Ideas and Validation September 24, 2020

Where do you guys get ideas? I am jealous.

Nick Zhang @nickzhang

Read a post here about a guy having "too many" ideas, unfortunately, I am just the opposite. Especially under the current covid situations, quarantine at home 24 7 is not helping at all. I view myself as a total product guy, seeing great products give me lots of joy and I really wish I can create something great too.
Anyway, please share how you come up with ideas, I want to be inspired!

  1. 12

    For me personally an "eye-opener" was the Sales Safari technique. You oftentimes hear that you should look for problems rather than forcing yourself to come up with ideas.

    I 100% agree with that sentiment but always struggled a bit to identify problems in the wild. I was looking for a more systematic way to uncover them. Sales Safari is just that.

    In essence you observe the audience you want to serve and note what problems they're having (explicit and implicit).

    1. 5

      Yeah I agree with this. In my experience idea generation strategies that focus on coming up with solutions first by looking at gaps between other companies in the industry, browsing Product Hunt, trying to make twists or plays off of existing businesses, etc, tend to make me generate a lot of good sounding ideas that no one needs.

      The biggest thing for me that improved the quality of my ideas was exactly this, just getting better at identifying problems when I see them, whether it's a problem I encounter in my own life, or something I see others are facing in the niche audiences I follow. Essentially, looking at the market first, then the industry later, only after I know that there's a market.

      One of the most underrated articles on this topic that I read is , which suggests the idea of looking for micro business opportunities by looking at what things people are already paying freelancers to do for them. This is just one example of a way to shortcut your idea generation and validation. You may not know how big the market is, or how feasible it is to create a startup that addresses these tasks in a better way, but at the very least you know that there is some number of people out there who have a problem and are willing to pay people for a solution.

      Another thing thing that's been helpful for me is doing contract work in an industry I want to serve. This tends to give an inside look at problems businesses are facing and how much they're willing to budget for a solution.

      1. 2

        Great article! Thanks for sharing 👍

        Also +1 for working in an industry you want to serve. Another underrated article is It's less about observing your audience and more about finding and exploiting gaps in the market.

      2. 2

        That was a great article, thanks!

      3. 1

        Nice article. What other places except Fiverr shows something that indicates demand?

  2. 7

    I focus on information products and I can't describe my idea generation process. But reading a lot and trying new tools and products is likely a source of ideas and inspiration.

    1. 1

      This. This and this and more of this. I can't stress enough the importance of reading and being curious!

      1. 2

        Reading lets you borrow the creativity of others.

  3. 6

    Hey @nickzhang,

    This has long been a frustration of mine as well. And the worst part is even once I have an idea, I start doubting it pretty quickly because I don't know if anyone will value my solution.

    Yesterday, I read this article about how to create a product people want to buy. One of the key points mentioned is that in order to make a product people want to buy, you need to start with a group or audience.

    After deciding on a group of people to help (such as "beginner python programmers" or "beginner newsletter writers"), you can start thinking about what they need and would pay for.

    It's sexier to think that a great idea will come to you from out of nowhere... But it's more practical to start with an audience and then find your idea.

    I hope this helps!


    1. 2

      I really like this approach. For me personally, I tend to skip and jump from thought to thought, so it's not the idea that is the challenge but more so sticking to one of them. By applying the stick to a group tactic that may help me tremendously!

      1. 1

        I'm an idea jumper as well! This approach of solving a problem for a specific group is simple, but so many people get caught up in the idea generating process without knowing their target customer.

        I hope it helps both of us!

  4. 6

    Would recommend writing down 10 business ideas a day. Even if they are terrible ideas, the process will help you improve. The more ideas you come up with, the more you'll have - it's a virtuous cycle. Pretty soon, you'll have WAY more good ideas than what you have time to work on.

    I'd also check out the My First Millions podcast - LOTS of ideas in every episode.

