Each startup journey begins with an idea. This is why according to the Startup Genome Project, the first phase in the process of building a startup is called the discovery phase. This is the phase in which you find a problem worth solving and a solution fit to do the task.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to efficiently come up with useful, viable startup ideas.

1. Ideas Are Discovered, Not Generated

It is not a widely known fact, but a large part of the innovative inventions in history was made independently by two or more inventors (or groups of people) at the same time. A study by Ogburn and Thomas in 1922 managed to produce a list of 148 inventions for which this was the case.

For example, at least 23 other people build prototype light bulbs before Thomas Edison, and some of them led a legal battle against him for patent rights. Another example is the case of Newton and Leibniz, who invented calculus independently of each other. The list of Ogburn and Thomas includes inventions like the telescope (invented independently by 9 people), the telegraph (5 people), the steamboat (5 people), the conservation of energy (4 people), and many others.

This is not a coincidence – ideas grow in the head of people, but they require fertile soil – an environment with the right conditions. The reason for the phenomenon of simultaneous invention is that similar conditions give birth to similar ideas.

Because of this, the most important practical advice if you want to generate valuable ideas is to find a fertile environment (ideally a new technological field) and get your hands dirty.

Generating ideas in a vacuum is dangerous. According to Paul Graham (founder of Y Combinator), “it doesn’t merely yield few good ideas; it yields bad ideas that sound plausible enough to fool you into working on them”.


So, instead of trying to think of startup ideas, you should get involved in active communities. Communicating and creating there is what would expose you to valuable insights leading to the discovery of worthwhile ideas.

2. Focus On Utility Rather Than Novelty

Not everything new has value.

As per Wikipedia, “Innovation is the practical implementation of ideas that result in the introduction of new goods or services or improvement in offering goods or services.”

This is important because, in the context of business, innovation is not synonymous with novelty. It requires you to have something new and original on the supply side, but also some form of adoption on the demand side.

Innovation is at the heart of startups – it is what makes them valuable. Simply novel ideas are not innovation.

Ideas become innovative only once they have proven to be viable and valuable. That is why the most important thing you need to do for your idea is to validate it.

Before you commit to an idea try to talk to potential customers, or even try to presell it. This will help you discard your less viable ideas quickly – killing bad ideas before you’ve spent a lot of time and resources on them is one of the best ways to find the one idea worthy of your time, effort, and resources.

In summary, to find good startup ideas, you need to get into a fertile ground for innovation, get your hands dirty, and test all of your ideas against reality in order to discard the bad ones.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *