Where should I submit my startup ideas?

10 ways to find a successful startup idea

Checklist: This is how you gradually get closer to your dream of your own startup.

A guest contribution by Dr. Catharina Hofmeister

Starting a Business: How to Find a Business Idea

One of the first but most important steps on the way to your own startup is the search for a business idea on which you want to build your business.

Here are ten tips on how not only any, but above all one quality Business idea finds.

Step 1: define the goal

What is a good idea for a startup anyway? The answer to this question is different for every founder. In order to recognize whether an idea fits your own ideas and wishes, you first have to be clear about your goals.

To do this, you should ask yourself the following questions:

    • Should the startup be run more as a hobby? For example, by selling jewelry you have created yourself on online platforms)
    • Should it initially be a part-time business that can eventually become full-time employment in the long term? Example: blog about car accessories
    • Should it be a full-time business where you work towards a sale after three to five years and have venture capitalists on board? Example: marketplace for renting private cars
    • Do you want a big, cash flow positive business? Example: importing and selling furniture from abroad

As the examples show, the right business ideas differ greatly from one another. There is no better or worse option here. First and foremost, the idea has to fit the founder. And the goals should be defined according to the SMART method.

Step 2: find strengths and passions

A good starting point for the search for a suitable business idea are your own hobbies and interests. After all, you are looking for an idea that you want to deal with comprehensively and for the long term. It can't hurt to have an honest and serious interest in this topic. In addition, there is a good chance that one already has some in-depth skills and knowledge in this area.

With such background knowledge, it is easier to come up with a really relevant solution to a problem and to be successful. That is why I would advise prospective founders to ask themselves:

    • "What do I have a special passion for?"
    • "In which areas are my particular strengths?"

Step 3: be creative

Coming up with a business idea is, to a large extent, a creative process. As in other areas, creative techniques such as design thinking can be used to help get your thoughts going.

I would advise prospective founders to find out more about different techniques and see which of them appeal to them in particular. Personally, I prefer techniques that are used in a team over those that are practiced alone.

As we will see in the following steps, external input is an important aspect in the search for ideas.


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Step 4: analyze your environment

In order to become a founder, one should get used to thinking and acting like a founder (reading tip: “These are the characteristics that characterize founders”). Above all, I mean going through everyday life with open eyes and ears to identify opportunities for business ideas.

Sitting down at your desk with pen and paper and jotting down business ideas rarely leads to ideas that solve a real problem. Instead, you should observe how things are working at the moment and consider what is still missing or how you could do it better - preferably every day and at any time.

That is certainly not something that can be achieved overnight, but rather a process. In concrete terms, however, you can plan to write down every idea that comes into your head from now on. The more sources of inspiration you become aware of in this way, the more possible business ideas you will perceive in your environment.

Step 5: asking about problems

The fourth step, observing one's surroundings carefully, is followed by talking to people in one's own environment. Even if someone is not looking for a business idea himself, he or she can be a good source of ideas.

My tip would be not to ask the other person: "What kind of product or service would you like?" This question is very difficult to answer for most people. It's easier if you ask: "What was a big problem that you have encountered recently?"

It is then the task of the future founder to derive a possible solution from this answer. You can do this with the Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) method and the Wheel of Progress, among other things.

Step 6: write down your ideas

When you have collected a list of possible business ideas with the previous steps, you should describe the problem to be solved and the solution you have come up with for each idea in two to three sentences. This step may sound superfluous at first. But it is very important to distinguish a good idea from an average one.

A good idea solves a clearly definable problem. In addition, the description of the solution should, if possible, include a USP (Unique Selling Proposition). In other words, something that makes your own idea special and which sets it apart from potential competitors. Knowing about this from the start is also helpful because it is one of the first questions potential investors ask.

Tip: Would you like to find out more about the USP (Unique Selling Point), the unique selling point? In the USP Marketing Podcast, startup founders and self-employed people explain how they found the special features of your product or company.

The formulation of the idea and the first business concept should also be done using the Business Model Canvas. This gives you a wider perspective on your potential business model.

Step 7: Get honest feedback

As early as possible, you should ask potential customers from the relevant target group for feedback on the idea. It is important here to actually find people from the target group. Your own friends and acquaintances are often not part of it and therefore cannot provide any helpful information.

There are also studies that show that a so-called “interviewer bias” is involved when one asks relatives or friends for their opinion: they rate an idea more positively than a stranger would.

But you shouldn't be afraid of critical opinions! On the contrary: Such opinions can save you from mistakes and sharpen the focus of the idea. The so-called “rose-colored glasses” do not only exist in love relationships, but also when finding start-up ideas.

As important as it is that a founder is enthusiastic about his / her idea, especially at the beginning you should try to become aware of as many challenges as possible. Either you find solutions to these problems early on or you discard the idea.

The rule here is: the earlier, the better and, above all, before you've invested a lot of time and money.

Step 8: Know-how available?

The previous steps were all about identifying an idea that was a relevant solution to an actual problem. But there are also some hard facts that are important in deciding whether you have found a good business idea for yourself. An important example of this is the technical knowledge that is required to implement an idea.

Of course you can buy in knowledge and expertise from outside. However, this makes the implementation of a business idea much more expensive and complex. You should think twice about whether you are ready for it.

Legal provisions should also be observed in this context. You make life unnecessarily difficult when you are working on the implementation of an idea that cannot be introduced in your own market due to legal hurdles.

So if an idea makes theoretical sense, you should still ask yourself whether the implementation is realistically feasible. And whether you are the right person or have the right employees to implement it.

Step 9: Don't Forget Marketing!

During the brainstorming phase, you should think about the marketing of the product or service.

Some may be surprised that this point appears in a post on startup ideas. But winning customers is so essential for the success of a company that you can't think about it early enough! Otherwise there would be the risk of being left with a finished solution, but not knowing how to make potential customers aware of it.

There is even always the advice to carry out marketing campaigns before the idea itself has been implemented in order to test the interest of potential customers (so-called pretotyping). Depending on the idea, this can certainly make sense, but of course it also has to be within the budget.

Step 10: Think about the business model

The last, but certainly not the least important, step is to have a clear view of how you can earn money with a particular idea right from the start. It is certainly great to sell your company for billions in a very short time without having made a euro in sales beforehand. There are such stories, but unfortunately it's far from the norm.

Having a clear idea of ​​a profitable business model also makes it much easier to convince potential investors of your own idea. Without a business plan, there is a risk that a start-up will quickly be labeled as a hobby.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a “recipe” for a good business idea. Rather, this article should provide suggestions that can help on the way to the perfect business idea.

One of the most important aspects is sure that the idea fits you or the founding team: If you know your own strengths and weaknesses and take them into account when looking for a business idea, this significantly increases the chances of being successful.


about the author

Catharina is the founder of IdeaCheck.io, a platform for idea validation. Founders can have their ideas rated by their target group here. IdeaCheck takes care of the creation of a scientifically validated questionnaire and the collection of answers. In addition to individual feedback from the participants, the results report also includes benchmarking, which compares the evaluation of the idea with all other ideas that have already been evaluated by IdeaCheck. This gives the founder an assessment of how well his idea compares to other ideas.


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