    Here's a detailed article I wrote as well with 11 business ideas - might be a good starting place! Maybe take these ideas, and try and think about a related idea for each one.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the article 🙏🙌

    2. 1

      Thumbs up for “My First Million” podcast. Its awesome.

    3. 1

      Nice article! Congrats

  5. 4

    Maybe @sxsio can help you with his product: Product Names

    1. 3

      🙏 Thanks for the shout out! I tweet new names everyday for product inspiration, could help!

  6. 4

    Just recently @levelsio launched where GPT-3 (an artificial intelligence) is generating startup/product ideas. Users can then vote on the best ones.

  7. 3

    Most of my ideas come up with my own frustrations or challenges with every day things that I do. For example:

    Why do I have to add a filter and scoops of coffee to my coffee maker every morning?


    I'm going to build a coffee maker where you dump your coffee grinds once, connect it to your sink's water tap, and with the push of a button, it adds a new filter, adds the amount of coffee/water you need for the cups you're making, and starts brewing. In the end, the used filter and grinds are discarded in a separate bin that you just need to empty periodically.

    This is a very basic example, but I find my best ideas come from my daily routines and analysis of the steps involved in doing them... the routines I hate the most or find annoying and cumbersome are the ones that give me ideas to optimize or improve... and sometimes, it's not my own routine, it's through the observation of other people... like my wife, friends, or regular people struggling to do something i.e. waiting a long time in line for something... or scrambling to easily find something when they need it...

    Simple observation of people will give you a ton of ideas!

  8. 3

    I literally just wrote this in a 5 day free idea generation email series i'm doing. Hopefully it helps


    Idea inspiration

    There's multiple ways to generate ideas, here's a few quick wins in creating ideas:

    Analyse your habits

    Habits mask opportunity
    Understand why you do things unconsciously or because thats "how its meant to be"
    People were used to ordering a taxi and waiting 30 minutes, until uber came
    People were used to going to the grocers to buy produce until instacart
    People were used to waiting in line for coffee until heyyou
    People were used to paying $100 to get a bed delivered home until Koala mattresses came
    People paid full price until buy now pay later happened
    These micro-inconveniences are often big pain points for others
    Define a comfortable life

    Define what a very happy like would look like to you, wrt to work, kids, etc
    Write down all the things (other than money) that should exist to help you achieve that dream life
    Those "wishes" are wants/needs and are often problems you will pay someone to solve for you, might as well do it yourself
    Daily descriptions

    Convince your friends to tell you about their day at work
    Pay them to journal it and ask them to add moods next to each task they did
    After 10 days, you'll find out common patterns

    Where to find ideas

    Well we've spoken about idea inspiration, but where do you actually go ahead and find these ideas.

    "But wait V aren't they the same thing"

    Yes and no. I'm a big fan of shortening TTPMF, i.e time to product market fit, PMF meaning, building something the market wants and will use, in addition to being severely disappointed if it didn't exist anymore.

    There are several places you can go to see if other people are doing what you've thought of, and this is important. Every idea under the sun has been done in some shape or form. Dig into why those ideas succeeded or failed, stand on the shoulders of giants (competitors)

    Best places to find ideas:

    facebook groups
    google the problems you've generated
    type in the ideas you've had from the inspiration phase
    crunchbase / /

    These some great places to find curated ideas of people sharing what they're doing and also a great place to see if someone else is doing what you're thinking of doing

    1. 2

      this is quality. Thanks!

    2. 1

      Ideas mean nothing. Execution means everything. I have thousands of ideas. So many that I must curb my impulses. I have already build five SaaS with a TAM of over 100 billion or more. If you need three that I can't get to: (1) Accounts payable automation in the cloud (2) A personalization engine for anonymous leads or web site visitors. (3) A real estate transaction workflow engine for realtors. - Need a solution design - ping me

  9. 3

    Hi Nick,

    Niall Doherty recently wrote a post on 47 different ways to come up with business ideas. That's worth checking out.

    I'll second the My First Million's podcast as well.


    1. 2

      Thanks for sharing, John!

