on thinking what problems I have...

  10. 2

    I've seen a guy looking for a tech cofounder just today on Product Hunt discussions. Maybe it's a good fit for you. I think that for your first project it's good to have a cofounder who's got complementing skills.

    Here's the link to the post: https://www.producthunt.com/discussions/growth-hacker-5-years-experience-looking-for-a-technical-co-founder-to-build-a-saas

    1. 1

      Thank you so much! I'll send him a message right away.

  11. 2

    Arvid Kahl's book on audience building has a really good few chapters on a process for this that I would heavily recommend.

    1. 1

      I knew about "The mom test" but never about that one. Most definitely will look into it!

  12. 2

    I've been struggling with this problem for a long time.

    1. List your interests. 📝
    • You want to work on something you are interested in otherwise your motivation will run out too quickly.
    1. Find and explore communities related to your interests. 🔎
    • They might be on Twitter, Discord, LinkedIn, etc. Study the people: what they do, what they don't, what they are discussing. Many "good" ideas could have been eliminated at this step without a single line of code.
    1. Identify and work on a problem. 👨‍💻
    • Brainstorm a solution, build an MVP, show it to people from step 2, and iterate.

    Believe in good problems, not good ideas.

    1. 1

      I'm glad to know I'm not alone on this.
      Another recurring thing that I see is to focus on the "problem" which I'll definitely do more about. It's certainly true that for my previous 2 startups I heavily lacked step 2, but this was mainly due to my fear of someone copying my idea. Which I now realize how dumb I was.

      Anyhow, thank you very much for your answer. Love the post format, super neat!

      1. 1

        Thank you 🙂

        It rather unlikely, especially that if your target audience had the skills to implement your idea which solves their problem then they would have done it already. Plus you can ask probing questions without revealing your plan/idea.

        1. 2

          That'll require me to think outside the box a bit in order to not reveal my idea. But nice insight!

  13. 2

    Let me tell you one thing. Don't chase for unique billion dollar ideas, you may end up in diffuculty in creating market for it. Instead of this try to research on some already expanded niche, where your primary users are not c level executives (Like building an HR management system or a Document management system ) . You can target developers (As you are one ) as your ideal prospect customers and develop something for them. Before starting development, do a market validation by having a landing page and ask users if they will be interested. if you get some small level of interest among people then go ahead.
    It is also need to be noted that product that are too complex are better to avoid without funding.

    1. 1

      The landing page is a good idea to make sure I won't work on something which no one is interested in. I really like the idea.

      Thing is, I didn't have a "billion dollar idea" with any of my two projects. I only wanted a side income, only something that would compensate the hours I dumped into them. But I get what you mean.

      Many thanks!

  14. 2

    You should have a look at the community-first approach.

    A great detailed guide here > https://www.indiehackers.com/post/finding-an-audience-for-your-side-business-4b8d701d51?commentId=-MaeCXLGdau1qsaDn1l6

    This should get you going.

    If you are into money, you d probably better be looking at crypto though 😅

    1. 1

      I'm definitely book-marking that! Thanks a lot.

      Already went into crypto, made about 80% return before entering bear market. But I'm no good of a trader and I wasn't really enjoying that world.

      1. 1

        Nooooo - bookmark = endless pit of forever lost readings


        [auto-promo flag] Maybe when the times come, you will be interested in understanding what your community talks about on Reddit - at this time, you can think of unbundlingreddit.com - I'd be happy to help!

        1. 2

          That is absolutely right. Will read it now.

          I'll remember unbundlingreddit in the future!

          1. 1

            Haha - cool. That's another way to go for ideas - think about "anti" product.

            Here: Anti Pocket -> you can only bookmark 5 articles. Any additional article needs you to free a slot from those 5 slots.

            1. 2

              Definitely not a bad idea!

  15. 2

    My buddy made this, maybe just build something to get the creative juices going.

    1. 1

      That's awesome! React is the framework I work with so this comes as a charm. Thank you very much for your recommendation.

      1. 2

        No problem mate. I treat it a little bit like Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oblique_Strategies. Sometimes you just need a little momentum to push through a plateau.

  16. 2

    This isn't really applicable to everyone but since you have loads of confidence in your technical skills but not many ideas of your own at this point, why not try speaking to your friends that come from a different industry?

    Try to map out their day. If they were a Real Estate broker or a Handy Man, where are the points of friction that you could try to build a solution around?

    That way, if your friends would use the tool, at least you know it works. Sort of cheating the validation process.

    1. 1

      That's a really good concept. Thank you!
      All of my friends are students so I guess I'll have to either tackle my parents or my parent's friends.

      Problem is that my first idea was brought up by my parents fixing a personal problem they had. It just came along the way that not many people had that same problem and at the end I found an unfixable bug :(

  17. 2

    Having 2 failed projects is a heavy bag you're carrying. Forget about them. What i think it could help you a lot is to talk with someone (or many others) about your ideas and discuss about them. One idea i have (that you can do) is to start with a small project, something that you can build in one month because you need to recover the confident about your projects and how they will succeed. I see you're from Spain. I'm from Peru (i speak spanish). You need someone to talk about ideas, let me know :)

    1. 1

      This idea of building a "startup a month" is really resonating and I'll most probably end up giving it a shot. The thing here is how to find which projects I can work on...
      I'd love talking about ideas with someone! Here is my telegram: @ErikDz1

  18. 1

    Try to look for something not too complex (apps , websites , anything ) and see if you can make it better

  19. 1

    Work on ways to encourage people to have less children. That may give us more time to live on the planet.

    1. 1

      Lmao. Apparently birth rate is decreasing

      1. 1

        We increase by about 80 million people a year and will for the foreseeable future. Your move.

  20. 1

    Check out this article, what I like is that is very action-oriented: https://twitter.com/matteomosca_/status/1399298276994785280
    Hope it helps!!
    Good luck with whatever you decide to do!

    1. 1

      I'll reply to him asap to get the list. Many thanks!

  21. 1

    Hey hi there, if you are interested in work together I think I have some ideas but with some brainstorming, we definitely get something to work on as you said that you really struggle with ideas believe me I was and I am too in the same point and for same, u can also read my profile description that how much I am eager to start my own so in any case, you are interested mail me dm via Twitter links are in my profile

  22. 1

    Hey Erik, I was actually looking for experienced coder to join my startup. This idea solves a massive problem and removes the friction of meeting new people/making friends and networking by having real conversations. If you are interested I would love to have a quick chat/exchange a few ideas with you. btw I've already found a designer who has 8+ years of experience and he can take care of all the design work.

    1. 1

      Sounds really interesting!
      My telegram: @ErikDz1

  23. 1

    What's something that you encounter in your daily work that could be automated or made easier to do with code? Start with that.

  24. 2

    This comment was deleted 8 days ago.

    1. 1

      I feel that you've perfectly described me. That's why I have such a hard time picking a project. Because I know that if it's not engaging enough or it's not of my interest, by the time I encounter a big problem I'll just give it up...
      No matter how much I search on indiehackers/producthunt I can't find something I can work on/that I think will be worth my time.

      1. 1

        This comment was deleted 8 days ago.

        1. 1

          Appreciate the offering!
          Where should I contact you through?

          1. 1

            This comment was deleted 8 days ago.

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