Where do you find new business ideas? That's a question that comes up often when I am chatting with friends and family looking to explore entrepreneurship. The second most common statement I hear in this discussion is something along the line of how everything has already been done/built and there is not many good ideas left. In this post I will go over five places/ways to find new business ideas. I will also touch on why finding something similar to what you want to build already exists in the market is actually a good thing. In my opinion there is no shortage of business ideas. Ideas matter but what matters more is successful execution.
Let me begin with a disclaimer, I am by no means an expert in coming up with good ideas or in no way this list a complete list. These are merely my observations. The ideas listed below are just to provide a framework to start thinking and not a list of ideas. You can spend these frameworks to come up with dozens of ideas pretty quick. I will provide examples where possible to get you thinking, but it is ultimately up to you to spend time to come up with the ideas.
- Build something with open data
Data.gov is an excellent resource of free government data that you can use to build a product or service. Sites/Apps like realtor.com, Zillow, Zocdoc, Product Recalls rely heavily on open data for their platform. You can find data about everything from Finance to Science & Research.
-Search the APP store
Spend some time on the app store to see trending and popular apps in a category you are interested in. Next, go through the reviews to see what are five most common complaints or five most requested feature . Do some research into the feasibility of those features. If you can solve the problem for enough people there is an opportunity to build a product around it. You will also notice that there are usually more than a handful of apps providing a very similar service. The marketplace is huge. The audience is diverse, this means there is usually room for more than one big player. Don't let competition discourage you.
- Geographic translation/adaptation
Build a service/app that is popular in location A but has not gained popularity in location B. For example, my home country of Nepal does not have a lot of products and apps that are popular in US. Build a local version where it makes sense. Keep the local culture and infrastructure in mind. It does not make much sense to try to build a Facebook for Nepal. But building a Nepali version of Yelp or Uber might make more sense. Of course do your research, but look at the ideas that way. Within the US, Microbrewery culture is big in states are like Colorado and Oregon. Think of other geographic clusters with similar demographics what might welcome similar ideas. There is no shortage of companies building services similar to Uber and Airbnb in their home market.
- Adaptation from one industry to others
For example in health care, see if there are ideas/tools/apps that are popular in human medicine that can be taken to veterinary medicine and vice versa. When the wearables market took off in human fitness, it took no time for companies to start creating similar product for dogs and cats. Look at the example of Fitbit to Fitbark. Technology penetration happens at varying speed for different industries. Most schools still make their students purchase textbooks that cost close to $200 when free to cheap options are available from OpenStax. Textbooks are no new idea, but offering digital versions at a low cost is revolutionary for educating the future generation. With how long it has taken teachers to move away from traditional books, the room for innovation and expansion is endless. Finance, Legal, Real estate, education, health care are all in different stages of technology adaptation in their respective fields.
- Build an existing service/product to target a niche market
There is no shortage of calendar apps out there, and most are one size fits all. However, a dentist, a real estate agent, and college student might have different needs and ways how they use their calendar. Solving a problem for specific niche and marketing to that niche is a great way to create a an existing product for a new market. For example, when we started Kduo Production, there were no shortage of international radio apps. When I built an app for Nepal, I learned that users enjoy a customized experience, they like having a product catered directly to the niche. We took this learning and started creating radio apps for lot of other smaller countries, most were not in anyone's radar. The users could have easily listened to their home country's radio from any number of radio aggregator apps, but most still chose to use the one that was specific to their country.
-Scratch your own itch
Fulfill your own curiosity or solve a problem for yourself. If there is a a problem that you have been looking a solution for, chances are there are others with similar problems. Do some research and see if there is demand.
-Get out of your comfort zone/Outsider view
It is often easy to get used to the way of doing things when you become so ingrained in what you do. Getting outside of your comfort zone helps you see things from different perspective. For example, as a Chemist if all i do is hang around other chemist, read about chemistry and only go to chemistry conferences, I will miss out on the technology advances in other industry that might help with workflow in a chemistry lab. When I see numerous timer apps in the app store, I think of how a simple modification of one of those apps with pre built set of timers can be incorporated into a protocol. We often hear do not bring problems without solutions but we need to hear about problems without solutions to get the outsider view. An accountant might not know how to fix an issue in the chemistry lab but he/she might notice something that has become second nature to me. Getting outside of our comfort zone to become an outsider is a great way to find new ideas.
Of course, before you begin, do some market research. Talk to to friends and family, do online research, create a minimal viable product and get feedback. There is no shortage of ideas out there!