  10. 3

    My favorite way to brainstorm ideas is to go to a place with a directory of products like Product Hunt. Look at each product name only and try to guess what it does. If you were correct, see if you can make your idea better than their version, but if you're incorrect you now have a unique idea you can start looking into.

    For example on Product Hunt right now I see a project called "". My guess was that it was a way for developers to create sharable code snippets that would be given unique URLs like a shortlink site. It could be used for sharing code for code reviews or sharing bugs that they found.

    Turns out the product has nothing to do with developers it is just for sharing general messages. But now I have an idea I can start playing with. If I want to share a snippet of code with my team what is the best way to do that? Would a sharable snippet site be useful? How could I monetize it? Etc.

    I do that with a bunch of products a day and eventually I land on something that I want to work on.

  11. 2

    In short, start something ideas will follow. Share the process, gather feedbacks, study solutions, repeat. When it fails you'll end up with lessons for your next try.


    It's almost impossible not to come up with an idea at least for me. I can't even keep track of them so I needed to take notes aside while I'm working on other. And I'm jumping in between ideas in daily basis.

    I'm not sure about your background and what are the products you are mentioning but tools matter, without the proper tools and trying to master them you wouldn't do a single thing even if unicorn ideas rain.

    Most recent example, I wanted to do a keyword research tool. I thought and read I needed some proxies and scrape the google results. However while I was searching for it I learned that it's possible to dive into Google's PAA (People Also Asked) results. I thought I can combine them. I needed to do some SERP for it and while everyone trying to scrape google with proxies. I found out they already provide custom search api with json support. And I'm kinda certain that I'm gonna find out new things while I was implementing them.

    So you need a tool and start somewhere. I really want to dive in to ruby in rails, it looks so simple to get up and running a SaaS application. So I'd suggest you to take a look while you have whole lotta time. Guy replicates tinder, ig, craiglist etc all around 3 hours each. Kinda madness.

    If you are not talking about development products you can focus on design It would be nice to know what you are into but. Today's topic is ios 14 icons for example. People are so smart to rain cash on them. While they are actually an icon sets 🤦‍♂️ You can just follow the trend and make yours.

    He reported $25k in sales about a day. :) This niche going to blow in a few days. And if you are into design, you can take your seat from the front row.

  12. 2

    Ideas are only a small piece of building a business and having success. I tried starting tons of different businesses with new and innovative ideas (at least in my mind they were new and innovative) but I did not have any success.

    My most recent side-hustle/business is with ambient noise on Alexa skills, my skills are very similar to existing ones that have huge market shares. I went through reviews on those big skills and adjusted mine to meet the needs of customers that the existing skills were not fully satisfying.

    It is not anything glamorous, (white noise is not my biggest passion in life) but it has grown into $2,000/month in profits and looks like it can reach between $5k-8k/month before it plateaus. And this is a side-hustle that I spend 5 hours a week working on.

    Sometimes all you need to do is increment on an existing idea and make it better/different. This might not work for creating the next multi-billion dollar business, but it can work for providing a substantial income.

  13. 2

    I watch for people asking for things on Twitter.

    I look at problems I face.

    PS - I post an idea a day at this new Twitter account I started.

    Been posting since May-ish.

  14. 2

    I built a newsletter to help me keep up with the tech industry... Maybe it help you as well:

    Did I mention it's free?

  15. 2

    I was able to come up with mine by attempting to write 100 potential ideas/ problems that I have. I got to number 13 before I found the one that I am currently working on.

  16. 2

    Hey @nickzhang I'm your guy 😂.

    Well to be totally honest here not all ideas I have would be good. Most won't work. What I was looking for in that post was a framework of weeding out the good ones from the bad ones for the community to benefit in general.

    To your point, well it just takes time. I have been at indiehacking for a year now and I haven't really found success. The ideas I used to get a year back were terrible business ideas, the ones I get now are okay I would say. It's muscle you have to work on like anything else.

