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  • Writer's pictureFran Durán

How to Come Up with Successful Startup Ideas

Are you struggling to come up with a startup idea? This article will help you understand how to generate successful startup ideas. We will discuss the most common mistakes to avoid, how to know if your idea is good, and how to come up with new ones.

The Most Common Mistakes to Avoid

Mistake #1: Believing You Need an Amazing Idea

Many people believe that they need a brilliant idea before starting anything. However, the truth is that successful companies like Google and Facebook did not start with a brilliant idea. They started with a good enough idea combined with great execution. Therefore, you should stop waiting for a brilliant idea and start with a good starting point.

Mistake #2: Jumping into an Idea Without Evaluating If It’s a Good One

If your startup is successful, you will spend years of your life working on it. Therefore, it makes sense to spend at least a couple of weeks deciding what to work on. Surprisingly, few founders do this. Before jumping into an idea, you should evaluate whether it would make a good business.

Mistake #3: Starting with a Solution Instead of a Problem

Many founders start with a solution instead of a problem. This is a dangerous approach because it leads to superficially plausible problems that people do not care about. You should fall in love with a problem, not a solution.

Mistake #4: Believing That Good Startup Ideas Are Hard to Find

Many people believe that good startup ideas are hard to find. However, there are many real problems left in the world. If you are having trouble finding them, you have not learned how to look for them. Once you learn how to look for them, you will notice them all over the place.

How to Know If Your Idea Is Good

Here are ten questions to ask about any startup idea to evaluate whether it is good:

  1. Do you have founder/market fit?

  2. How big is the market for this idea? How big could it be in the future?

  3. What is the problem you hope this product will solve? Have you seen this problem first hand? How confident are you that it’s actually a problem? For your users, how acute and frequent is the problem?

  4. Do you have entrenched competition? If so, do you have a new insight?

  5. Is this something you personally want and would use? If not, do you personally know users who want this product?

  6. Did this only recently become possible or necessary?

  7. Are there good proxies for this business?

  8. Is this an idea you’d want to work on for years?

  9. Can your solution scale?

  10. Is this a good idea space?

In evaluating startup ideas, it is essential to take some time to think about each question and answer it honestly. If the answer to any of the questions is “no,” it may be time to re-evaluate the idea.

How to Come Up with New Startup Ideas

Recipe #1: Start with What Your Team Is Especially Good At

The best way to generate startup ideas is to start with what your team is especially good at. This approach has resulted in half of the Y Combinator companies. When you start with what your team is good at, you have an automatic founder-market fit.

Recipe #2: Think of Things You Wish Someone Would Build for You

Think of things you wish existed. DoorDash, for example, was started by founders who wanted someone to deliver Thai food to their house in the suburbs. Often, the best startup ideas come from personal experience. By solving a problem you have encountered, you may be solving a problem that many others have, too.

Recipe #3: What Would You Be Excited to Work on for 10 Years?

Think of ideas that you would want to work on for years. Boom, a supersonic airplane, was started by a founder who was obsessed with the idea of supersonic travel. However, this strategy has also led founders astray by leading them to work on something they’re passionate about but does not have a clear path to becoming a big business. Therefore, it is essential to evaluate whether an idea has potential as a big business.

Recipe #4: Look for Things That Have Changed in the World Recently

Look for ideas that are now possible because of recent changes. For example, PlanGrid was started after Apple created the iPad. By looking at recent changes, you may be able to identify ideas that were not possible before.

Recipe #5: Look for Companies That Have Been Successful Recently and Look for New Variants of Them

Look for companies that have been successful recently and look for new variants of them. Standard Cognition, for example, provides technology that every retail store would want. However, this strategy often leads to ideas that are Solutions in Search of Problems (SISP’s).

Recipe #6: Ask People for Problems They Want Solved

Ask people for problems they want solved. This approach is particularly interesting when you ask people with specific expertise questions. The downside is that most people are bad at seeing startup ideas. Therefore, it can work particularly well if you ask already startup founders since they already know how to look for good startup ideas.

Recipe #7: Look for Industries That Seem Broken

Look for industries that seem broken. Any industry that seems broken is probably good for disruption. LendUp, for example, realized that payday lending was a scammy industry. However, this will often lead to poor founder-market fit.


Generating a successful startup idea is not easy. However, by avoiding common mistakes, evaluating your idea, and using the recipes for generating startup ideas, you may come up with an idea that has a higher likelihood of success. Remember, you should fall in love with a problem, not a solution, and think of your idea as a good starting point, not a perfect one. By following these principles, you may create the next billion-dollar company.

If you want to learn more here is a video from YCombinator:

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