Finding the right idea
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Finding the right idea


I don’t know what to work on. How do I come up with good ideas?

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"The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It's to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself. The very best startup ideas tend to have three things in common: they're something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize are worth doing. Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Google, and Facebook all began this way." - Paul Graham (Read: How to Get Startup Ideas)
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"The #1 rule is to put the problem first and the solution last. That's right: your product should be the last thing you think about." - Courtland Allen (Read: How to brainstorm great ideas)

Does my idea need to be a personal pain point?

It’s not a prerequisite to start working on an idea. But it helps.
Try manufacturing a car without knowledge of OEMs. Difficult. Not impossible, but difficult indeed. Too much learning about what already exists, not enough time creating a better solution. Intimate knowledge of your problem space is an advantage. It is the basis of "founder-market fit."
One excellent counterexample: Blake Scholl. Blake went from being a software engineer at Amazon, to a product director at Groupon, to founder & CEO of Boom Supersonic, the first private company to build supersonic jets.
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"A thing I believe deeply is that passion and vision trump knowledge and experience, and if you've found something you really love that you want to make real, that you can learn...I started reading books on aerodynamics, and I started reading airline annual financial reports to understand the industry. Once I started to realize that this space was more open than it looked, I got really serious about learning." - Blake Scholl (Read: Building a supersonic jet startup)

Is my problem big enough? Can it become a real business?

If your users are willing to use a half-baked solution that you threw together in a few weeks, they’re probably pretty desperate and your idea is probably worth the effort. Better yet, if those people are willing to pay for that half-baked solution—then you know the thing is real.
"You can do whatever you want, once you realize one secret: everything big starts small."

- Daniel Gross (Read: How to Decide What to Build)
"You can do whatever you want, once you realize one secret: everything big starts small." - Daniel Gross (Read: How to Decide What to Build)

My idea isn't garnering much traction. Should I pivot or persist?

Why haven't you gained traction?
  1. If you’ve already launched the product, talked to users, spent months iterating on feedback, and it's clearly not working, pivot.
  1. If the reason is outside of your control (hardware adoption, capital constraints, etc.) and you don’t see that changing anytime soon, pivot.
  1. If you're no longer excited about the idea, pivot.
At the end of the day, your success is tied to your excitement about a problem. Devote time and energy to things you care about. As in writing, it's unlikely that your first draft gets published... be dynamic, shift your solution and talk to users frequently until it works.
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"A company that is not quickly ideating and rapidly learning and changing assumptions in the beginning is probably not moving fast enough." - Dalton Caldwell (Watch: All About Pivoting, Excerpt: All About Pivoting)
"Everyone gets caught in the loop of overthinking and under-doing. If you're asking the question, you should probably just do it."
"Everyone gets caught in the loop of overthinking and under-doing. If you're asking the question, you should probably just do it."
Daniel Gross, office hours (video)

Other people are already working on this idea. Should I still work on it?

Blackberry, Friendster, MySpace, IBM. All were first to market.
Being first doesn’t matter. Being last matters. The existence of competitors should give you strength. It means you’re working on something that other people think is interesting, too. It also means that you’ll move faster; you have a virtual adversary to match with.
"I find competition incredibly inspiring. It's a good opportunity for you to shine. Everyone here is David and not Goliath. When you're David, not Goliath, the bad news is you're not as big and strong. The good news is everyone is rooting for you."
"I find competition incredibly inspiring. It's a good opportunity for you to shine. Everyone here is David and not Goliath. When you're David, not Goliath, the bad news is you're not as big and strong. The good news is everyone is rooting for you."
Daniel Gross, office hours (video)
"Competition is good. That validates that you're not a crazy person."
"Competition is good. That validates that you're not a crazy person."
Avichal Garg, AMA (video - restricted to Pioneers)

Should I be worried about market size?

All big ideas started small and it can be hard to foresee how big your small idea could become. Google started as a research paper on backlinks.
"Innovator's Solution [by Clayton Christensen] talks about this concept of nonconsumption. Often you'll have products that will be used in ways where they're not used now, so they end up growing the market much more significantly."
"Innovator's Solution [by Clayton Christensen] talks about this concept of nonconsumption. Often you'll have products that will be used in ways where they're not used now, so they end up growing the market much more significantly."
Daniel Gross, office hours (video - restricted to Pioneers)

How do you size your market?

When measuring the size of an existing market, using what people are spending in that category today is a good starting point. It helps if the market is growing, i.e., people are likely going to spend more money in the future. If the market you're going after is small, that can be fine for a lifestyle business—it just affects how big your company can be in the long run and whether raising external capital is appropriate.
"I don't think it matters too much, except in situations where you're a small market or obviously a bad market."
"I don't think it matters too much, except in situations where you're a small market or obviously a bad market."
Daniel Gross, office hours (video - restricted to Pioneers)

What are mistakes to avoid in the early days?

"A lot of people just don't get started. Getting started is table stakes. You're better off starting with something that's crappy and small and doesn't matter, than waiting around for the perfect idea to strike."
"A lot of people just don't get started. Getting started is table stakes. You're better off starting with something that's crappy and small and doesn't matter, than waiting around for the perfect idea to strike."
Courtland Allen, AMA (video)

Are there product ideas that Pioneer is excited about?

Certainly. Here are some ideas to get the wheels spinning. And, by extension, a catalogue of our choices over time.