    PG says it better than anyone else -

  17. 2

    @arvidkahl provides some helpful thoughts here.

    I'd take out the time to see what audiences you're naturally a part of already, e.g. you like baking, angular, rock climbing, coffee more than the average person, etc.

    Once you figure out that, you realise you're quite uniquely placed to address issues in these sectors, and you probably know where to find others like yourself to function as early customers.

  18. 2

    i suggest you change your environment. it is not conducive to ideas. it is likely the root cause of your idea drought.

  19. 2

    Talking to other people
    Thinking about my own (or my own biz) problems
    Boredom (letting my mind wander)
    Having interests outside of my job and tinkering
    Reading in forums/communities

  20. 2

    Hi Nick,

    What helped me to get the idea of was to start with looking at my own problems. I wanted to get inspiration to find new ideas on twitter, producthunt, etc. However being new to these communities I found it hard to get fast access to intersting Tech minded people.

    I would highly recommend to start following makers such as he has motivated me to start building my own things. In addition, take a look every day on Product Hunt and do not forget to take a look at upcomming page. Take a look at no-code you can built a lot very fast and might find some inspiration there!

    Good luck

  21. 2

    Following various people on Twitter, listening to My First Million podcast (Shaan Puri & Sam Parr are nuts on ideas), member of few FB groups. Talking with friends. Trying things.

    I guess if you start looking for them you'll create some sort of flywheel when they just come to you.

  22. 2

    Remember, you and I are “big, complicated bags of emotion” so it’s totally okay if you don’t get as much ideas as you’d like.

    A couple of things to keep in mind to help you stay grounded:

    • don’t ignore the enormous role of emotional strength and stability as eloquently described by @tomhoward on HN;
    • we tend to ignore pain points that stare us right in the face aka schlep blindness — the Collison brothers managed to not ignore it which is why they were able to co-found Stripe.

    Once you’ve acknowledged points #1 and #2 above, try to maintain a journal of ideas that come to you, however trivial. Eventually, you’ll soon be on your way to executing on an idea or two you can’t stop thinking about 😉.

    Good luck!

  23. 2

    Just from reading about peoples problems. Also observing what works and thinking about creating something similar with a twist.

  24. 2

    I wake up every day with a new idea. It sucks!

    Here's a few ways I generate ideas.

    Look at an industry map of a mature industry. Google for Lumascape. Then look at a relatively "small" industry map. Look for the differences. What doesn't exist yet in that industry that you can literally see on a map of a mature industry?


    Look for gaps in the market. Look not at what is, but rather what's not there that should be there?

    If you'd like to practice, happy to email you back and forth about this map I made myself:

    I already have generated a few dozen ideas based on what's not on the creatorscape map.

    A couple more easy ways:
    It's a cliche but you see it all the time. <insert startup> for X.

    Uber for X
    Zapier for X
    Airbnb for X

    If you know at least 3 or 4 business models, you can then generate a huge amount of ideas by iterating them over an idea. AirBnb gets revenue from percentage of transactions is far different than AirBnb if they had to generate their money from advertising. To make advertising they might be a gallery like instagram for homestays.

  25. 2

    I tend to pull ideas directly from my recent experiences. If I have a great conversation with somebody I usually spend a little bit of time afterward processing what we said.

    That often times leads to ideas or ties back into things I'm strong at, giving me a new angle or approach to something.

    If you approach things with the thought that ANYTHING could be a venture, you'll have some great luck.

  26. 1

    A couple things that worked for me:

    1. Clear your mind of distractions and the 'need' to find something. You cannot force creativity.
    2. Commit to the notion that, for every problem there is a solution, and that your 'job' is to look at many problem-solution-sets and move the best one forward (whatever your definition of 'best' may be). This should help you see the world as a bumpy/never-ending road full of potholes and that you're merely picking which ones you want to fill in.
    3. Read something, ideally history, documentary, or classic fiction - something that can each you about the timeless and ubiquitous aspects of human nature.

    Hope this helps

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